An unlikely chance came up out of the blue - I can't say why this year after trying for the past five without luck of timing with the funding but I'm not fighting it. It is what it is!
The bee club said there were extras and you had 1 day to get in on the excess order, but with only 5 extra boxes (each box containing 11,000 bees, and a queen). 20 people raised their 'virtual' hands, so it was still not a sure thing at first. Some of them already had bees- and they kindly said they would defer their request to new people wanting to get started, but in the end everyone on the list gets their order.
There is usually a choice of breeds to get, but this time was only "Carniolans". (Other options might be "Italian" bees or "Hygienic Italian Hybrids"...)
You can see the bee breeds HERE and each pro and con.
They are picked up in Lehi, Utah so some of the money goes to defer gas for the delivery driver. Then on April 27th, you go to one of the bee club member houses to pick your prize up and get all scared about releasing your bees by yourself... lol. (Actually I've watched 3 videos on this process and am not scared). The internet is such a great resource - a great big thanks to those who provide their experiences!
And that's why I'm spending $20 to join the Four Corner's bee club- informative meetings monthly and newsletter emails all the time, and people to ask & see their setups, or get excess bees from, etc. (plus the university extension office is a resource too)
I have no experience, but some idea. That's not the same thing as hand's on, but of course compared to goats or chickens, little maintenance is required. I won't like to move them (when we move) once established, because strange things cause them to swarm (leave to find a new home).
If there is too little room in a hive, then the hive splits and some of them will 'swarm' - leave, with a new queen. You can easily catch swarms in a box because without a hive to protect, they don't sting!
I've heard the only way to mitigate bears is not to keep bees at all...lol.
Some folks will put up electric wires (2 strings) at 4' away from their hives. But once a bear has gotten to your honey even that won't stop them, so it has to be up all the time to catch the first-timers. I tell people that you have to use a train car to keep anything away from a bear. Dogs are probably the best bet, since they can warn you in time to get pans to bang, or a gun, and distract them a bit while you do so.
In winter you have to feed bees if they don't have a store of their own honey- that's why you don't harvest honey the first year or two and always leave some. They don't hibernate. Most people use sugar sheet stuff like fondant cake icing. It doesn't freeze like sugar water would. Lots of experimentation going on with that stuff.
Some people also stack bales of straw around the hives for sheltering in winter (I probably will too). Mine are off the ground on pallets on the north side of some ugly pines, but enough for some shade in hot summer - they should be moved since one of the trees died.
I will move them to my MOST FAVORITE PLACE on the property- a perfect 20'x60' rectangle that's cleared in the middle and surrounded on all sides by perfect pine trees! It was too small for Cherihuka's corral. I imagined a small pond there, or putting up a tee-pee for grandsons there.
I also had to take my hives all apart when chipmunks moved into them and made nests.
I have to look at pictures to figure out again how they go together again, lol (there are several kinds of dividers, some have entry holes for the bees, one has one round hole for the queen?)
Anyway, I know next to nothing by heart, though I have things copied over the years to disk and in files... you know, in case we ever got them. Club meetings were too early in the day to attend, but they are going to be later now, so I can go and learn!
The bad part of this story is that I had pretty much given up on this goal that I could never get the funding for.
My hives have peeling paint now, after 6 years of winters & droughty summers, exposed.
They are going to be rickety after the weight of combs plus honey, so I need to reinforce all the corners. The wood is soft and full of cracks (aged), and may need wood paste to fill them. They also should be 'torched' inside with fire to kill any germs/bacteria, especially after the chipmunks.
AND I need to get a few sheets installed in the frames... without having to drive 4 hours to get them (I HOPE!)
And I have less than a month to do all of that- but now I will have my Dad to help me with it! My mom probably won't get out to the hives, but maybe we will try out some honey recipes together.