After immigrating to Canada it took four years before we were settled enough to finally think about honey beekeeping again. You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to know this was going to be a whole different experience from keeping bees in South Africa. I was excited to find out all I could about the North American bees.
There were some things I knew. For instance, I was comfortable working with the Langstroth hive system, and that seems to be used on a universal basis. Also I knew the ways that bees organised their hives and how they behaved. That was a big plus. But how about the weather? The food sources for the little insects? Stuff like that.
Days were spent, cleaning, disinfecting, admiring these new acquisitions. I joined the local beekeepers association. That really got me psyched and ready to go. Then came the day when I ordered my first package of bees. This was something quite different, even laughable! You order a small swarm, complete with a certified queen, and her attendants! That would never have happened in Africa.
There, bees just are.
I learned a lot about these gentle bees in a short time. Too much to actually go into in depth, but the worst time for a North American bees is winter in cold climates. The hive has to be covered to protect its inhabitants, and this is done in a special way. You have to leave enough honey for them to survive the winter. Dampness and resulting disease is always a threat during those long winter months.
Unfortunately a couple of bears caught wind of this too. It was my first experience of their destructiveness. They smashed my hives to pieces, quickly, as I watched helplessly. It was a horrible thing to see. Then, replete, they wandered off to find more to eat. The stinging bees didn't seem to worry them in the least.
After that, I replaced the hives and the bees. But this time I kept them on top of the barn! That way I could just enjoy them all by myself.
Bears truly love beehives, and it's an occupation of its own to keep them away from your hives!
One of my ex neighbors uses wooden planks with about one hundred nails driven into them, similar to a spike belt used to stop cars. He lays them next to the hives, and it has worked very well. He hasn't lost one hive for several years now.
In my new home, a small place in a subdivision, I'd never thought bears would be a problem, as I have a sturdy gate and fence surrounding it. But no, one simply barreled right through the closed gate a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately my beekeeping days are over. I now just vicariously enjoy them through the many beekeepers in this area. People are more sophisticated with their anti bear protection - electric fences seem to be the order of the day.
Below are beehives in the Sechelt Botanical Gardens.