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Over two weekends in the spring, Sebastopol's Beekind distributes 1000 boxes of bees.
Let’s call it Buzzfest, with lines of people stopping by Beekind on South Gravenstein Hwy over the last two weekends of April. It must be some kind of festival because you need a Eventbrite ticket to show up. You also have to pay $175 in advance to get your bees in a to-go box. About 500 boxes are distributed each weekend, according to Doug Vincent, master beekeeper and co-owner of Beekind with his wife, Katia. Doug is there under a tent patiently explaining to new beekeepers how to install bees in a backyard hive.
I was there at 1pm on Saturday to get my bees and to get a few helpful answers to my questions. The one-page instruction guide is also helpful. By dusk, the new bees were installed in their hive, near a willow tree in my backyard.
The big thing is placing the queen in the hive. She comes in a separate thumb-sized box inside the larger box. You have to remove a cork, making sure she doesn’t fly away, and replace it with a “candy” plug that the bees in the hive will eat away to free her.
There are three types of bees available: Italian, Carniolan, and Beekind’s own local strain. They each are adapted to different climates and and may differ in temperament. I got the locals.
There’s so much to learn about bees, in part, because they are endlessly fascinating. The Sonoma County Beekeepers Association (sonomabees.org) is a valuable resource for local beekeepers. The member-based organization holds monthly meetings for all members along with group meetings for different areas of the county — the West group includes Sebastopol.
Beekind, which opened in 2004 in Sebastopol, has worked closely with the Sonoma County Beekeepers Association to provide a steady supply of bees each year. This helps to increase the number of beekeepers managing hives in the area, which in turn increases the number of bees available as local pollinators.
There’s still time to get started this year in beekeeping.