Dropping Bees Into The Hive

Let’s see….today is Thursday right? Fortunately I’ve been busy with a couple new, paying, projects this week and even an interview or two. While chained to my desk, the weather has been beautiful outside. Working from home is a blessing because when I need to take a break, I get to step outside and walk the garden; checking bees, flowers, and just enjoying the sunshine.

Taking a few steps back, let’s continue our run down of getting the bees home and in their hive. Tuesday was super busy so once our bees were home in the afternoon I had to run off to a business meeting. Christine placed the package in the garage to give them a few hours to calm down. About a half hour before I got home she sprayed them with sugar-water. We’re not sure why you spray them with the sticky liquid, but our ‘Beekeeping for Dummies‘ book, as well as our other books and classes, told us so.

Once I returned home, Christine donned her bee keeping suit and I grabbed a camera, the bee book and a video camera. I didn’t wear a suit and stood about fifteen feet away from the hive. I won’t go through all the steps, you can check out any number of books and websites if you want every detail. Frankly the process of getting the bees from the package to the hive was hardly “by the book”.

First she removed what looked like a soup can from the package and pulled out the queen in her little cage. A few bees got out before she replaced the can into the package. By the way the can is for feeding the bees during transport from California. Christine removed the plug from the queen’s cage and discovered that there was no candy plug-in there. Deftly she pulled a piece of marshmallow magically from her pocket, and stuffed it into the queen cage opening. The queen needs a few days to get everyone acclimated to her…which is why you plug her cage with “candy”: she’ll eat her way out, or they will eat their way in to her over these few days.  We’ll check tomorrow to see if she’s out yet, if not we’ll pull the plug.  One other bee slipped in with her when Christine pulled the hard plug, but presumably this will be fine.  The queens are usually shipped with a few attendants anyway. I think this was okay I should say….I guess we’ll see. As far as putting the queen in the hive, we removed five frames and nestled her cage between the two center frames inside the hive.

Next Christine took the package and hit it hard against the ground so all the little bees would drop off the inside walls onto the floor of the box. She then pulled the can out once and for all and dumped half the bees over the queen and the other half in the void created by the removed frames. Now they say this is easy but the reality is a lot of the bees don’t come out of the package. And you’re not supposed to wear gloves, but the whole process is very un-nerving, at some point the threw her gloves on. Brushing bees around she replaced all but one of the frames being careful not to crush any bees. Next the inner cover went on, with some grass to cover its front opening. After that the outer cover went on, once again careful not to crush bees. Finally she installed the feeder with sugar-water and the entrance reducer. The reducer makes the opening smaller (obviously) which is easier to for our girls to defend the hive until it’s up and running in about 6 weeks.

We still had a ton of bees still in the box so throughout the rest of the evening she tapped the box and dumped bees in front of the hive. At one point we even left the box, opening on the side, with a stick leading up to the hive entrance in case any bees wanted to crawl their way home. By morning the package was empty and everything looked great.

One concern we have is the number of ants being drawn to the hive, presumably due to the sugar-water.  Christine sprinkled a bunch of cinnamon around the base of the hive legs, this should hopefully dissuade the ants from going in the hive.  If they get in, the bees will defend the hive but it’s not something they should be worrying about until the hive is well established.

On the docket for this weekend is checking in the queen like I said. But the main event will be fencing in the veggie garden and rigging the berry bush wires so I can train them.

I can’t wait to see a honey bee in our flowers.  Christine said she saw one go back in the hive loaded with pollen already. I had one bee visit me on the deck while I was fixing my grill yesterday. Our fuzzy new friends really are a delight to see and be around.

Also nice to see the dogwoods are starting to bloom. There’s a whole grove it seems like over by the driveway.

Lastly, take a look at the flowering tree picture I posted. If you, or anyone you know, can identify the tree, let me know. We have several of them on the property and I’m just curious as to what they are.

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