21,000 New Friends

Our three hives. As moving a photo I've taken since we first wandered the land quite a while ago.

Our three hives. As moving a photo I’ve taken since we first wandered the land quite a while ago.

Today we got our bees.

We set the alarm for seven o’clock and were on the freeway by eight. The morning was cold and rainy. Pooling and streaming water in the yard had me worried. As did my freakishly busy week. It was only Tuesday morning and already my head spun. Getting up and out into the real world of commuters wasn’t helping anything. I’ve grown accustomed to finite band of existence that does not involve having to deal with the real world on a daily basis, let alone rush hour traffic.

By time we made it to the Lorain county line though, the rain had stopped. I parked the truck. The wife and I walked over to the bee shop, and the air inside the garage was filled with a fair number of bees. Though it was nothing like last year’s delivery day. A warm sunny day. On that day the air, everywhere, was saturated with beating wings of bees. Last year was a freak show of fear – a line of newbies, waiting nervously to pick up their new bees. I can remember carrying our single package of bees, cover with bees inside and out, to the car and being as nervous as I think I ever had been before.

Today though we stepped inside with no fanfare; picking up a few provisions. The store wasn’t crowded at all. After paying, we stepped outside to the garage, handed our receipt and received our two, three-pound packages of bees. This year they slapped some fondant on the outside of one of the boxed packages. The recommendation being that the fondant will last longer than stuffing a marshmallow in the queen’s cell, giving the hive more time to acclimate to her. See, the queen’s cell has a cork in the opening. We remove the cork and plug the opening with fondant, or marshmallow in the past, so she can eat her way out.

As I walked out, holding two pine and mesh boxes, I read a hand written sign telling us to “check our package for a queen and healthy bees. 10,500 lives are depending on you”. No pressure.

Me decidedly less freaked out this year despite holding twice the number of bees.

Me, decidedly less freaked out this year despite holding twice the number of bees. (okay yes I’m a bit uncomfortable, holding the bees away from my body, grimacing as I wait for a bee to sting me.)

Once home we put the bees in the garage. We can’t dump them in the hive until late afternoon, when it was likelier going to be warmer, and the bees would be inclined to stay in the hive for the night.

Checking in on our bees. They acclimate in the garage for several hours, waiting for late afternoon to be dumped into their new hives.

Checking in on our bees. They acclimate in the garage for several hours, waiting for late afternoon to be dumped into their new hives.

Two 3# packages of bees. Wood, mesh, a tin can with sugar water and 21,000 humming wonders of nature waiting to get out.

Two 3# packages of bees. Wood, mesh, a tin can with sugar water and 21,000 humming wonders of nature waiting to get out.

As soon as the bees were home, I had to bolt to goto a work networking lunch. The speaker was no other than internet sensation Chief Oliver from the Brimfield PD. He seems like an awesome guy and his story was inspiring. Pretty cool for a Tuesday.

I made it home in time to work the afternoon away doing my design work. By four o’clock though the time had come to drop the bees in the new hives. We took hives No. 2 and No. 3 out back, as well as our bees. Our oldest helped, decked out in his bee outfit. I spent most of the time taking photographs and video in lieu of helping much.

It was very touching, making memories.

As for the bee install, here’s what you basically do… Set up the bottom board and a “deep” hive box. Take out five of the ten frames. Pick up one of the package boxes, slam it down on the ground, or box or wheelbarrow, so all the bees fall to the bottom. Then pull out the tin can in the package, releasing the bees. The air instantly fills with bees, which is rather unsettling, even though you have a suit on. Then fish out the queen’s cage and set it aside. Take the package and dump it upside down into the hive, where you took out the five frames.

Shake, shake, shake.

Freak out ’cause you have 10,499 pissed off bees everywhere.

Lean the package against the hive stand. Likely there are still a thousand bees inside the package box. They’ll get out on their own accord. If you want, place a stick in there so the lazy ones can crawl out, up and into the hive. After they chill out, you can replace the five frames.

Take the queen cage and a gob of fondant. Deftly remove the cork keeping her in the cage, with a pointy tool like a jewelers screw driver. Make sure she doesn’t get out. Our queens didn’t have attendants in with them this year, so no need to worry about bees besides her. Then squish fondant, plugging the opening. Hang her cage in the middle. “They” say point the plugged opening up and the screen of her cage towards the center. Well the metal hanger on our cages meant I could only really hang her cage with the plug down. The space between frames meant her cage could only face the side instead of the center of the hive.

She’ll be fine. I promise.

Next put some pollen substitute on top of the frames so the bees can eat, since the hive is empty. On top of that place the inner cover, using a brush to sweep your exploring bees off the top of the hive so they don’t get squished. On top of that goes the outer cover.

Christine came back out later today and installed a medium box with a top hive feeder filled with sugar water, on each of the two new hives.

The install of the bees went smoothly for the most part. Initially the wife encountered brain lapse after brain lapse so I had to tell her to quit it, take a deep breath and get her shit together: this was her show. The second hive was a piece of cake, and our guy got to help out pretty much with every step of the process.

Like I said, it was nice to see him and his mom sharing this experience. A new beekeeper, but already she is passing along an important life lesson to the next generation. Of all the experiences I can think of a kid having, I’m not sure I can think of one more important than what his mom gifted him today, and all the days here on out when it comes to raising these bees.

So now we have three hives. All in a row. It’s magical just seeing them there. At one time just an idea, but now reality.

Three hives will do wonders for our flowers and veggies. And our neighbors plants as well for miles around. They won’t even know why their gardens look so goo this year.

But it’s more than flowers. Or food. Or helping bees. Or helping the world we live in.

It’s mostly about experiences and memories I suspect.

Plus, who wouldn’t want 21,000 new friends.

8 thoughts on “21,000 New Friends

    • Thanks for stopping by Annabelle. I’ll check out your blog. Keeping bees in NYC definitely has its challenges I bet. But what a great place to keep bees – I bet it’s a real conversation starter as well.

      I wonder if urban bees that are high up on buildings fly over the edge and go “whoa”. 🙂


      • Living in NYC, it’s especially awesome when you look overhead and see a swarm, ha ha. Yeah, I wonder if the bees ever know where they are??? Maybe they are like “darn, too bad it’s not Paris”!


  1. I love reading about your bees! Okay, so you still have those from last year– these are just adding to them? And a question of bee politics: Will they all stay in their original hive that they came in or do they just go between all three? Curious over here, haha.


    • Hive No. 1 is from last year. Hives No. 2 & No. 3 are new hives this year.

      The bees of each hive are loyal to their queen and will defend their hive to the death. They will not mingle with, or go into the other hives. When the queen was in her cage when we started each new hive, her hive was getting accustomed to her pheromones or whatever, essentially imprinting on her is how I’d describe it.

      From then on, she is their queen.

      I think any given bee lives less than six months, except for the queen: she can last for a few years. If the queen leaves the bees will follow her (called a “swarm”). If the bees aren’t happy with their queen they’ll kill her. In that case, or if she dies (like No. 1’s queen did last year) the bees will produce a new queen of their choosing.

      Awesome questions. Thanks.


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