Monday, April 28, 2014

The Bees are here, the Bees Are Here!!

Last week was so beautiful, I expected a call every day from Marlene that the bees were arriving, only to go to bed disappointed every night. This week was predicted to be cold and rainy and, sure enough, the bees came today. I met Marlene on the edge of Cleghorn, she had a van full of bee packages! Thousands and thousands of bees! I bought 3 packages, two for me and one for my sister, Rosanne. There are ten thousand bees per package and several hitchhiker bees. We loaded my three boxes, along with their range free friends, in the back of our car and I took off for the pond. I soon had a hitchhiker bee riding on my leg, she was polite about it, just crawled around a little and left a little bee poop before she crawled down my leg and disappeared.

I have spent the last week reviewing how to stock the hives with little fuss or muss, I've watched several you tube videos and studied my bee bible. I assembled the necessary tools and was quite confident in my bee stocking ability, I was even a little cocky. So cocky, in fact, that I decided to forgo the bee suit and just used Leo's old mosquito netting headgear along with my heavy sweatshirt and bee gloves.

The first thing I had to do was to remove the feeder can to get the queen cage out and install her under a top bar. I forgot to bring something flat to cover the hole made by the feeder can but found an old 'No Trespassing' sign that I thought would work. I had a bottle of sugar water to spray the bees with, it's supposed to create a diversion, keep them busy so they don't think about attacking the nice person who is releasing them from their cage. I think the sugar water just ticked them off! As soon as the bees saw daylight through the hole, they came swarming out, looking for blood!

I slapped the sign over the hole while trying to ignore the bees swarming around me, one got under the mosquito bonnet and stung me in the chin, ouch. Another was inside my sweatshirt, buzzing away. I was too far into the operation to quit but did pull the string tight on the bottom of the bonnet to keep others away. Armed with my spray bottle, I slid the sign to the side, quickly sprayed the bees and retrieved the queen cage and slapped the sign none to gently over the hole, dispatching a few more bees.

My bee bible said to shake off any bees riding along with queen, remove the cork plug holding the queen in her cage. Behind the cork is a plug of bee candy that the worker bees will eat to remove Rapunzel from her ivory tower. In the time it takes to remove the bee candy, a little romancing is going on so when the queen comes out, they won't kill her. I hope she talks real nice to them. I saw the little cork and pulled it out and out walked the queen! YIKES! There was no bee candy!! Luckily this was all done in the hive body so I gently herded Rapunzel back into her cage, she was very receptive, and quickly re-plugged the hole. WHEW!

The last step is to 'bonk' the bee package and quickly dump the bees in the bee bowl of the hive. Sounds pretty straight forward, don't you think? I watched several you tube videos and it looked like a piece of cake. Well, these bees did not see the same you tube videos I did! I bonked and dumped a writhing mass of bees into the bee bowl, then en-mass, several hundred, it seemed, rose up out the bee bowl and came looking for the nice person who released them from their prison, and it wasn't to thank me. I guess bonking angers them as much as squirting with sugar water, I had thoroughly ticked off the bees. I was slapping top bars in place to corral the rest of the herd, dispatching more bees in the process but I had bees stinging me inside my sweatshirt. In my haste to make a quick get-away, I got the mosquito bonnet hung up in the thorns of the plum thicket and was frantically trying to release it. I was running away from the hives while ripping off clothing, it's a good thing I was hidden from the road or someone would have had a show. I was down to skin, leaving a trail of clothing with the bees stinging the heck out of my shirts. When things calmed down, I dressed again, it was cold out there, and got my bee suit out of the car where I had so foolishly left it.

The second hive went better, I knew what to expect this time, I think I will make my own you tube video that shows what REALLY happens. Since all the bees never come out of the boxes, you leave the boxes under the hives near the entrance holes for them to find. I headed for Rosanne's house, feeling reasonably confident in my ability to stock a bee hive with a package of bees. I also called her to say she might want to rethink her position on a bee suit. Rosanne's daughter, Carri, has been drafted to care for the bees while they are gone to a wedding later this week so we appointed her official photographer. She stayed back out of the range of bees. In this photo, I'm removing two strips of wood that held the three bee boxes together, in hindsight, I wish I had done that at the pond because I think the hammering riled the bees. As if they needed a reason to be riled....

Rosanne and I were poking a hole in one of the top bars to attach the queen cage with a thumb tack.

I think Carri found the zoom, I'm fishing out the feeder can, the blue disc is sitting there ready to slip over the hole.

I have retrieved the queen cage and getting it ready to attach to the top bar where she will hang until she is released by her worker bees.

Can you believe I got Rosanne to hold the tack while I hammer???

I've bonked and am pouring bees into the bee bowl.....

....shaking and whapping the box to get all the bees out I possibly could, while Rosanne peeks in to watch and learn my technique.   

 This was the best one yet, I wonder if I have a future in stocking bee hives? We got her hive set up with few fatalities, things are looking up. Rosanne fed me and then I had to hit the road for home, it was starting to rain and I wanted to check on my hives again.

Back home I found the bees left in the cages, huddled together trying to keep warm so I opened one end of the hive and bonked them inside, with only a few stragglers that refused to leave their box. It was getting colder all the time, I was wondering if I should take some quilts to cover the hives. I peeked in the observation windows and the bees are all clustered together, surrounding Rapunzel to keep their future queen warm.

A-w-w-w-w, that just warmed my heart.

Stay tuned for further adventures in top bar bee keeping and, hopefully, soon pictures of the developing honey comb.

1 comment:

  1. After reading this I am so glad that I decided to just let you and Rosanne try this out first.