Crab Orchard, Tennessee--You know how it is when you're anticipating something--for months--maybe years. Not years in this case, but I've been studying and learning all I can about keeping honey bees since last summer. I spent all winter building 3 hives and obsessing over which "way" to keep bees. Natural beekeeping caught my eye, but the Warre-style hive was just too different than hives that will accept traditional frames, so I opted for foundationless frames in a Langstrongth 8-frame medium with a quilt to absorb moisture during cold weather--I've detailed the construction in earlier posts.
I did get a bottle of Honey-B-healthy to mix with the sugar water I was feeding the bees. At Thursday's beekeeper meeting several members were really praising the product and said that the bees really seemed to like it. Since I have brand new hives and no drawn foundation for the bees, I put beeswax on the starter strips in the frames and sprayed the entire inside of the hive box with the sugar syrup/Honey-B-Healthy solution. I hope it works to help them decide to call the box their home.
I've made sugar syrup for hummingbirds before, but it's like 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. This syrup was 1 part sugar to 1 part water. I have a lot of syrup Keeping it in the fridge.
I had read about something called a "swarm guard" that is placed over the entrance to keep bees from swarming; especially when introducing them to a new hive, so I built three of them. Once I figured out that I was going to have to use a Boardman feeder at the entrance, the swarm guards had to come off--I'd still like to come up with something really quick to keep them from absconding once they get the queen free from her cage. I've read that it doesn't happen often, but it can happen, and I've got about $350 in 3 boxes of insects that have wings-----!!!!
Yesterday was finally the day. The USPS sent an e-mail notification that 3 packages were in the mail on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning I got a call from the Knoxville post office (about 70 miles away) telling me that my bees were there if I was going to "be in the neighborhood" I could pick them up and if not, they'd be in Crab Orchard on Saturday morning. I opted to wait since I knew the bees had sugar syrup to eat and a queen to keep them occupied.
It started raining about 3 am Saturday morning and a brisk wind was blowing along with the rain when I picked up the bees. They were put in the shop where I'd go look at them every couple of hours and come back to the computer and "Google" how to install bees in the rain The forecast was for solid rain for two days and then my schedule would not allow installing them for another day so I was looking for a window in the rain. It happened about 6:00 pm Saturday evening.
I wasn't able to get pictures of the actual installation, but I might be able to provide a visual for you:
First off, I will say that I detest the leather gloves and will get rubber gloves before I go back into the hive. When I removed the square piece of wood that covers the syrup can I COULD NOT get a hold of the syrup can and actually dropped the queen cage down into the package of bees--arrgghhhhh! I retrieved it, saw the queen crawling around in there and tried to wedge the cage between two frames the way I've seen on all the videos I've watched. That doesn't work very well. The queen fell to the bottom of the box (again). Next time I need a thumbtack to attach the strap to a frame so she can safely dangle. (You can see the white strap that's attached to the queen cage in the center box extending past the cardboard syrup can cover). I finally took the nylon strap attached to her cage and wedged it between two end bars.
I was using the "no shake" method of putting the package box inside the hive and just letting the bees crawl out. I put the package in and tilted it on its side with the opening towards the dangling queen and put the top back on.
Now I was nervous--I didn't think that went too well. So, I got the second package, some thumbtacks, and opened up the next hive to install the bees. I hate those gloves! Had trouble getting the can out again, and yes, I dropped the second queen down into the package of bees AGAIN! Next time I'm not going to take the staple out of the strap holding the queen cage in place until after I get the clumsy syrup can out of the very tight-fitting hole. I decided to ditch the thumbtack idea and to just lay the queen cage next to the opened package on this one, so that's what I did.
The third one went a little easier. I didn't drop the queen cage, no bees flew out, and it didn't rain throughout the entire fiasco.
What did I learn during this first beekeeping experience?
- I need to make sure my hair is pulled back so it doesn't get tangled up in the zipper of the veil,
- Did I mention I hate the leather gloves?
- Make sure there are no bees on you when you take off your suit--I did get stung on the chest by a stray bee after I was back in the shop
After I came back into the house I started second-guessing myself and wondering if I had turned the second queen cage upside down so she couldn't be fed, so this morning I peeked and there was a huge wad of bees on the area where the queen cage was placed, so I left it alone. There were also several bees still in the package so I didn't remove it either. I didn't think it would be a good idea to get the bees flying around in this crappy weather.
Oh yes, we had fierce thunderstorms during the night with lots of wind. The first thing I did this morning was make sure none of the hives had blown over, and they were all still in place.
Now I wait.....let me see, 4 days from Thursday means that tomorrow evening I'll check to see if the packages are pretty empty so I can remove them AND it's supposed to be better weather by then--let's keep our fingers crossed that the bees are forgiving of a "newbee-keeper"!