Warning - this is really long! This is the first entry in my bee journal...
April 8, 2012
The Hiving of the Bees
Rachel being gone for the weekend and today being Easter, I knew I was on my own with getting the bees into the hive. I read through the instructions in Beekeeping for Dummies once more, pulled myself up by my boostraps and geared up.
Michele had warned me that the packages didn’t have the typical piece of wood stapled over the can of syrup, so I took along an old plate to cover the opening. I also took along a handful of marshmallows, knowing I would be a bit flustered and likely to drop them. I had my tote all ready to go and headed out to do the deed.
A few bees escaped when I pulled the syrup can out of the package, but I wasn’t too worried. They were buzzing around, seeming interested, but calm. I was also very comforted by my bee jacket and veil but did not have gloves on. I kept them in the tote, just in case I felt the need.
When I pulled the queen cage out of the larger package, I saw that I would regret not having my pocket knife along to pry the cork out of the end of the queen cage. The capping fork worked just fine, though. All ready to put the marshmallow in, imagine my horror when I realized that I had lost my queen! Full of regret, I took a deep breath and moved onto the next step.
I thunked the package on the ground, as instructed, but it sure didn’t seem to shift the bees by much. Oh, well, they need to get in the hive, so I poured/shook them in as best I could. About a third of them were left, so I set the package in front of the hive, hoping they’d find their way in. I put the frames I’d removed back into the hive body and used the bee brush to shoo the bees down into the frame, placed the pollen patty on top of the bars and gently slid the cover onto the hive, hoping I wasn’t smooshing any bees in the process. Poor girls, I know I lost a few.
Thinking that maybe the book would have some advice for what to do in case of the loss of the queen, I was going to pick it up to page through it when I realized that the queen was walking around on the book! I was saved! Using the packaging from some hardware (plastic box with a piece of cardboard that slides into the back), I was able to recapture the queen. I thought it best to get her into the cage as quickly as possible but as soon as I slid the cardboard open a bit, she flew off! What a dunce! How in the world can one person lose her queen bee twice?
I’d make the call tomorrow to order a new queen. So I started tidying up. Everything was sticky – at one point, the girls were getting a bit rambunctious, so I had sprayed at a few of them to get them to quit flying around. What a mess. Good thing my tote is plastic. I had everything together, ready to take back up to the house and decided to look for the queen again. Where would I go if I were a queen bee? I started by looking low, as that’s where I’d found her the first time, but all I could see were workers. Then out of the corner of my eye, I could see that there was a cluster of bees on the lattice – in a place where I knew that I hadn’t sprayed any of the syrup. Imagine my joy when I saw the queen in the midst of about 20 workers, who all seemed to be attending her, rather than attacking her as I’d come to expect them to do.
I shooed the extra bees away and captured the queen again in my plastic box. That thing was coming in handy! Deciding that the other bees flying around would make me more nervous, I decided to take her up by the house to try to get her back in her cage. A bit of coaxing and a bit of ticking her off later, and she was where she belonged. I’d lost my marshmallows by this point, so held her in with my gloved finger and had Frank fetch the bag of mini marshmallows.
So the queen is once more ensconced in her cage and it is hanging between two frames, as all should be. There were still quite a few bees in the package, but I didn’t want to disturb them anymore, so decided we should do chores and give everybody a break. An hour later, there were probably 20-30 bees on the outside of the package and a handful inside. I decided to put the package a few feet away and see if the girls would abandon the package to be near their sisters at the hive. There was quite a cloud of bees flying around the front of the hive and several walking around the front face of it, but I figured they were just getting acquainted with their new home.
After a few minutes of watching, I checked out the package. Only a couple of bees left on and in it, so I used the bee brush to get the ones off the outside and shook the inside ones out. To my surprise, the cloud of bees around the hive had thinned out quite a bit and there were just a few of them crawling around on the front – most of them near the entrance. So removing the package was the right thing to do – I think it was confusing them.
All the drama has me worn out, but pleased at the outcome.