bee

The Girls are Back in Town

Murdoch's called last week to say that the bees would be in town on May 1st, and that I'd have 24 hours to pick them up. Then yesterday, Sunday, they called to say that people could pick them up Sunday afternoon/evening as well as Monday; but since I wasn't actually expecting them, I didn't get the message until today. And they said that we could pick them up until 5pm today.

So we went there a little before 2pm, as I had 911 all morning. It was kind of a rough set of incidents, including one with a suicidal father whom the dispatchers called directly to get him out of the house without weapons... that worked out; but it was odd to listen through.



3 lbs of workers and 1 queen
They came in the standard wire box. When we went into the store to pick them up, the customer care guy told us that we had to go around back, as they didn't want people bringing their bees through the store itself. I kind of blinked at that, and I guess I understood, but at a gut level I was just laughing. Homeless bees are harmless, but people react badly to stinging insects, I guess.

So we went round back, and they had a few dozen of the wired cages in the back, with the lovely buzzing of warm bees. The weather had been freezing over the weekend, with snow and ice and all that, so yesterday they'd been a lot more quiescent, and the lady back there was saying that they were a lot more active with the warm weather. I got to pick my box, and I tried for the one where they were clumped up most closely to the queen. They'd definitely accepted her and were hanging near her to keep her warm, and there were fewer dead bodies at the bottom.

So I picked them up, took them to the back of our car, and we put them in a crate that would hold any droppings that happened, and we went and got Jet from school. *laughs*

There's always one...
As always, there were always a few bees hanging out on the outside of the cage, but they stayed there while we were in transet, as they had the last time I'd gotten them, so there was no worry about that. Jet got in at school and was cheerful enough about sitting in the back seat. They were back in the hatchback of the car, and there were no worries. He asked if he could help, but there really wasn't much for him to do.

John mostly kept me focussed on the checklist, what it was I had to do, and I knew the steps were pretty straightforward, i.e. take out the can, get the queen out, put a marshmallow in for the plug, and then get her into the hive. Pour all the workers on top, and then try and get a feeder onto it so that they would have something to eat. I also put the can into the hive, so that they would have that as a source of food as well. The hive was full of old comb, so I figured they'd have plenty to walk around on, there would be ready-made insulation, and old comb is attractive to bees.

Out with the sugar water
It was easier the second time. A lot easier. I knew what to expect, and knew how docile the girls really would be. So when the can came out and they zoomed out of the box, it was easy for me to ignore the sounds and the little insect brushing and bouncing against my hands and all my gear. The can came out easily with the hive tool, and only a few of them clung to it, and they moved readily when I set the can down on the tops of the frames in the box.

I think they could smell the comb, so they dropped down into the rows quickly.

Queen Cage
For some reason, the whole things was a lot more tightly secured than it had been the previous box I'd had. And the band holding the queen's cage into the box was more deeply inset into the wood. I had to really pry to get the tab to come up, but it was double folded and I had no problems holding onto it in order to work it free from the slot it had been put into. Having all the bees crawling all over my hands was really kind of cool. *laughs*

I know most people wouldn't say that, but I really loved it; and loved knowing that I wasn't going to react badly to it. I was very carefully suppressing any urge to swat or wave at the girls; and it was kind of fun knowing that I didn't have to in a way. I trusted them, and they rewarded the trust by not ever stinging me or making the move that was a prelude to a sting.

The tab was actually of such sharp metal that it cut into the wood, so I had to work it free at different angles.

Queen and Attendents
When she came out, she came out with a lot of attendants. So many that I had to give the whole cluster a little shake to get them to drop into the hive. I always worry about damaging the queen when I do that, so I was really careful about it. And when I could finally get a good grasp on the cage and turn it around to actually look at her, she looked just fine.

She's really active, and it looked like she was really doing well in there.

All ready to hang in the hive
Last time I'd just hung her in the hive and decided to worry about removing the plug later, and it had been kind of a pain to get it out the second time when the bees had already decided it was their home. So this time, instead, I dug the cork out to begin with, and I stuffed a mini marshmallow into the hole, like the instructions said to do. It kind of peels off the outsides and squishes into the hole really well and really stickly. *laughs*

The idea is to just keep the queen in the hive until everyone had decided that this is going to be their home. She usually sticks with the workers once they've established the hive, and they stick with her while she's stuck in the cage. And the idea is that she and her workers will eat at the candy plug until they can free her and clean her off. This way they release her eventually.

Shake Shake Shake...
The other thing I did differently than last time was that this time I actually shook all the girls out onto their home, rather than waiting patiently for them to figure it out by just sticking the wire box into the hive top. I thought about it, but decided not to, but I also did the second deep so that they could still keep the can of sugar syrup from the traveling case in the hive with them for the first couple of nights.

I may well remove that and the second deep if it gets too cold at night. They also have a feeder on top, with about a quart of simple syrup up there. I'll have to check it soon and probably refill it as soon as they're done with it. Though the spring here has been wet recently, so there should be plenty of bloom for them to forage off of. Still, it was snow, which can freeze off a lot of bloom. Still, the dandelions are popping everywhere, and there should be more stuff sooner rather than later.

Leave them their stores
They were everywhere, and there were one or two actually chasing me already. I'm not sure what that bodes? But they had the angry sound, which I was more used to in the deeper end of summer.

We actually have the box in a different part of the yard than where they'll end up staying; but we have people coming on Monday to put the solar panels back up on the roof. So we had to put the hive in a place that would be out of the way and keep the workers out of the flight path.

I loved being able to just stand in the cloud of bees, though, and they were doing fine with where they'd ended up. I made sure that the queen cage was facing out the right way, and the spacing looked right for what they had in there. They also all seemed to find good footing, and were happy to get into and onto all the comb that they could find and clean it all out. There had been some wax month damage on the waxed frames I'd kept from the end of the hive three years ago. There can't be mites and I'd frozen them, but then put them back out into the garage, and the wax months had found them again.

The feeder and the lid
I put the feeder on top, then the top board, and finally the telescoping tin lid to keep everything else off. *laughs*

This time I had the snow brush to brush all the girls into the box before I placed anything anywhere. That was really good to have this time. *laughs* The things I learned from the mistakes of the previous time. I often think that if one is just lucky the first time, you don't get to learn what you actually did *right* the same way you get to learn what you did wrong from the mistakes of the previous time.

That seems to always be true, no matter the endeavor.

Restricted Entrance

By the time I was done, they were already doing orienting flights from the front entrance. I have the restrictor on, at mid length, as the temps at night are still in the high 30's. Not super warm, but also not terribly cold. They should be able to defend this size entrance.

It was amazing how satisfying it was to just see happy, healthy bees orienting on the hive entrance.

I went and adjusted a few things, putting a deep box on the top instead of the medium one, and having to leave a crack between it and the feeder to begin with because so many of the girls were using the crack as an entrance at the start. I also put the shipping cage into the shade behind the hive.

When the sun started to go down behind some clouds, all the bees who were in the cage got into the hive, and fewer and fewer were wandering outside, and I finally just went over and closed the gap, with bare hands and no protective gear. With the gap closed, too, they were keeping more heat in the hive, which is important these first few nights.

I'm really grateful that ours didn't come two weeks ago, the way the Boulder Beekeepers' bees came. With the snow and temperatures in the 20's, I would have had a hard time worrying about them. As it is, now, while it's near freezing at night, I know they should be all right.
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This post was lovely - I hope you don't mind my friending you! My late father kept bees for 40 years+, and this post makes me very nostalgic. He even used to volunteer at the bee booth in the horticulture building at the MN State Fair every year - the honey ice cream there was a big memory from my childhood. I hope one day to have the space and energy to try beekeeping myself someday soon! Thank you so much for posting this!!
I'm glad that you're friending me! I'm very glad that he used to do all that.

It's much more fun when you have some idea of what to do. xD
Thank you!! Hee. It's fun to do and post about. John does all the pictures and he does such a fun job of it that it's easy to make detailed posts.