Virginia's NewBee Blog: And then there were BEES!
What a weekend!
Yesterday I drove out to Rick's house and picked up my first ever bee package! While I was excited, he could tell I was a little nervous. He picked out a box that wasn't sticky from syrup, gently brushed off some 'outsiders' hanging around the outside of the package and assured me that I could call if I ran into any issues.
When to Install?
I was unsure whether I should install my package today (brrr!) or wait until Monday when it warms up some. Rick suggested Sunday, and I thought back to talking to a friend who installed packages weeks ago, when snow was still on the ground. A little part of me was still concerned (because, well, I get super cold myself, so how could I expect these tiny creatures to survive?!) - so I did a google search. While no one gave a hard core number that is 'too cold', I found that some beekeepers aren't afraid of a little chill - it will keep the bees huddled in the hive and recognize their queen and fewer would drift.
I also knew that if I installed my package today, I would have a hand from my husband. If I waited until Monday, I would be competing with farm tasks for his attention and assistance.
So last night, I mixed up my sugar syrup and tested how everything would fit together. As we talked over the plan, we realized the boardman entrance feeder wouldn't work with the entrance reducer. Another quick google search gave me peace that we could use another scrap of wood (although we ended up just cutting off a piece of the entrance reducer to allow the feeder to also fit. I gathered rubber bands and made sure I had at least two that would fit over the frame, in case one broke.
And of course, I visited my bees a few times to marvel at how they balled together and just look at them, waiting in anticipation.
And this morning it was game time. We loaded up the truck with our hive, supplies and bees and headed to the other farm. We situated the hive stand so the entrance wasn't facing the brutal winds coming in from the north and it faced toward the spring trickling through the property. I sprayed the frames with my sugar syrup and removed the frames I'd need out of the way to install the bees. Then my helper ensured I was all sealed up in my jacket and took on camera duties (I ordered a second set of gloves, which arrived AFTER we got home from installing the bees), and I set to work with the package.
I got the hive opened and queen cage out smoothly enough. I brushed off the cage, inspected the queen and attached her cage to a frame near the center with a rubber band. As I worked, I told my husband, "I think there is a bee in my pants." I told myself I'm just thinking things (as I did yesterday the whole way home, convinced I was feeling creepy crawlies in random places as the bees rode casually in the back of my car). And I continued my work. I've been reading. I've been listening to podcasts. And this particular podcast from Laryssa about getting stung (and her husband's unfortunate Valentine's Day experience) must be in my head.
I put my mind back to the task at hand. I was concerned over injuring these ladies, but discovered I needed to be more aggressive in my shaking to get them to leave their temporary home. They don't move much with mild or moderate shakes. It just makes them a little feisty, although overall they were still more mild than I anticipated. Even with their rather mild demeanor, the first few honey bees that flew anywhere near my face made me flinch until I remembered I could trust the jacket/veil. I shook as much of the package into the hive and gave them some time to begin to settle. Then I gently placed in my remaining frames and brushed the top-dwellers into the frames before placing the inner cover and top cover.
With most of the bees situated in the hive, my photographer joined me and found a rock to hold the cover down on the hive. We made sure the feeder was secure and then began cleaning up our equipment.
A Little Surprise
As my husband gently brushed the few bees that were hanging out on my jacket from me, I again said - "I think there is a bee in my pants."
I thought - I MUST be imagining things. Surely if there were a bee in my pants, I'd have really known (in a painful way) by now. But yet I couldn't reason myself out of this creepy crawly feeling.
So further from the hive, I realized in my focus on the bees this morning, I had not put on my belt. And sure enough, I reached my gloved hand in and produced a drone. (Thank goodness! And I guess I'm not completely crazy!)
1. Be more aggressive.
2. Don't forget your belt.
I checked in on my hive (just watching, no touching!) this afternoon. There was still a small cluster in the package box I left near the hive, basking in the sun. I watched as a few bees flew into and out of the hive. It made me feel better seeing a little activity. And now I prepare to snuggle into my cozy bed, hoping they've balled together to create a toasty home for my new queen on this chilly evening.
I'm already looking forward to checking on the hive (again, no touching!) tomorrow!