The Bees Are Here!April 21, 2009
On Monday I drove about an hour and a half each way and picked up the bees (don’t feel sorry for me, I enjoyed the trip – when else do you get 3 hours alone with no responsibilities other than to do just what you are doing – it’s not like you can do laundry and drive at the same time). These are Italian bees from Florida and we bought 2 packages.
These bees had come from Florida, arrived in IL on Saturday, and I was picking them up on Monday. Now, all the books say to install the bees in the hive on a mild, warm, clear day. Monday was chilly, cloudy, and breezy. It wasn’t textbook bee installation weather, but given they had been in their little box for at least 4 days, I thought I’d rather get them into the hive than keep them cooped up in the package until a nicer day which wasn’t going to happen until at least Wednesday.
Another novice beekeeper, Bill, came from the next town over to assist with the installation. DH manned the camera. The kids carried sugar water and pollen patties and watched.
I have seen a number of videos and pictures of what I call the dump and shake method of bee installation where the bees are shaken from the package box and dumped into the hive. But I also heard of a method where you remove 4 or 5 frames, situate the queen in her cage between other frames as you would in the dump and shake method, but then you just place the open package box in the hive and let the bees come out on their own. I asked the man I bought the bees from and he suggested the open box method was easier and it seemed less traumatic to me, especially since we were installing the bees under less than ideal weather conditions. So using the open box method was the plan.
As they say, the best laid plans…. We opened the first box, which seemed to have more bees in it than the other, and took out the can of bee food. The can was an open with comb in it – – and many many bees – – many of whom then fell into the hive .Long story short, we couldn’t put the box in the hive without smushing bees – – so we did the dump and shake method for those bees after all. Not all the bees would leave the box though – they stubbornly clung to the inside. We left the box by the entrance as we’d read and been told so the bees could get out and into the hive. In retrospect we probably could have shaked and dumped with a bit more vigor. Hindsight is 20/20.
The next installation went more smoothly. We were able to put the box in the hive. The queen is in a small cage between the box and a hive frame – you can only see the top of the queen cage here.
And finally we fed them. Yum – fake pollen patties and sugar water.
I went out that evening before it was dark to check on them and there were many many bees still outside which worried me. There was a clump on the ground, a clump in the can, and three clumps in corners of the package box. They seemed to be hunkering down for the night, but it was going to be 39 degrees so I didn’t know if they’d make it or not. The morning was cold and rainy. By late morning it was just cold so I trudged down to see what I could see. How disturbing. The clumps of bees were there, very still. I nudged the box, no movement. I think I learned why you install bees on a warm clear day – – don’t leave bees outside on a cold rainy night. Sigh. I would come back later with a bee brush to brush them from the front of the hive.
Later came and so did the sun and 52 degrees. I put on my light gray sweatshirt, my hat and veil, tucked my tan jeans into my socks, and wore gloves this time since at least some of the bees might be feeling defensive. I brought a bee brush, camera, and more sugar sirup. And then I learned something else. The clumps of bees weren’t dead! They were coming to life with the warmth of the sun. After moving one clump of bees up onto the hive porch I sat on my hands and figured the bees knew what they were doing more than I did. Awake bees were nudging comrades. Other bees came out of the hive and seemed to be herding awakened bees in.
I just watched for the better part of an hour.
Of course, I was dying to see what was going on in the other hive – were those bees happy? Had they come out of the box or were they just building comb in the box. But alas, no looking until Friday. And this hive I shouldn’t check until next Monday or Tuesday. It is amazingly frustrating – who would have thought that I’d want to open up these wooden boxes to see what a bunch of bugs are doing. go figure.