The phone rang just before 7 Thursday morning (the 9th). It was the post office – my bees had arrived. I ordered packages from B & B Honey Farm. They are based in Minnesota which, this year, meant the bees came a bit later than expected. For two weeks in a row, snow in May delayed shipping.
I ordered 4 hives. One for my top bar hive, two for my friend, Libby, who wants (me) to start hives, and one for the Montessori school that I’m helping. The bees arrived safe and sound. Some aren’t going to survive the trip, but surprisingly few died in transit, and the queens were all alive. Surprisingly the postmaster was not nearly as interested in looking at these boxes full of bees as I was. She seemed quite happy to usher me and my bees out of the building as quickly as possible.
Thursday was cloudy, highs in the low 60’s, with rain and thunderstorms expected on and off all day. Actually, not a bad day for installing bees into hives. If it were sunny and warm the bees might be tempted to try to find better digs than an empty hive space; but when it is colder and rainy they are more likely to sit tight and start drawing comb.
A check of the local radar indicated a break was likely in the late morning. The Montessori class had been disappointed twice when bee arrivals hadn’t happened were more than happy to interrupt their day for a field trip to their hive at a schoolmate’s home.
They were less comfortable being so close when I actually began dumping them into the hive.
My photographer, though, may have a future, both in photography and beekeeping. He’s front and center and closest to the hive in this group picture of the new beekeepers.
As soon as this installation was finished it began to rain. I hope the straggler bees that weren’t in the hive yet did ok.
I headed home and consulted the radar once again. Another break was approaching in late afternoon. I got together the bees and supplies for two more installations, this time at my friend Libby’s home.
Libby has a cattle farm and employees. After a roadtrip to Dadant’s in March to get what she needed, her farm helpers put the hives and frames together. Libby went for Langstroth, but with pretty copper, peaked roofs. I love the look!
I was better at dumping the bees by the time I got to Libby’s second hive, but I fumbled a bit with the queen cage. These cages didn’t have a sugar plug for the queen to eat, just a cork, so I needed to open the cage for the queen to get out. On that second hive the queen got out more quickly than anticipated and we weren’t 100% sure she went into the hive. But the bees were fanning for their friends so I was pretty optimistic.
I was cold, wet, and tired, so it wasn’t the neatest job.
I left the last to find their way in and went inside to change and meet Libby at her restaurant for a drink. (She also gave me a bottle of wine – if I install enough hives for her I’ll never have to buy wine again!)
Yesterday I took a peak at my own bees. Everyone was happily inside, and perhaps because I’d left them some comb from last year’s absconded colony they haven’t been terribly interested in the baggie of sugar water they have for food.
I then went up to check on Libby’s hives, and sure am glad I did. Both hives seemed happy enough, but when I picked up one of the empty package boxes we found a clump of bees. At first I thought they’d been trapped by the package, but eventually realized they were huddled around a queen. Odds are pretty good that the queen did not land in the hive on Thursday but instead ended up on the ground – and luckily she didn’t get stepped on! I moved her on a twig over to the hive landing board and she made a very regal entrance.
And so 4 more hives have been created in Central Illinois.