Today was the big day. I started as a future beekeeper who fiddled with a couple of future hives, and ended as a beekeeper. Do I get to call myself that yet? I got the bees, but haven’t really “kept” them yet. Who knows…I had fun anyway.
This last week I got in contact with another new beekeeper from here in Chapel Hill who was also going to Brushy Mountain to pick up bee packages. We were able to carpool which was nice. Car trips always seem shorter when there is someone to talk too. I hope I didn’t talk too much. We headed out pretty early this morning (about 7:45). We were not sure how long it would take top get there, and wanted to make sure we were there in time to see a demonstration of how to hive a package. You can also find lots of videos on the web of similar demonstrations of hiving a package (a really quick search found this, this, and this, there are others I am sure). We made it in plenty of time for the demonstration which was at 11:00. We had time to look around and check out the store there. Its an interesting place, and a beautiful area. There were definitely lots of people there to get packages.
The Demonstration was interesting, but not to surprising after having seen some videos. The guy doing it explained that while he had made packages (shook them out), he had never actually hived one. It all went fine though. I don’t even thingk anyone got stung. After we watched the demo, we got our packages and headed home.
When we got home, I gathered all my stuff and the bees and headed out to my “apiary”. Yesterday I had made up about a gallon of 1:1 sugar syrup to feed the bees to help them get started. Before I did anything else with the bees, I filled my feeders and set them up inside the hives (sticking through the follower boards). I decided to give the bees 13 top-bars to start with and set follower board up directly behind these 13 bars. Hopefully 13 will be a lucky number. 🙂 Here are the two packages sitting off to the side as as I was getting ready. Before moving on to any of the next steps, I used a spray bottle to spray the bees down with some sugar syrup (1:1). This should keep them from flying too much, and give them something to eat/drink.
I have to apologize for the pictures. I didn’t get a lot of great shots, and no action shots. I was hiving the packages by myself and couldn’t very well play cameraman while holding the bees. I tried to get some pictures though.
The next thing I had to do was get the queen cage out and fix it to a top-bar. The queen is not actually from the same hive as the bees, so they would kill her is she was simple added to the package. She is kept separate in a small “queen cage” which is plugged with a small bit of sugar candy. The idea is that the bees will slowly eat the candy and free the queen. After they have all been together for a couple of days, the bees will accept the queen. They have been together about 24 hours now, and a waiting a couple more days before releasing the queen would be the safest. I remove the queen cage from the packages and carefully used a nail to make a small hole in the candy plug that is keeping the queen in. The small hole will make it a little easier for the bees to start chewing away the candy. I had forgotten to bring anything to attach the cage to a top-bar, so I had to improvise. I used some paper clips that I bent to wrap around the cage and over the top-bar, but was worried that they might not hold. To make sure that the cage was well attached, I used a grocery bag to make some ties (cut a few strips out and twisted them to make a “cord”). I use these to tie the cage to the top-bar. They were held in pretty well with the ties and the paper clips.
Now for the fun part. Leaving a few bars out so there was an opening, I turned the package over and shook out as many bees as I could. They all seemed pretty calm, so I did this on the first hive with just my veil on (no gloves and just in a t-shirt). Everything went fine, and though a good number of bees flew, they didn’t really bother me at all. I did have to do lots of brushing though to get them all down in the hive. It was hard to get all the bees out of the package, so I ended up completely removing one side of the box so that I could shake them all out better. One interesting thing that I noticed what that when the bees were all dumped in the hive, they very quickly spread out. They went from a pile at the bottom to coating the whole inside of the hive. It looked like a living film of bees covering the inside of the hive.
Using my bee brush, I tried to clear the away from the edges and added the missing top-bars to close up the hive. Before adding the last one, I brushed all the bees from the top down into the hive. There were still a good number flying about, but most were inside.
After putting the cover on, I decided to open the entrance up (I had it closed down to a small entrance). I wanted the flying bees to have a larger entrance to find when looking for a way in. I also decided to start with the removable bottom board in. It seemed like with all that “open” screened area, the bees would try to get in there and miss the actual entrance. I plan on stopping by tomorrow to close down the entrance and remove the bottom board. I’ll give the one afternoon to find the way into their home before doing anything that might confuse them.
The second hive went about the same. The only difference was that attaching the queen to the top-bar was a bit harder. Since there were a number of bees flying form the first package install, as soon as I took the second queen out they came over. Instead of just being able to deal with the queen cage, I had to deal with a bunch of loose bees trying to hang onto the cage as I was trying to attach it. Since they were also crawling all over my hands while I was trying to work, I decided to put on my gloves. I lost a little dexterity, but wasn’t worried about offending a bee and getting stung. Other than that, the second install went just as well.
I made it through without a single sting. 🙂 I don’t think there were even any attempted stings (no stings to my gloves or cloths). I also think I did pretty well with the bees. As far as I know, I only accidentally smashed one (while trying to put in the last top-bar in the second hive).
Here they are, all installed. They seemed to be finding the entrance ok, and there were bees fanning to get the scent out so others could find their way to the new home. You can’t see it in the picture, but there are still a good number of bees flying around the front of the hives (in addition to the bees at the entrance).