Saturday, May 3, 2014

Hiving the Bees

I woke up at the usual time this morning, 5:30ish, and though I didn't have to get up, I couldn't go back to sleep. The bees had arrived, and I had to go get them and bring them home to their new hive. Excitement along with trepidation propelled me out of bed to get ready for the trip.

While I went through the basic beekeeping course and have been reading beekeeping books since then, I still wondered if I could actually take a cage that seemed to contain upwards of a thousand bees and transfer them to the hive. I wondered if I could get the queen safely nestled between two of the frames where the bees could then eat through the sticky plug and allow her to enter into their new home. Hubby teases me about my not-so-successful attempts to have goldfish, saying he hopes the bees last a bit longer, and this makes me wonder if I will end up, sadly, killing an entire hive of bees. I certainly hope I don't.

(Hmmmmmm. I have no idea what happened here, but I had a paragraph about arriving at the Keeper of the Bees, having the Master Beekeeper mark my queen for me, a queen who escaped her cage almost as soon as the MB said he'd never had a queen escape, and me standing amidst bees flying and humming all around me. Standing there with so many bees all around was certainly surreal.)

After the queen was returned to her quarters, and it returned to the cage containing the bees to go in my hive, any stray bees clinging to the outside were gently brushed off. Then the cage was handed over to me. I could hear a low buzzing hum as I carried them to the truck. Once they were snug in the tub in the bed of the truck, we set off for home.

Once home, I set the bees next to the hive, put on my new elbow-length leather gloves and very stylish hat with netting, then removed the top of the hive to take out the middle frames. I sprayed the bees with sugar water, banged the cage against the ground like I'd been shown in class, removed the can of sugary food, then dumped the bees into the hive. Bees flew all around me, but I moved slowly. I saw one on my jeans, a couple on my gloves, and Hubby called to me (from the other side of the garden, ready to bolt inside if so much as one bee flew his way) that I had some on my back. I just made small, slow movements, and after ten minutes or so, most of the bees were inside the hive. I returned the middle frames carefully, being sure to not squish the bees crawling along the ledges. Once the frames were back in place, I picked up the queen in her own little quarters, pulled the cap off to expose the sticky plug, then wedged her plastic home between the frames. Within a couple of days, the sticky plug will be gone, eaten away by the bees, and the queen will be free to roam the hive.

After replacing the top of the hive, I stood back and watched. There's simply no way to get all the bees in the hive, so quite a few were hovering around me and the cage they'd come in. The time had come to let them be (ha!) for a couple of days, to acclimate to their new home. Or so I thought. A couple of hours later, as I sat on the back deck and looked over at the hive, I could tell far more bees were flying around than when I had put the top on it. Then I noticed the grass I'd used to stuff in the entrance hole had been removed, and bees were quickly leaving their new home. Thankfully, they were going right back to the can with the sugary food in it that had been inside the cage they'd arrived in. I garbed back up, took the lid off the hive so I could dump the bees from the can back inside. The second grass plug seems to be working much better, keeping the bees inside.

So now I wait a few days. Then I'll lift the lid off, check to make sure the queen is out of her holding cell, and hopefully see a honeycomb in the makings. As I wait, I'll be thinking positive thoughts that the bees will not go the way of the goldfish.


Cathy said...

I am so so so excited for you! Did you get stung at all? I am very interested in getting a hive or two someday. Will be waiting to learn more from you!

JK said...

Thanks, Cathy. I'm really excited about this, too, and I'm so afraid I'm going to screw it up. I went out to check the hive this morning, and it's so quiet. I'm hoping that's just because of how cool it was this morning. I didn't see many dead one's on the bottom screen, so that's a good sign, I think.

No, I didn't get stung. I worked really hard to stay calm, move slow, and just breathe. I had one get up under my hat netting, but I was able to get the hat off without incident.

Debbie said...

I would be FREAKING out. You are brave. Keep being you. :)

JK said...

You need to come visit the bees, Debbie. You'll see they're nothing to freak out over. :)