Well folks, today I bring the sad, sad news that the beehive is indeed dead. I had put it all back together after the bear attack and there were a few bees hanging around. I was holding out hope that maybe they had escaped and flown away for safety. Alas, it appears Queen Latifah was slain along with many of her protectors.
I did some research this morning and it seems like once a bear finds a hive it’s pretty hard to keep them away. Electric fences help some, but often they begin to head closer to the house in search of yummys (ie. garbage cans). As fun as that sounds, I really don’t want to have a face to face meeting with a bear, so I’ve decided to give up beekeeping.
Fortunately my brother-in-law and sister-in-law are also beekeepers, so at least the hives can be put to good use.
Today I did my first inspection of the hive… it was so amazing! The bees were not upset at all that I was checking them out – in fact, they just went about their business. I did use a little smoke to mellow them out, but I probably could have done without.
I did find that they had eaten all of the sugar-water, leaving a void in the top of the hive. They promptly filled that with honeycomb! Go little bees go! I’m not sure if I was supposed to, but I scraped that bit of comb out – I want them to focus on building on the frames (which are not all full).
There’s definitely some honey production going on, but they will continue to need more sugar syrup to help build it up. I think I found Queen Latifah – I didn’t want to spend too much time in the hive today, but they had broke her out of her cage and I thought I saw her on one of the frames. I’ll look a little closer the next time I go in, but I figured if they were happily building comb and working, she was probably there.
Today we had a bee installation party. Well, sort of. Apparently various branches of my family wanted to come over to see if I would pull this off or end up like the boy in “My Girl”. And we had food after.
First things first, I geared up:
After that, it was time to spray them down with sugar water (apparently that makes them feel like I do after a pint of Ben & Jerry’s). From there, I had to go through the process of finding the queen. Being a first time beekeeper, I was not entirely familiar with how these bees were packaged – I knew somewhere in the mass of three pounds of bees was a little cage with a queen. There were a couple different little lids to pry off and eventually I found the right one.
Yes, I named her Queen Latifah. She’s a classy broad, after all. I had planned on naming her Queen Elizabeth, but Mike’s suggestion was way better. She had a couple of buddies in there with her (I think they’re supposed to help feed her), but she was alive and kicking. I stuck the cage in between two of the slats and proceeded to dump a few of the other bees on top.
After that, it was time to give them some food. I did some research on this and the easiest way was using a 1:1 sugar syrup and a gallon Ziploc bag. You lay it out on top of the frames and then cut some slits into it to give the bees access to the syrup.
After that began the scariest part for me… releasing the rest of the bees. Sugar-induced haze or not, those guys got a little agitated. The hum of that many bees (especially all over/around you) was a little nerve wracking. My brother-in-law Tim had warned me that they sense your mood, so I tried really hard to stay calm. After what felt like an hour I finally had all of them out of the box in front of the hive.
This was seriously quite the process. I was a sweaty mess by the time I was done, but I had no stings. It was such a cool experience! I walked down after dinner and all of the bees that you see on the ground in the above picture were gone… I’m assuming into the hive since they had been moving in that direction. I could see some flying around, but hopefully they’re all getting settled in for the night. This was so much fun!
Now for the hard part… no peeking for a whole week! If you do, they can sometimes turn on the queen!
Shout out to my brave mama for standing in the orchard with me, sans bee clothing, to take pictures! Love you!
They’re here! They’re here! When I got home from work today, I discovered this lovely package on my doorstep:
Yeah, I’m 99% sure that my UPS guy hates me. I checked the online tracking and these were loaded into his truck at 7am this morning… and delivered at 3:30pm this afternoon. I’m not gonna lie, the buzz of thousands of bees is a little unnerving… driving around all day with them in your car must have sucked. I haven’t been able to find the queen yet – she’s somewhere under there in her own special cage.
It was a little too late in the day to install them in the hive, so instead I set to getting the hive completely ready. Tomorrow is the big day! Here’s what the hive looks like in it’s permanent location:
I can’t wait for tomorrow! The best time of day to introduce bees to the hive is in the late afternoon – apparently they’re a little sleepier and less likely to “drift” (seek out another hive). More to come!
Well, I have a new hobby and I’ll give you one guess as to what it is:
Yup, I’ve decided to become a beekeeper in my spare time. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law are currently raising bees and love it. I thought it’d be good for a variety of reasons including fresh local honey (hopefully it helps with my allergies!) and pollination of my orchard (that’s where the hive is going to go). The hive was delivered today… I’m totally geeking out over it.
The hive came mostly assembled (thank goodness, because for as simple as they look, I don’t know that I would have gotten it all together). Here’s what the final product looks like:
The inside is a little more complicated – this hive contains ten frames, an inner lid, and an outer lid.
The frames have an artificial honeycomb built-in to encourage the bees to build theirs around it (and to keep them from building between the frames, making it hard to pull them out and access the honey).
Finally, there’s a very important piece of gear – the smoker. This basically makes the bees sleepy/lazy/less prone to sting when you want to either check the hive or harvest the honey.
Even Shadow got all excited about it:
I am seriously geeked out right now. I asked Mike if he thought it was as cool as I did… his reply was “It’s interesting…” At least he’s humoring me! The bees are scheduled to arrive tomorrow – between now and then I need to get the hive down to the orchard and up on cinder blocks (so it doesn’t get rot and isn’t as accessible to critters). Stay tuned for the next chapter of the Bee Chronicles!