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.
Disaster struck Blankenheim Orchards sometime between last night and this afternoon… a bear ate my bees. To be clear, he tore down the orchard fence and then decimated my beehive. This was the scene I came home to:
Up close, there were still some bees buzzing around, but it honestly looked like a bee battlefield… little bodies were everywhere. I hope most of them got away and so I put the hive back together as best as I could. Four frames were completely destroyed. I didn’t find the queen, so the bees might not even come back, but the few that were around seemed keen to the idea of going back into the hive. I honestly did not expect this to happen… I thought my fence would be enough deterrent!
Apparently this is why people in the mountains don’t keep bees. I hope they stung that bear on his nose! Hopefully Queen Latifah is cruising the neighborhood not ruling the big hive in the sky.
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!