Checking in

When I go back out after hiving the bees, I take a peek under the cover to make sure the bees are still there. Today, a problem: the third hive doesn’t have many bees in it, and since I didn’t see any swarm balls anywhere, and since the other two are very busy indeed, my guess is that bees from the third hive drifted and attached themselves to the first two. Since they’re not used to the pheromones of the queen with which they’re shipped, they’re not the little loyalists they will be later. The first photo is the first hive, and the second is the third hive I did this afternoon.

First packaged hive May 2013


Third packaged hive May 2013

The latter should look a lot more like the former, but alas, the third package was apparently full of traitors. So, since they have no real attachment right now to the hives they’re in, I took two frames with some bees from the first hive and swapped them with empty frames from the third. If tomorrow when I pop it open, the third hive is still short on bees, I’ll open one of the two established hives and take out a frame or two of brood from that one and swap them for two empties from this third package hive. Since the nights are warm, there shouldn’t be any issues with keeping the brood warm, and they’ll have some new bees hatching out to replace the traitorous bitches that decided to cast their lot with one of the other two hives. I also pulled up some grass and stuffed it in front of each hive entrance, to try to keep the girls at home for a bit to get used to their own hives.

Blocking the entrance May 2013

And the fourth picture: what the world looks like when you break open the top of a hive.

View from inside May 2013

Buttoning up

Once the package is as empty as it will get from shaking it, it’s time to button up the hive: I center the frames in the hive by pushing them in toward the center – gently, everything is done gently to avoid squashing bees! – try to get as many bees off the edges as possible, then put the inner cover on, using a side to side motion as I lower it in order to get any slow to move bees out of the way.

Centering the frames May 2013


Then the top cover goes on and I set the empty package on the ground in front of the opening. The rest of the bees will make their way into the hive on their own, as they finish cleaning up the sugar syrup from the mesh of the package.

Ready to close May 2013


After they’re all in and secure, I leave them alone for a couple of hours, then go back to give them a quick check, mostly to ensure they haven’t absconded from their new home, and that the remainder of the bees have moved themselves into their respective hives. It doesn’t take long for the packages to be just empty boxes.

Closed hives May 2013

Pouring the bees

Those wooden covers on the top of each package of bees is not just there to keep the bees in. It’s there to cover the syrup can (which feeds the bees while they’re in transit) and to hold the queen cage in place (through which the attendants feed her until they manage to release her). Pop that wooden cover off, and you get this: one syrup can, and the silver tab there is the tab of the queen cage.

Opening the bee package May 2013



One of the most difficult parts of the entire operation is getting the syrup can out of the box. I use the wooden cover to slide across the bottom of the can as I lift it out to force the bees back into the package, and cover the hole. With that out of the way, I grab the queen cage tab, shake it a bit to get the ball of bees off it, and lift her out, then cover the hole again.

Queen bee May 2013


After removing the cork that covers the candy plugging the hole in the queen cage – the bees will eat through this and release her – I hang the queen cage on the frames in the middle of the hive body. Push those frames together and remove a couple on the side, then spray the bees in the package with some sugar syrup to keep them busy, and it’s time to dump them: bang the package on the ground to clump them, them upend them, remove the cover, and they drop right into the hive in a massive fountain of bees.

Pouring the bees May 2013


They immediately begin crawling up the frames on either side.

Bees on a frame May 2013


This bee apparently latched onto the package and stayed there for the entire trip from Georgia. She was there when the (allergic to bees) UPS driver unloaded the package. She was still there when I moved the 10 pound package into the garage for the bees to have to some quiet time and was still there when I toted the 10 pounds of bees out to the orchard to hive them this afternoon. Very determined.

Hitchhiker May 2013