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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They immediately begin crawling up the frames on either side.
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.
Eight 40 pound blocks moved into place: done. Three hive bodies placed: done. Eight frames into each hive body: done. Two inner covers and top covers and one redneck jerry-rigged top cover in place because I’m one short and delivery isn’t until Friday: done. With any luck, the UPS driver will be keen to get the bees off his/her truck before it’s time to go visit the pulmonologist mid-afternoon so at least I can look them over before I have to take off. We still will not install them until late in the day, and put the entrance reducers in place to help reduce the potential of the bees absconding before they get used to their new homes. Next spring, we (I) will do a better job of managing the bees and watching for signs of swarming so we can split hives before half of them take off for greener pastures. But that’s in the future, and this is now: I’ve received a request for LOTS of pics this time, so we’ll have someone on the camera(s) during the installation snapping away.
Such as it is – or isn’t. We had a couple of days of lows in the 20s, but that’s what passes for winter here. Today, we maxed out at 88 in the sun in the front garden. Each year is getting hotter than the last, and still people deny that global warming is an actual event, occurring in their lifetimes.
Much of my winter will be spent redoing the frames around the farm, to get rid of the wood that takes a beating and then warps or otherwise falls apart with roofing metal that will probably outlive me. This week, I spent two days redoing the herb garden frames after spending three days viciously ill with some kind of crap. After two days, the frames themselves are completed, and now need to be finished off by topping them with a good soil mix, relaying the irrigation lines, and bringing in some fresh mulch to freshen what’s there and cover the now bare spots left by the rearrangement. Oh, and putting some seed in, because while we may get a couple of random days of freeze between now and spring, it looks like it’s going to be more springlike than winterlike for us moving forward.
We had one hive of bees abscond, but the other two are well, for now. I’ve ordered up two new packages for the spring (to be delivered in May), and will need to build a new set of brood boxes for the second package since we have the now empty brood boxes for the other package. I burned the frames from the vanished hive as a precautionary measure. After the flames were out and I was scraping up the ash and pins from the frames, I saw some bees flying around the pools of solidified beeswax.
For now, I’m ill with what seems to be a relapse of whatever I had earlier in the week. I’ve had the flu vaccine because my doctor always bugs me about it – I’m now in the “at risk” group thanks to (fuck!) cancer and the effects of radiation and chemo – but it surely feels like the flu. Maybe I’m in that 35% where it turns out it isn’t effective. Whatever it is, it needs to go, because there’s a lot of work to be done, seeds to start, and a season to prepare for, even if the season appears to already be here.
Not pretty. On the left, my (unstung) lower left leg. On the right, my (now thrice) stun lower right leg. If not for the farmer’s tan, the casual observer might think these limbs belong to two different people.
This morning before heading to the NOC to rack a new server for someone, I moved a couple of blocks into place back in the orchard to act as the stand for the front hive. That one is being moved to the rear after I discovered that the hive was completely shaded all day long in the original position – and that’s no good. It’s an invitation for hive beetles and for the bees to spend far too much time keeping the brood warm (no good now that we’re heading into whatever kind of winter we’ll have around here). This evening, mom and I suited up and transported the hive to the orchard. The bees were not terribly happy about any of it. I got stung twice, both times on the same foot I got stung previously: one directly on the achilles and one just slightly above the ankle, on the interior side of my foot. This even though I was suited up as the ankle cuff rode up a bit and the bees that had landed/fallen on my boot just crawled right up and let me know what they thought of it all. Hopefully they’ll be stronger now that they’ll have a lot more sunshine to work with, as this hive is definitely a laggard compared to the other two. The other two are destined to be moved out into the open orchard as well, so we’ll have a nice line of beehives back there when all is said and done.
Everyone was up and moving around earlier than usual this morning. Mom is off for a week for vacation in the Blue Ridge area, so we packed her up and saw her off (we meaning the dogs and me, along with assorted other critters). It was quite foggy this morning, but started burning off immediately, and it should be a gorgeous day at the ranch. No rain in the forecast, and it hasn’t rained the past couple of days. This is a good thing, as we are absolutely saturated here, and still have some good sized mini lakes scattered around the property. What we really need, and which I hope to be able to do today, is a good mowing, since the grass has taken full advantage of the daily rains we had over the past week and a half. This morning, though, was just for looking around and marveling at the sheer number of spider webs. ‘Tis the season for this sort of thing.
They were everywhere. From the branches of a pear tree in a bucket in the herb garden…
…to the fence around the rear garden…
…to a supremely ambitious, human-sized web by the barn…
…to those seeming to float from their anchors in other places.
The girls were also up and working hard. Eventually, they’ll earn their own keep instead of requiring us to feed them every day to keep them alive. Until there is a good sustained bloom, though, I change out their feeders every day (or every other day, depending on the weather and how much syrup they’re taking).