Home Sweet Home Part 1

The bees for the top bar hive that is at the host house arrived this morning. I got up early, got everything ready, and then went to pick them up from New England Beekeeping Supplies. There were hundreds of packages of bees, many were in a trailer with a fan blowing to help cool them down. The package that I got to take was already out of the trailer.
It’s quite something to ride in the car with approximately 10,000 honey bees sitting next to you. While we were driving, they made an occasional soft humming noise. The drive home was uneventful.
I stopped at my house to pick up my family before we headed over to the host house. We made sure we had everything we needed. When we got to the host house the first thing that we had to do was make sure the hive was still level. We also needed to tighten the stand and set up the feeders. I had placed a drop of lemongrass essential oil in the hive before I went up to get the bees. I wanted the oil to have a little time to air out before the bees moved in.
Once the hive was ready and the feeders were in it was time to open the package. My daughter was very excited to help with this part. I used the hive tool and opened the top of the package. My daughter held the queen cage up as I pulled out the can of sugar water. We got the queen box out and brushed off the bees that were on it.
The queen is alive and she was walking around in her box. The cork needed to be pulled out of the queen box, but I had some difficulty. My husband had to get his knife out to finally dig the little piece of cork out. Then the queen box was ready to go into the hive, so I set her on the bottom.
Now the exciting part: I got to bang a box full of bees onto the ground to try to force them all to one area of the package. Then I poured them into the hive! I had to bang the box a few times to get the majority of the bees into the hive. There was still a big clump of bees in the box that I could not get out. I set the box under the hive to allow the bees to come out and find their new home. I carefully placed all of the top bars back in the hive and closed the lid.
I came back several hours later and all of the bees that were in the box when I left were still there. It had been raining all day and it was cold. I needed to get the rest of the bees into the hive. I decided to open up the bars that are over the feeders in the hopes that less bees would be right there. It was a good decision.
Once the hive was opened again, I tried to bang on the box a little more and shake the bees out. Some of the bees came out, but not all of them. I broke open the box and tore off the screen to get the rest of the bees out and into the hive. I was able to get most of them and I placed the box back under the hive to give the few bees left a chance to find the opening.
I will go back tomorrow to check on them and see how things are going. It has been raining most of today and there is rain in the forecast for tomorrow morning. I will wait until the rain has ended and then I will see how they are doing. Hopefully I can just look in through the window so that I don’t have to disturb them by opening the hive.

 

The package of bees.
The package of bees.
Opening the top.
Opening the top.
Pouring honey bees into the hive.
Pouring honey bees into the hive.
Look at all of those bees!
Look at all of those bees!
Putting the top bars back into place.
Putting the top bars back into place.
Closing up the hive.
Closing up the hive.
Peeking into the window.
Peeking into the window.
All moved in.
All moved in.
Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home

All Ready for the Bees

The new top bar hive has been built, oiled, and placed in the garden. If all goes according to plan the bees will move in toward the end of next week. I plan to number the top bars to keep track of each bar and the movements that I make with it.

While I am waiting for the bees to get here, I have been rereading Top Bar Beekeeping by Les Crowder and The Thinking Beekeeper by Christy Hemenway. I want to make sure that I feel as ready as possible. I have a notebook that I am writing notes from the books in to remind me of good practices and timelines.
I have also spent time on www.hivetracks.com updating my hives and to do lists. I had fun looking at the map to see where the bees in my yard may travel to. There is quite a bit of conservation land near here for the bees to visit.

Honey bees need to have access to water, so I set up a waterer for them that has rocks in the bowl to prevent drowning. I set it up between the raspberries and the fruit trees. Soon they will be flowering and the bees should find it.
The other top bar hive has been set up in the host yard. I will be picking up the bees for that hive on Monday. That will be my first package installation. I practiced lighting the smoker. It took me a few tries to get it going. I feel comfortable with it now.

One of the final things that I need to do is to get the feeders ready. I will be feeding the bees equal parts sugar and water to help them get started. Hopefully I will not need to feed them too long, but I want to do what I can to help them succeed.

To make the hive smell appealing to them, I am going to add a drop or two of lemongrass essential oil to the hive before I put the bees in. It looks like it will be raining Monday for the installation, so I am hoping that the bees will just stay in the hive for the day. Hopefully after being in the hive for a while, they won’t have any issues calling it home.

I am hoping to get some video of the installations to share and of course there will be pictures. Now I need to make a list of everything that I need to bring, so that I do not forget anything. Wish me luck!

 

Top bar hive in my yard.
Top bar hive in my yard.
Top bar hive in host yard.
Top bar hive in host yard.

The Garden

     Last year was a busy time in my garden. I planted several fruit trees, blueberry bushes, raspberries, grapes, lingonberries, and more strawberries. I also added raised beds for vegetables. Then when I got the beehive, I wanted to do more pollinator friendly planting. I added some perennials that the bees prefer and I planted some spring bulbs for the bees to have access to pollen earlier in the season.
     This year, I have decided to expand my garden even more. Two almond trees and two more peach trees are on their way. There is a greenhouse in my basement with lots and lots of seedlings growing. There are veggies and flowers down there getting bigger every day.
     One of my big projects this year is ripping up the front lawn so we can have a “no mow” front yard. I am planning to plant native, pollinator friendly plants and sweet potatoes. Last year I tried growing sweet potatoes in pots, but it did not go well. I am hoping that giving them more space will allow them to do better and we will get to enjoy sweet potatoes.
     I am also attending a workshop on high bionutrient crop production with Dan Kittredge through the Bionutrient Food Association. Learning about properly caring for the soil and the plants that I put into it is good for me and for the bees. My goal is to have a well nourished garden to provide nutritious food for my family and the bees. Healthy soil also means that my plants will be able to better protect themselves from pests and diseases without the use of chemicals.
     I have stayed away from commercial chemical use in my garden, but I have used products labeled organic. Recently I have learned that even with the organic label some of these things can be toxic to the bees and not beneficial to the garden. This year I am going to focus on using only products that will not harm the bees and will help make the soil more nutritious. I have spayed my fruit trees with diluted neem oil to help keep pests away and give the trees a chance to improve their health.
     The compost bins are also getting a boost this year. I have added some humates and minerals to the bins. I have also started a worm bin, the one pound of red worms arrived earlier this week. The garden will benefit from all of the goodies that the worms will leave behind. I still have a lot to learn about the bees and the garden, hopefully all will be patient with me while I learn as much as I can.