Best Bees came out and checked on my Langstroth hive. The beekeeper came into the backyard and we talked a little about what I have seen with the bees. This hive has been very active and collecting pollen since the moment the snow melted. I have started to wonder if they will swarm this year.
Before he opened the hive I showed him the top bar hive. He had never seen one before and was intrigued. We opened the observation window, so that he could see how it looked on the inside. I also showed him what the top bars look like and explained the guide that they have on them.
When he opened the Langstroth hive, the bees seemed calm. He did not use a smoker. He pulled out the feeder first, the bees have not been using it for several weeks now, so he dumped it out and replaced it with new frames. I let him know that the bees had thrown out the sugar patty that was given to them in March. He found a large piece of it on top of the bottom box and took it out. He checked most of the frames on the top box, the hive has two deeps.
There was quite a bit of capped brood. He was very surprised to see capped honey already. He said that he had not seen that with any of the other hives this year. I told him that these bees have been working very hard since the moment they were able to get out of the hive. I am sure that they found the skunk cabbage the minute it came up.
He told me that the hive looks great and that they will put a third deep on the next time they come out. He looked for queen cells, but said that he doesn’t think there were any there. He saw some drone cells though. He told me that he didn’t need to check the bottom deep because looking at how things were going on the top he could guess how things were. I am very happy to hear that things are going very well with this hive.
On April 28th the small cell, treatment free bees arrived. The post office called me right before 8am asking me to come pick them up. Their hive was ready and I had prepared 1:1 sugar water for them. When I got to the post office, they let me know that the bees were out on the dock.
There were two packages that had been delivered that day to my town. The postal workers were not happy because some of the bees had gotten out of the packages. They thought that I was picking up both packages and when I told them that I had only ordered one, it forced them to actually read the label to see that there was someone else that ordered some too. I am sure that they called that person right away as well.
I put them in the car to drive them home. There were a few bees on the outside of the package, but they seemed to want to stay there. It wasn’t a problem for them to be out, they stayed on the side of the package for the short drive home.
The weather was decent and the bees had been in the package for around 7 days, so I needed to get them into the hive. The lid on this package was a little more work to pry off. The bees had begun to put wax on the can of sugar water that they had, but it came out easily. The bees seemed to be a bit agitated.
I got the queen box out and checked the queen. She had three attendants in with her. All of the attendants were dead. The queen was still alive. After taking the cork out, I attached the queen box to bar 13. I had the bees between bars 13 and 29 and they had open access to the feeders. Once the queen was in I shook the package to get as many of the bees into the hive as possible.
I noticed a sharp pain in my leg and I ignored it. The pain got worse and I realized that I had been stung. I stopped the installation, cleaned the sting site with rubbing alcohol, and changed my pants. I didn’t want to give these grumpy bees any more reasons to sting me.
The rest of the installation went without incident. Once the bees were in the hive I went inside to check on my sting. That worker bee left quite a welt for me. The area swelled up to about a 4 inch diameter and was bright red. After that I was feeling grumpy too.
The next day is when I realized that I needed to fix the feeders, just as I had with the other hive. In the morning I looked through the observation window to see what they were up to. The bees were all balled up, but they were nowhere near the queen. They were right next to the feeders though.
The sting that I had received was still hurt quite a lot, so I was not thrilled to think about opening this hive and disturbing these bees. Of course, I knew that if I didn’t it would be a lot more difficult to deal with the feeders later and I was concerned about them not taking care of the queen. When it was warm enough out, I opened the hive.
The first issue to deal with was the feeders and putting it behind the divider board. I had two more pencil pieces to put under the divider board to provide space for the bees to go in and out. The bees were not as grumpy this time, so it was a bit easier to be in the hive. I was still nervous about getting stung again though.
After the feeder was dealt with, I needed to check on the queen. I removed the cork from the other side of the queen box to allow her to just walk out. I also moved the bar with the queen cage to the middle of the ball of bees. The bees had begun to build some comb and some of them were already foraging.
I found it strange that the bees were ignoring the queen and I wanted to talk to someone about it. I called Christy Hemenway from Gold Star Honey Bees. I ordered this package of bees from her. I am so glad that I called her. When we were talking she mentioned that it was possible that there was another queen in there that was not in a separate box. That could explain why they were not taking care of the queen in the box. I had heard of that happening, but I did not think about it. She also told me to give them about 3 days to let the queen out and then check on them again.
On Saturday May 2nd it was time to get back into the hive. I decided to use the smoker to try to help calm the bees. Their sugar water was still almost full, but I think that they have been eating out of the hummingbird feeder and I have seen them bringing pollen in. I took out the queen box and the queen was no longer in the box. I checked the hive a little, but I didn’t want to be too disruptive.
The bees seemed clam while I was inspecting the hive, but I wanted to keep in short. They had started to build a few combs and I looked at them a little. I did not spot the queen nor did I see eggs. There was some cells with fluid in them and I saw bees continuing to bring in pollen. I will check them again in a few days to see how things are progressing. In the meantime, I can open the observation window to get a quick peek at what’s going on in there.
The bees have had a little more than a week to settle in to their new home. I checked on them two days after they were installed. The queen was still in the queen box so I decided to hang the queen box on one of the top bars. While in the hive, we got to see that the bees are very busy building their comb. They had started three combs and they were building them following the guide on the top bar. Brand new comb is pure white and looks so beautiful.
I went back to the hive a couple of days later to check on the queen. The workers had released her and I removed the queen box. I did not look for the queen, I was trying not to be too disruptive.
Then I needed to go back a couple of days later to fix the feeder set up. I spoke with customer service at Bee Thinking and I learned that I had set up the feeder wrong. I didn’t put the divider board between the bees and the feeders. Bee Thinking let me know that I needed to raise the divider board by putting something under it that was about 3/8 inch to allow the bees to go in and out of the feeder area. I found some large colored pencils and broke them in half. The pencils are the shapes of hexagons, so they have some flat surfaces to prevent them from rolling.
When I went to fix the feeders, I also checked the level of sugar water. Both of the jars were about half full. I decided that I would return to refill the feeders and to do another inspection in a few days. When I returned to the hive, it had been almost two weeks since the bees had been installed.
This was the first time that I had used the smoker. For fuel I had blank newsprint paper, cedar wood chips, and I tossed in some dried lemon balm. I have read that bees really like lemon balm and I have a bunch dried from my garden. I made sure that the smoke was cool. The bees seemed pretty calm when I opened the hive, I am not sure if it was the smoke or they were just relaxed.
I filled the feeders first and then replaced the top bars in that area. Then it was time to inspect the bars where the bees are living. The bees have 9 bars right now and they have started comb on about 6 of the bars. I inspected 3 of the bars. I found the queen and I spotted eggs. There was also some pollen stores in the comb and either nectar or the beginning phases of honey. I still have some learning to do on what to look for, but I am sure that with time it will get easier.