A Fresh Start

A Fresh Start

Early in the morning on April 24th the Post Office called to let me know that the bees had arrived. It was a chilly day, so I waited a while for the temperature to go up. While I was waiting, I got all of my supplies ready. I had my “bee bag” already packed with the tools that I needed. I carry my hive tool, alcohol wipes, baby wipes, bentonite clay, and zip ties to each inspection. This season I added tweezers to my bag. They are helpful at uncorking the queen cage and sometimes helping me get things that fall to the bottom of the hive.

Since I had lost all of my hives last winter, I had comb with honey left over and decided that it would be better to feed it to the new bees. Honey makes so much more sense to me than sugar water. The bees seem to like it more too. I took eight bars to split between the two hives. When I set it up I would put four bars in each hive with four empty bars in between each comb.

This is the first year that I would be installing the bees by myself. I was feeling pretty confident since I had done several installations now. I was also excited to get back to Old Frog Pond Farm, I love my time there. It’s such a peaceful place to visit and there is always fun things to see.

My plan was to start at the Willow Hive. I got everything ready and opened the package to remove the queen cage. The queen was alive and active. I used a push pin to hang the queen cage on an empty bar after removing the cork from the sugar end of the cage. Once she was in there securely it was time to dump the rest of the colony in. I noticed that there was something in the way of the bees, they had a large piece of comb that they had built that was blocking the hole. After pulling the comb out it was much easier to pour the bees into the hive.

The installation went very smoothly. I put the package with the remaining bees under the hive entrance so that they could make their way in when they were ready. The bees seemed very happy to be out of the package. The can for sugar water was empty and they were happy to be put into a hive with honey. I put the bars closely together and closed the lid. It was a relief that things went as well as they did.

Then it was time to install the bees into the Orchard Hive. I headed across the way to get to the hive and prepare. I put all of the bars into the sides of the hive that I wouldn’t be putting the bees into. Then it was time to open the package and take out the queen cage. This package was easier to deal with since they didn’t have any large pieces of comb that they had built. When the queen cage was out I hung it onto an empty bar with a push pin and put it in the hive. Then I went through the process of dumping the bees into the “bee bowl” of the hive. They poured out very nicely, but there are always bee left in the package.

Once most of the bees were in the hive, I put all the bars in and tightened them up. The package with the remaining bees was placed in front of the hive to allow them to join their colony when they were ready. Then I closed up the hive, picked up my bag, and removed my protective gear. Both installations were done and went very smoothly. I was feeling really good about everything.

Once I was home a beekeeper that I met last year sent me a message about installing her bees in the hive. She was telling me that everything went well and she removed the cork from the queen cage then added the bees easily. Removed the cork from the queen cage? That comment struck me like a ton of bricks. I had forgotten to remove the cork from the queen cage in the Orchard Hive!

I headed back out to the farm, suited up, and opened the Orchard Hive again. I only removed the bar that the queen was on and carefully took out the cork from the sugar end of the cage. I put the bar back into the hive and then I stood there for a moment to think if there was anything else that I could have forgotten. I am so glad that I got that message and that it hit me right away. When I told the other beekeeper about what had happened, she said that she was god to help me since I had offered her help last season. Needless to say, I thanked her for the message!

Now that I realized that everything was done and taken care I could relax. I removed my protective gear again and went home. It always seems so strange to me to go home after dumping thousands of honey bees into a box, but that is how things go. They are wild animals and they don’t need me hanging around too much bothering them. Both of these colonies seem to be happy bees, let’s hope that they stay that way.

On the 28th, I went back to check to see if the queens had been released. The weather has been wet and cold here, so timing for things is off this year. I typically check in on the queens between two and three days after installation. Mother Nature has different plans this year.

This time I started at the Orchard Hive. I did a full inspection even though there wasn’t much to inspect. The queen had been released, I removed the queen cage, and they had started building comb on three of the four empty bars that were in the hive. I was able to find the queen and she looked good. She was busy checking out the comb and the cells. The bees were so calm as I inspected. It didn’t take very long to get through all the bars and see what I needed to. The colony looks great.

After inspecting the Orchard Hive, I went over to the Willow Hive. I was a bit surprised that they were not building as much comb as the other colony since they had the large piece of comb in their package, but they were building some so I was not concerned. The queen had been released and I removed the queen cage from the hive. I was able to locate this queen too and she was also busing checking out the comb. Everything looked good in this hive too. These bees were calm through most of the inspection, but at the end they were a little upset. The clouds were rolling in and there was a threat of rain.

I am relieved to have the installations completed and that the queens have been released. After losing all of my hives last year I was worried about getting into it again this year. I am glad that I decided to try again, I really enjoy being with the bees and learning more about them every time I inspect their hives. Now if we could just get Mother Nature to provide time to be out checking the hives, that would be great!

Queen Cage
Bee Bowl
Closing up
Remaining Bees
Package Comb
Orchard Hive