Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Today we had a package at the post office - A Package of Bees!

Today our second colony of bees arrived! Back in February we reserved our bees from Kelley Beekeeping – with May 9th being the earliest ship data available. (We learned too late that December or January is the best time to order to secure an early spring delivery.) The bees arrive via USPS and must be picked up at the local post office. Early his morning Tom received a call that our new friends had arrived. Living in the country, our post office is not alarmed by the arrival of the small, screened wooden crate that the bees are shipped in. We went to collect our bees and brought them home to be installed straight away.

knock knock!

It was a bit of a blessing that our first hive, well established, arrived at the lazy duck ranch weeks ago. This gave Tom a chance to grow comfortable with handling the bees before having to undertake what had seemed like the daunting task of transferring bees from the shipping box to the hive.  

Tom began by “smacking the package smartly against the ground” to knock the bees to the bottom of the box (per the instructions on the youtube video he watched to refresh himself before undertaking the installation.) He then removed the cover and extracted the feeder that kept the bees nourished in transit. He located the small box that contains the queen and set it aside. The package with the bulk of the bees was upended into the hive, from which several of the honeycomb frames had been removed.

smack smartly on the ground
safety first

The small box containing the queen was next to be introduced – she was held in place with a cork and a candy plug. Her hivemates will eat away the plug until she is released from the box and into her new home. Keeping her contained in the hive is important to helping them accept their new home. The colony of bees follows its queen. Our purchased queen bee has been marked with a dot so she may be easily located when she is in the hive. After three days, Tom will reopen the hive to verify that the queen has settled in to her new home and the colony has begun producing comb in the now vacant frames.

the queen has a white dot painted on her.

This new colony of bees has its work cut out for it to establish a store of honey to sustain them through the winter. For now, they will be supplemented with a feeder of sugar water to ensure they have are maximizing their production. Fortunately, the farm is also in full bloom with plants the bees appear to love. We've seen the bees on the blossoms on our rose, mock orange and blackberry bushes, the American holly tree, and countless other plants around the property. Their buffet also includes clover, dandelions, peonies, and soon, honeysuckle and the extensive bounty of our garden.

While our package bees are just starting out, the established colony we received has already begun to fill up the few empty honeycomb frames in the first brood box we set out. Tom added a second deep super on top of the first to allow them to expand their empire. The colony requires two deeps to last the winter, anything from additional supers on top are what we will harvest. All that jargon! Here’s a diagram to help explain.

two hives in action!

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