Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New Bees...

Did I ever tell you I am allergic to bees? Well I am. I was not when we first started keeping bees four years ago, but 18 months or so ago I was out looking at the bees, one stung me and I ended up in the ER with a pretty severe allergic reaction... So no more bee keeping for me (although I did start shots, I had to stop and will not be able to restart them for a couple more years.) So hubby is the beekeeper in the family now, and I get to watch from the safety of the truck, so you will pardon the photos, as I took them through a window...

I thought I would go through the process of putting bees in the hive, step by step... As I do, assure yourself it is as terrifying as it sounds the first time you do it, but by the time you've done it a couple times, it is easy, and you are no longer so scared, and you being calmer actually reduces your chances of being stung! Bees like calm, slow, steady movements.

The first thing you do each year (other then assembling your hives, which we buy pre-made,) is to make sugar water. New bees will have only the little honey you give them, and so will need a lot to eat which amounts to gallons of sugar water. One part water to 2 parts sugar and bring to a boil. So far this year we have made 150 pounds of sugar into sugar water! We will use a similar amount in the fall... We make so much we use a turkey fryer burner so it boils faster (I use the same thing when I can!)


The next thing you do is wait for the phone call to come and pick up your bees! Bees come in two or three pound boxes and in many different types, Italians, Russians, Carolions, New Worlds, Minnesota Hygienic, ect and each has different characteristics. This year we wanted to order two 3 pound boxes of Minnesota Hygienics, but there was a problem with our order, so we ended up with two 2 pound boxes of what we think are Itialians... In any case when that call comes the clock is ticking and you should go get your bees that day!

The bees were shipped from California in the boxes and given a can of sugar water to sustain them through the journey, once that can is gone your bees can start to die! But here is a note to consider, if you are allergic, you should NOT go to bee pickup even if you are going to "wait in the truck" because they have just gotten a semi-truck full of boxes of bees and they will be buzzing every where! I almost had a panic attack sitting there, but no bees got in the truck, so that was good...


Once you get the bees you can spray them with sugar water and they can eat that, that will help sustain them until you can put them in their hives the next evening. When we opened the boxes one of the cans was totally out of sugar water and one only had a little left, this is why feeding is so important. You hive in the evening so they go into the box and learn where their home and don't fly off to a different hive during the day...

So now you have your bees, it's time to go set up your hives, which is a simple matter.



Now comes the fun part! First put your jacket on!

(You can see I was safely inside the truck with my EpiPen!)




Then carry your bees to the hives...


Then you have to try to pry the can out of the top of the box...



Remember this is a box full of bees!

The next step is the most fun to tell people about! You rap the box firmly on the ground a couple times! The goal is to knock all the bees to the bottom. You do this so you can get the queen cage out, she is hanging next to the can of food... Notice in the next photo hubby has removed a glove. It is delicate work to remove the cork from the end of the queen's cage and replace it with a mini-marshmellow. The bees will eat through this and by the time they do they will have accepted the new queen, if you throw her right in without this step the bees will kill her...

Then you carefully hang her into the hive. Notice he has removed some frames to make way for the next step...



Which is to pour the bees into the hive. This involves shaking and tapping and wiggling a box of bees! Many of them will fall to the bottom of the hive, but quite a few end up in the air! (That's why I was in the truck!)



But first the box gets hit against the ground again so any bees who have started to climb fall to the bottom of the box... (Notice you have to hold the can over the hole as you do this...


Then you shake...

Notice the blurs in the photo? Those are the bees... You shake for a while... When you are done you replace the frames, being careful not to crush the bees who are piled on the bottom of the hive.

Then you put all the pieces together, the little box over the main hive is the feeder, which we poured a couple gallons of sugar water into.

You leave the box near the hive entrance, because there are always stragglers who are still in the box and will find their way to the hive...



All done, two hives set up. As we lost one colony over the winter this will bring us to four, but one is really strong and we are going to split it into two which should give us 5 or 6 by the end of the summer (although we will not pull honey from the hives we split this year.)



I hope people enjoyed this, as it took a long time to post! Now you know what it takes to start a hive, not that hard, so if you've ever thought of being a bee keeper you should do it!

5 comments:

niki said...

Eric! Put that glove back on!

I hope the bees do very well in their new homes... and find lots of great things to pollinate.

seeded said...

Wow. This was very interesting, but at the same time I'm now feeling like I never want to be a beekeeper. :) Just look at all those variables and tiny things you have to do to make it a success!

CSA Farmer Girl said...

Really, bee keeping is not that hard, and it is fun... If you think you want to try you should!

lucette said...

I found it really interesting, so I'm glad you took the time to post. I have a secret desire to have a beehive--for which I'll have to move from my house in the city with the tiny backyard.

CSA Farmer Girl said...

There are lots of urban beekeepers! In New York City some people even keep them on their balconies! A bee hive tucked in your back yard is a legal (in most cities) and fun project. You could also put a hive in a friend with some land's place!