Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hiving a Package of Bees

The Russian bees arrived today.  After a bit of a spill in the trunk of the car, we moved them to the back seat and buckled them in for a grumpy ride back to the farm.  

We hived slightly differently this year, not pulling any of the frames to dump the bees in and leaving most of the bees in the package to find their way into the hive.  This worked because of the happy, spring weather.  

We were also lucky to have frames of honey that had molded in Bree over the winter that we could not use for our own use, but we can use to feed the new bees.  We left the honey frames in the sun to use the UV rays to clean up some of the mold.  Unfortunately, I think that (and the happy spring weather) has created a robbing issue where bees from other hives (probably our own at Apple Blossom Farm down the street).  So, tonight, we are going to have to use an entrance reducer to help this smaller hive of bees protect themselves.  

We are trying for a play by play of the hiving of the bees so that you can see what it is really like.  

Here we go:

The package of bees and me preparing to pry the cover off!  Beneath the cover is the top of the feed can and to one side of the can is the queen cage, which needs to be pulled from the box carefully and the cover flipped over (so the staple ends don't make a gap where the bees can escape) and place back on top of the box.  
The spray bottle labeled 'garlic and soap' is actually sugar water with HoneyBHealthy in it.  

Inspecting the queen cage to make sure that the queen is alive and well.  We initially thought that she was one of the dead bees, but she seems to be alive and well.  She is small, but bigger than the other female worker bees, including the five or six that were in the box with her.  I am concerned that her small size may mean that she wasn't mated properly, which is a more common problem these days with so many beekeepers and bee providers rushing the mating and packaging.  But I believe the Russian queen is a smaller bee normally, so it should be fine.  I am not too worried.  

The queen cage.  The end of it is packed with candy and a cork.  Before placing her into the hive, you have to pull the cork (umm, forgot to do this and had to go back in later...always remember to PLAN what you are going to do BEFORE you are surrounded by a thousand irritated bees).  In my defense(?), I did plan my course of action...I just completely forgot about the cork.  It is also good to have a piece of marshmallow ready in case the candy isn't don't want the queen coming out of the cage too soon: if the bees have not accepted her, they will kill her and acceptance takes time.  

The queen cage tied in place with the screen facing to the open side so she can be fed and also breathe.  

The rest of the bees.  Three pounds of them.  About 10,000.  

I've taken the cover off and am now prying the feed can out of the box.  You can see the square area next to the can where the queen cage came out.  It helps to bump the box on the ground before prying out the can to lessen the number of bees that are going to come out with it.  

The can with some bees.  It is important to kill as little bees as possible in this process.  Not only because you paid for the bees and want all of them, but every bee that dies sends off a panic pheromone that alerts the other bees to some sort of attack and puts then on the defense.  So, you have to be careful when setting things down that have bees on them.  A bee brush helps in most cases.  

Dumping some of the bees onto the top of the frames over the queen cage. 

The pile of dumped bees.  

The inner cover with the feed can on top.  Beneath the can is a hole so the bees can get to the sugar water.  Tonight, I will put a yellow box around it with no frames so that I can put the outer cover over it and keep other bees from coming to the food.  

How we left it.  The feed can on top.  The package box tilted to the door of the hive.  The scent of the rest of the bees and the queen will lure them into the hive.  By nightfall, everyone should be in the hive and we clean things up and secure the hive a bit better from robbers.  

Agitated bees.  But we're done.  

I hope that helps give everyone an idea of what it involves to package a hive of bees.  If the weather were rainy or cold, we would want as many bees into the hive as possible.  Those left in the box could easily die from exposure.  

In three days, Tuesday, we will check to make sure the queen is out of her cage.  If not, we will release her.  

In ten days, we will check to make sure that there are eggs and larva.  If not, either something happened to the queen and she is no longer alive.  Or she left.  Or she wasn't properly mated.  In which case, we get a new queen from where we purchased our package.  

So, for you Avalon Sharers, that's your new hive in place!!  

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