Monday, June 14, 2010

Welcome To Your New Home . . . Uh . . . Hive

"Are you expecting a box of bees?" said the voice on the other end of my phone. "They're here." I ran out the door to collect my new girls from Mr Cunningham at the post office who seemed like bees were far from the most unusual or frightening thing he had seen pass through his doors.
A 3 pound package of buzzing family members complete with a queen caged in the center of the box to help make this collection of unrelated bees a family. A few days during shipping with the queen safely locked away lets the other bees get used to her scent and hopefully come to accept her as the new hive's royalty.
Packed in for the journey is a can of sugar syrup to both feed and calm the hive. I guess anyone is more calm when he's full. Anyway that can lifts out to reveal the queen cage and give access to the bees.
First things first, I fished out the queen cage and removed the plastic cover that kept her companions from eating the sugar cap on her cage that would release her and the small group of attendants she traveled with into the hive's population.
With the cage placed safely between the frames of the brood box (the deep box(es) where the queen will spend her days laying eggs and adding to the hive), it was time to release the general population. the worker bees who would build the foundation the queen needs to lay her eggs. And later, depending upon their age and status in the hive, gather the pollen, raise the babies, and make honey the bees need to survive and that they share with me to gather and jar for our family's winter stores.Unceremonious as it seems I simply shake the girls out over the frames and give them time to crawl in and make themselves at home.These are all girls by the way. The queen comes already mated. Even in nature the queen makes one mating flight and then spends the rest of her life inside the hive laying eggs, oftentimes not even able to fly as she is bigger and heavier than the other bees. Males bees, or drones, whose sole function is to mate with the queen (generally the queen of another hive) have little purpose in the hive. Every now and then you'll see areas of drone comb in the hive but at least 99% of the offspring -- when the hive is buzzing along well, are female and are being prepared to take on their future jobs in the hive.I gave the girls a feeder of 1 to 1 sugar water syrup and closed up the hive to let them get used to their new home. I'll go out every couple days to make sure they have food, not all that many pollen bearing flowers around the yard and neighborhood this time of year. Besides they are pretty busy building comb, having food close at hands keeps them working and puts less stress on the hive. Unlike other bee keepers, since our girls are right in the backyard, we have devised this somewhat unorthodox enclosure. Sitting atop our retaining wall the box forces the girls to exit the hive and go up and out of their screened in porch putting their flight path high above our heads. Bees always take the same path out of the hive and fiercely protect the hive entrance so keeping that area clear is best for everyone. Their enclosure gives them a flowered covered arch in spring and gives me a spot where I can stand right in front -- behind the window screen and watch their comings and goings.
More to come on the newest members of our family -- but so far so good.

1 comment:

  1. I was going to ask if you had received your new babies yet, I'm glad to see you have! =] Please post on how the honey turns out! Goodluck to James on not getting stung!