March 28, 2016

Honeybees! (Here at Last)

After one week's delay, bee day finally arrived: overcast, cool, and lightly rainy. This time, I called ahead to make sure they were ready for pick up. I brought two packages home.


Last year I was excited and nervous, so I didn't try to take photos. In fact, I had to take a card and write out all the steps for hiving the bees. This year I was just excited. I mentally rehearsed the steps and got everything ready, including my camera.

The first step is to pry off the cover of the bee package.

A hive tool comes in handy for many things.

Under the cover is the syrup can. The next step is to pull it out.


Being heavy, it's a little awkward to grab the rim and remove. The white packing strap holds the queen cage in place (unlike last year).


The queen cage is pulled out and inspected to make sure the queen is alive. She is bigger than her attendant bees and marked with a white dot on her back. The color of the dots changes every year so the beekeeper knows how old his or her queen is.

She's in there, alive and hopefully well.

In the above photo you can see that the queen's box has three round chambers. There is a cork plug at each end. The chamber on the left contains sugar candy. The cork on that end is removed.


The bees will eat through the candy to release the queen. This is referred to as an indirect release, as opposed to a direct release. Direct release means the beekeeper releases the queen rather than letting the bees do it. Direct release is not considered the safest way unless the bees are accustomed to that particular queen. If she's in any way unfamiliar to them, they will kill her.

There are different methods for hiving the bees, so what I'm going to show you is not the only way. For those who may not visit my blog often or may not remember, my hives are top bar Warré beehives. (Details here.) To receive the bees, each hive is set up with two boxes like you saw in the first photo. The queen cage is placed on the top bars of the bottom hive box.


Next the bees are dumped rather unceremoniously out of the package and into the hive on top of the queen.


Some folks make room for the package inside the hive, but if I did that I'd have to go back in and remove it. I'd rather not disturb my bees any more than I have to; let's just have one big brouhaha rather than two smaller ones. I will have to remove the queen cage in the near future, but that will be less of a disturbance.

After the majority of the bees are dumped in, the top bars of the top box are put in place.


The feeder comes next, taking care not to squash any bees while putting it on. I used my bee brush to brush away any bees that were in the way and then slid the feeder slowly into place.

I am using 1:1 sugar syrup (by weight) with homemade Honey-B-Healthy
This year I made my HBH with powdered lecithin instead of liquid lecithin.
I think the essential oils blended with the sugar water much more quickly.
The trick is to let the powder soak about an hour before blending in the oils.

The above photo was actually taken the next day when I topped off the feeder. Last year the feeder was open when I put it on and I had a number of bees fly into the syrup and drown. This year I kept it covered with a piece of plywood, sliding the plywood off as I slid on the quilt.

The quilt is a simple box with a burlap bottom. It is filled with an
absorbent material to insulate and absorb excess moisture in the hive.

Lastly I put on the roof. The package still had quite a few bees inside, so I laid it near the hive entrance. By nightfall they found their way into the hive.

So here they are. May I present

Daylily Hive

And

Periwinkle Hive


The last thing I did was to put a welded wire skunk guard around each of the hives. I'll have more on that in an upcoming post, along with other precautions I'm taking to keep my bees safe.


I placed a strip of wood in each entrance to make them smaller at first. The bees have a lot to do to get established, so having a smaller opening will make it easier to defend the hive against potential invaders.


Honeybees make me so happy. 

Next - Queen Check

52 comments:

1st Man said...

Oh my gosh, how exciting!!! Our replacement comes in mid April. Can't wait to get them, and this post makes me excited. It's such a good feeling.

And your hive colors are beautiful!

Quinn said...

Best of luck to Daylily and Periwinkle hives!

Erin said...

Congratulations! The hives look lovely

Farmer Liz said...

Yay! Well done. Bees definitely get easier with practice :)

Mike Yukon said...

Thank you for such an informative post!

Farmer Barb said...

Our queen and her friends made it through our unseasonably warm winter. Your new hives look like they are getting started nicely! What is blooming in your area now? I only have daffodils and maple trees.

PioneerPreppy said...

Nice your bees came!!! I would give em each a bit more syrup in a boardman feeder why they sort themselves out and start building some comb.

kymber said...

i'm with 1st Man - your hives are beautiful!!!

kymber said...

between Pioneer Preppy's, and your posts, i'm becoming a bee maven. soon i'll get some hives and i'll be able to refer to all of PP's and your posts!

sending love! your friend,
kymber

Leigh said...

Thank you! I really get carried away with painting and naming my hives. I have two more ideas all picked out for next year. :)

Leigh said...

Thanks Quinn!

Leigh said...

Thank you Erin!

Leigh said...

Oh Liz, I hope so. And hopefully this year will be better.

Leigh said...

You're welcome Mike. I hope it encourages someone else to get bees.

Leigh said...

We have apples, pears, and crabapples just starting to bloom, also violets, bridal wreath, periwinkle, cherries, maple, oak, sweet gum, strawberries, blueberries, dogwood, redbud, and tulips all blooming, but I don't know if all of those are bee plants or not. They missed the almonds and peaches, and the daffodils are done now too.

Leigh said...

PP, I was so relieved! Do you mean richer syrup by "a bit more"? I thought about that when I made the batch for today.

Leigh said...

Kymber, I learn more from other bloggers than the how-to books, LOL. The books mostly give the expected say things should be, while bloggers go into all the details!

Leigh said...

I forgot dandelions. We have tons of those around. Also I just noticed that my Stanley plum has just started to bloom, and so has the vetch.

Seeking Serenity said...

I wish your bees health and long life!
(was going to ask a miss-informed question about cedar chips being bad for bees, but looked it up and found i was incorrect)

Leigh said...

Thanks! Actually cedar chips being safe for bees is a very good question. Good for you for looking it up! I always double check information I find and it almost always pays off.

Perry - StoneHillRidge said...

The hives look great and so happy the bees finally arrived. Just curious if you saved or reused any comb from the old hive or if just used empty top bars?

Renee Nefe said...

Congratulations! Wishing you and the bees the best of luck. :D

Renee Nefe said...

I've seen at least two ads on craigslist for keepers wanting to collect and remove swarms.

Connie said...

Very interesting :)

PioneerPreppy said...

No I misunderstood your top feeder part of the post. I have a couple of those inline feeders like that they work well for some hives but I found the bees stopped taking syrup from them sometimes and they tended to attract ants more than the entrance type feeders.

For a new package though they should be best!!!

Jason and Michelle said...

I think getting bees will be on my to do list (probably in 2-3 years)

Leigh said...

OK, thanks for clarifying. I definitely like those top feeders better than inverted jars, but ants are always a nuisance around here. Everything is blooming so I'm not planning to leave it on for a long time.

Leigh said...

Perry, yes I did save some of the comb but when I went to get it for the hive, I could see evidence of wax moths, so I didn't want to put them in the hive yet. I read that wax moths are tough to get rid of. If I'd frozen the bars with comb previously, I would have used them but I didn't plan ahead. I plan to that comb in my empty hive in hopes of attracting a swarm.

Leigh said...

Thanks for the good wishes Renee! I should look on craigslist, although I'm not really equipped to go swarm removing.

Leigh said...

Connie, I think bees are some of the most fascinating critters on the planet.

Leigh said...

It took me several years for them to move up to the top of my to-do list. Finally I just had to say it was time to do it. So glad I did. :)

DFW said...

Good luck! And, those hives really are pretty.

Theresa said...

Well, congrats o all those lovely honey bees. And maybe a wild swarm coming to your other hive this spring too! While we don't do the bee thing, there are plenty of people who do in the valley and honey is plentiful here and very tasty indeed.

Rain said...

Thanks for the lesson! I'm a little intimidated by the idea of handling bees/hives etc...you make it look so easy. Good luck with them, I hope they stay healthy!

Perry - StoneHillRidge said...

Good luck with the swarm, that will be exciting if it works out.

Renee Nefe said...

maybe when you "grow up" ;)

Unknown said...

Very Good write-up. There is one minor detail you could add that would give your queen a one day head start. You can poke a hole through the candy on the queen cage to speed up the process of releasing the queen. The usual recommendation is to use a nail, but you run the risk of popping through the candy and wrecking your queen. I take a sheetrock screw and turn it in a bit and pull turn some more and pull to work a hole through the candy. I had a close call once using a nail. Only wrecked one of the attendants. The hives are beautiful and you mention skunk guards so I am looking forward to a successful report next Spring!

I've build a couple of the feeders like you are using. I like being able to dump feed in without having to suit up. They also allow the bees to take in their feed very quickly with a minimum of casualties.

RonC

Sandy said...

Congratulations Leigh!! I hope these two hives continue working, and producing plenty of honey for years to come.

Leigh said...

Thanks Perry!

Leigh said...

Ha ha. Maybe when I get tall ladders and saws and learn how to tear somebody's house apart when the bees make their new homes in the attic. :)

Leigh said...

Thanks! It was a lot of fun painting them.

Leigh said...

Catching a swarm would be great! Nice that you have so many beekeepers around. There's nothing like local honey.

Leigh said...

Well, it is intimidating, especially since such little creatures can have the potential to cause a lot of physical pain. But bees are not generally aggressive by nature, they are defensive. They are usually most docile when they are newly packaged like that. They have no colony identity, no home or territory to defend, and don't really know the queen all that well. Even so, you just have to accept that sometimes you're going to get stung, though it can be rare.

Leigh said...

Thanks Ron. I did that last year with the queen cage and the nail, and poked all the way through the candy and nearly got my queen. I think I checked on her too early last year too, it was like only two days after hiving and the bees seemingly had made no progress releasing her. So I did it and then worried it was too soon.

I really do like those feeders for the reasons you mention, and I love observing them busy at taking the syrup. Certainly hopeful about better success this year!

Leigh said...

Oh Sandy, I hope so!

Unknown said...

Two days is plenty of time for her to be in her cage. Best to get her to work as quickly as possible. I like using a sheet rock screw because all of my uncoordinated clumsy moves are be away from the queen and not towards her as with the nail. Direct release is not advisable because she can fly pretty good in her current condition.

RonC

Ashley A said...

I have really loved reading about your bees. I was wondering if there was a reason you couldn't use the hive from last year (other than for catching a swarm) ? I know nothing of keeping bees so sorry if a "dumb" question. Look forward to watching your beautiful hives flourish!!

Leigh said...

The sheet rock screw sounds like a good idea. I was fortunate last year that the queen simply disappeared down into the lower hive box. Tomorrow or the next day I'll check on her if the weather is nice.

Leigh said...

Ashley, not a dumb question at all! I can absolutely use last year's hive. No reason not to. I didn't use it for the new bees because by the time I discovered it was empty, I about had the two new hives prepared for the new bees, so I just went on as planned. If I don't catch a swarm in Honeysuckle this year, then I will definitely use it next year.

Ashley A said...

That makes perfect sense. I hope you catch your hive!

Ed said...

We always installed our package bees in the same manner. I hope you have success with both of these hives and either capture a new swarm or divide a really successful one so you get all three hives up and running. They are really fun to work with and definitely you get to be a taste snob of honey after awhile. You can taste the difference between white and red clover easily!

Jackie P Neal said...

How wonderfully exciting Leigh!! I wish you every success with these bees!
Jackie ")