Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Things are Buzzing Around Here

The Bee Arrival

Are hives were ready, everything seemed good
but this is a bee story with hard lessons learned.

My husband brought back three boxes of bees from 
Des Moines yesterday, that equates to about 30,000 bees
 flying around our garden area.  

They are packaged in wooden screened boxes which are linked
together.  There are also hobo bees that attach themselves
to these boxes, trying to get to the queen and they just
come home with your packages.  It's a good thing that
my husband's truck has a shell because the hobos can
fly around at will Inside your vehicle

While my husband was gone I prepared the sugar syrup that
we must feed them until there are enough blooms to
sustain them.  It's a 2:1 ratio with basically 16 lbs of
sugar to a gallon of water.  We put it into mason jars
that have a drip lid and sit in a holder which we put
inside the hives.  Some put them outside the hive.

We suited up and brought the bees and gear up to
the garden area.  My husband used a tool to pry up the
wooden bar holding all the hives together.  Bees start coming
out at this time so you need to work quickly.

You spray them down with sugar syrup to calm them.
Then remove the syrup feeder can that is dropped into
the box.  

Here was our big error:
Although there is a difference of opinion on releasing
the queen, the direct release method did not work
for us.
There is a metal handle that you slide
out of the box and which holds the queen.
You brush off the bees and pull the plug out of the 
queen holder and put that into the hive.

While we got these bees from Des Moines, they get their
queens from California, which unbeknownst to us, 
packages differently.  Most queen cages have a plug on one
end and then a sugar syrup candy plug between the 
exit hole and the queen.  When you put the queen in the 
hive she is released slowly as the other bees eat through
the candy plug to reach her.

Ours had no candy and we didn't know how she would
eat if we didn't release her.  Since that time I found out
that the bees would feed her through her cage. So Next Time,
we will not release immediately and allow her more time
to socialize with the bees and get used to her environment.
One beekeeper told us that the place we purchased from
does have the queen inside the box with her bees for
several days and it should have been a clean install; however,
there was something they didn't like.

There is also a difference of opinion on releasing the bees.
Some put the box of bees inside the hive and some shake them
out.  We put them inside, along with their feeder which 
has the option of being external as well.  The raccoon would
have a field day with external feeders- they steal my 
hummingbird feeders - so we placed it inside too. 

The next day we would remove the box of bees.

Back to the good part for awhile.

There was a lot of bee activity once we had everyone
taken care of.  You could see them buzzing everywhere.
None were aggressive but some did fly around us.
The suits will help protect us but there is still a possibility of
 a sting, something that we want to happen occasionally.
Some research says that if we are exposed to the venom 
all the time without a sting, we could become allergic
or the beekeeper's family could become allergic by being
in contact with the clothing and mixed in the wash.
So to get stung is OK once in awhile assuming you are not allergic.
We do have EpiPens on hand just in case.

Now the bad part.

When we returned from church my husband saw the swarm.
We opened the hives and the queens were gone along
with most of the bees, just some residual bees left.

We picked up some of the bees that were in a cluster by 
a fallen tree, hoping there was a queen in the middle.
My husband put them into a hive and we are hoping for the best.

The next day he saw a queen up at our plastic greenhouse.
He suited up, picked up the ball of bees and put them into
a second hive.  The queen immediately flew down into the 
frames, which is a good sign.  We will watch them to see if
it was successful.

In the meantime I am on the beekeeping site asking for advice.
My husband is also asking his friends and as it turns out one
of them has a friend that can sell us bees in 3-4 weeks,
some that have already started making honey on the frames
which will encourage them to create a queen and stay.
On the advice of the bee group I picked up some lemon grass 
essential oil.  It says to wait for the hive to be healthy and 
use it around the bees as an anti fungal and antibiotic.
It also simulates the pheromones of the queen which is why 
some beekeepers use it when establishing their hive.

Trying to keep them happy.

I also had weeded a bed nearest the bees and planted some 
already blooming or soon to bloom flowers.  I also have
a Save the Bees seed collection and want to plant
herbs such as borage for them.  From what I can see,
if we need to use a tiller we will need to do that just as 
the bees are going in for the night, so we don't aggravate them.

We also have to have an education session with Taylor
(my granddaughter) and the neighbor girls so they stay
away from that area and don't scream and yell, running
around there.  We're on 5 acre minimum lots so there is
plenty of room to play elsewhere and we are far from 
the neighbors' yards.  I don't think it will be a problem.

This is my bee suit.
Yes it is HUGE.  Between being only 5' 2", and no option
of Short sizes, I have lost a great deal of weight since ordering.
Even if I had not, it would have been big.  I suppose big is better,
too tight might mean a sting.  The gloves are huge too but it is
what the sizing chart said to use based on hand measurement.

More on the bees as things develop.



Wow! That is a lot of information and I never knew anything about raising bees so this is amazing. Thank you Kathy for showing us how it is done. By the way you look so cute in your Beekeeper's Outfit!

Gorges Smythe said...

I enjoyed bees when I had them many years ago. I wish I still could, but the heat of a bee suit might be a bit much for me in my present health situation.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

Yes, the suit is hot and the temperatures here have not been too bad yet.

Thanks, the suit is big, big, big!! You sort of feel like a super hero with it, walking through all those bees and not getting stung!

Lady Locust said...

Glad to hear you retrieved a couple of the swarms. And yes, you look great as a martian:)

Harry Flashman said...

For many years, there was a bee keeper in our county. Everyone bought their honey from him. He sold it in gallon jugs at reasonable prices. He was an old guy, it was his hobby and he made good money off the books. But when he died, no one took care of the bees. The little hive boxes are still out there, but I never see any bees around them when I drive out on that old dirt road. I guess they flew away or died.

You two are really smart to go into bee keeping. You will be able to sell all the honey you can make that you don't need for yourself. It keeps forever in gallon jugs. It does crystallize over time, but you just set the jug in warm water and it goes back to liquid form. I'm sure you knew that, I am just kind of thinking out loud.

I like you in your bee suit. Looks like something from a science fiction movie!

Wendy said...

Good luck with your bees. It's exciting getting new bees, but there is so much to learn. Introducing a queen is always an unknown. I look forward to reading about how it all goes!