Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Adventures in Beekeeping

Since the day my package bees were ordered, I have done nothing but wait until May 4th to arrive. I’ve done reading, asked many questions of those that have more experience, and attended lectures with Chase (he and I have poured over the same books). The days leading up to “Bee Day” I watched the weather, made plans on what we would do if it were to be raining, and prepped all of our gear. Chase and I decided on the way we thought was best to install our bees, and planned for the best.
Two days before we picked up our bees, we set out our apiary (to prepare the neighbors for the eventuality of our beekeeping), checked our suits, and I made fondant patties to feed them.
The morning of “Bee Day” we took our time having breakfast, wandered to the coffee shop for special drinks, and looked over one of our books again just to make sure we were satisfied with our plan. The bees were an hour one-way trip for us, and we were both nervous and excited about our adventure.
There is something to be said arriving at a supplier to pick up bees. There were two farm trucks ahead of us picking up 25 packages of bees apiece. The sight, the sounds, the smells, all of it was amazing to be a part of. Chase was admittedly a bit nervous about a package of bees riding in the back of the car back home. I was still keeping an eye to the sky (even though the weather was supposed to be clear). On the way back home we chatted about what we would do if we were stung and how we would react *ahem*.
My biggest concern was that I didn’t just want to dump and run the bees. I wanted to make sure they all got in there and had plenty of supplemental food. I feared they wouldn’t have anything to eat outside of the hive because we still were in the early parts of spring and the weather was cold, and that they would starve in the first two weeks. Ultimately in the end we decided to also put the syrup can that came with them into the hive and put a second, empty super on top of the first one. 
Koda is fascinated with the bees!
Installation went amazingly well. Our neighbor asked questions from a distance (something I wouldn’t have minded so much if I wasn’t handling over 10,000 bees – but at least she wasn’t afraid!), and Chase and I worked together to get Daisy (I named her after my favorite Downton Abbey character), and her colony in to their new home. Satisfied with the installation, we left the open container with a few stragglers outside the apiary and stood back to watch. It didn’t take long for the bees to signal to those still not inside that this was their new home. Amazing. 

She can go up to the apiary and stick her nose right in the entrance!
Chase is becoming a great beekeeper!
They're absolutely amazing to watch!

It was a busy morning!
I think the hardest part of beekeeping is the hands-off part. Waiting two weeks until I could check on them was utterly agonizing. I attended the bee seminar at WWOW where I got my bee fix, not to mention I found an apiary webcam and watch bees whenever I need a bee fix. Like "Bee Day", the two week mark where we could go in and check the apiary was just as exciting.
After graduation, Chase and I suited up and prepped our tools to go into the hive. What we found was beautiful comb built up on the inner lid of the hive, not the provided comb. 

The bees did exactly what they do: they built up. But it wasn't what I wanted them to do! I had followed the instructions from the book (and from the local beekeeping group) and now we were in trouble. I carefully put the lid back down and covered the hive and quickly texted my aunt to ask my uncle questions on what to do. Through our phone call he confirmed why they did what they did, and gave advice as to how we could handle the situation. Chase and I suited up again and went back out to fix things in the hive.

Our peeking in the hive earlier had jarred two of the combs that they had built and they had fallen onto the frames below. Chase and I worked to clear the bees off the combs to scrape them off the inner lid. Only after that did I think to check the fallen comb (and I really think the queen was located on one of those two fallen ones).

At this point I realized that wearing sandals to tend to the bees was probably not the greatest of ideas. I saw the bee go in my sandal, I felt it, and I reacted instinctively. Yup. Stung. Oh my .. I was stung when I was little but I didn't remember it. And everything Chase and I had said about if we got stung about reaction went out the window. I yelled. I cursed. I didn't run around, but I did call for Mom to come out and remove the stinger from my toe for me. I'm happy to say that I am not allergic to bees, but my toe smarts!

Chase was standing at the hive, scraping the rest of the comb from the lid and I begged Steve (who has wanted to have a hands-off part in the beekeeping) to suit up and help Chase. Steve did, and he said it was an amazing experience to be working with the bees, to listen to them humming away and being so close to them. I think he just may be hooked. :-)
Right now I have no idea what the status of our queen is. I carefully looked over the pieces of the comb, taking in account that there were a few squished victims between the larvae-heavy pieces of comb. I saw one bee that was definitely not a drone, but might possibly have been the queen or a worker. Our supplier does not mark the queens, and she was so badly injured I can't say if it was Daisy or not. Chase and I went into the hive briefly the next day and on the 6th frame there was quite a bit of activity in one corner. Chase and I are hoping that she didn't get squished and was back at work laying. 
This weekend we're going to check on the hive again. If I don't see signs of her I'll have to find someone who has queens for sale. We're fighting the clock on this, and I don't want an entire hive lost.

1 comment:

  1. hi emily!

    this is so exciting too! thank you for the kind words re my sons graduation! :)
    xoxoxo lori