What’s the buzz?

I will have my own hive at the suburban three-hive apiary of the BSE and Gadgetron this year! I’m looking forward to learning hands-on after observing last year. I’ll have my hive there, since the BSE’s neighbors are already cool with them. Of course, gifts of honey paved the way to wider acceptance as well, I’m sure. Maybe next year I will have a small hive at the NSSL, but I’d definitely have to talk to the neighbors first. I don’t need their permission, but being a decent neighbor always pays off in the long run.

Last Saturday we went over to Dadant in Albion, MI. We picked up three packages of bees, and I bought some of my own beekeeping accoutrements. I now have my own bee jacket! Bow before my stylish sombrero coat!

bee suit

This is the way our three packages came, it’s called a bee bus. They’re sturdy plastic and as you can see provide a lot of ventilation for the bees.  It was fortunate I had my phone out at the hives because we had to Google getting them apart. They are, shall we say, firmly attached with interlocking grooves.

bee bus

The can contains food for the bees as they traveled to use from California.  The can lifts out prior to installation, and it looked to be about the size of a 28 oz can of tomatoes.

food can

This is what the bee bus looked like after we removed the can of food. This year we’re installing bees by putting the box in the hive and letting the bees come out on their own, instead of shaking them out of the box into the hive. Apparently it’s a way to reduce swarming, which is when the queen takes off with her minions for greener pastures. These should be happy here, because all three hives had comb left over from last year’s bees. None of those three hives made it through the winter, but we didn’t take that honey, leaving it for these bees to use.

bee bus in hive

This is the queen box. Queen bees are packaged in boxes like this to keep them safe. Once the other bees are used to her scent, they’re cool with her. If we just dropped a queen in without that ‘getting to know you’ period, they would quite likely kill her and raise their own queen. Savage.

queen box

This is the queen box from my hive. I shall call her Beeatrice. You can see that my queen bee brings all the drones to the yard….

queen box with bees

…but I shook ’em off, shook ’em off.

queen box smiling amy

Once I’d removed all of Beeatrice’s ardent admirers, I could remove the temporary cork in the end of the queen box. That was there to keep the queen in the box to avoid the aforementioned honeybee massacre. Once the cork was removed, I put my thumb over that hole and then pushed a candy plug in there. Then the box was tacked onto a frame in the hive temporarily. The bees will get used to the Queen’s scent, and free her from the box by eating through the candy plug to release her.

Before we closed up the hive, we fed the bees. It was a long trip from California! The BSE had cooked up some simple syrup and hit it up with some Honey B Healthy, kind of a bee vitamin mixture. We filled sandwich sized Ziploc bags about half full, and then laid them gently in the hive. Then we slit a couple of very small cuts in the bag, just enough so that the weight of the bees walking on it would push out a bit of sugar water for them. And then we let them make themselves at home.

The BSE and I checked the hives a few days later and Beeatrice had not yet been eaten all the way out of her box. (I know that sounds horribly dirty and I want you all to put on your grown up caps and ignore that.) We removed the rest of the candy plug and put her in the hive. For a minute we thought we’d lost her, and the bees agreed! I wish I had my camera with me, because bees do the coolest thing when they want to guide their lost friends home to the colony. They fan their wings while exposing their Nassanoff glands, which release a sweet scent that’s signature to that hive. That helps lost members of the colony come on back to the right hive. Plus it’s stupidly adorable to see them all lined up with their butts up in the air wiggling.

That said, I do have great video of how the bees let their hivemates know where there’s a particularly good source of food.  Check that out here, narrated by the BSE herself.  She goes into greater detail on this very cool aspect of bee-havior here.  All hail the BSE!!

I’ll be posting the adventures from the hives here all season, along with some cool bee facts so you’ll get a better sense of their activities.  I’ll try to get some good video next time we’re in there. They are an amazing little society, and it’s pretty incredible to observe them.

Author: Amy Crabtree Campbell

figuring it out as I go, since 1967

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