4/29/22 It Bees Like That Sometimes

Today begins the 2022 bee season! The BSE has hives at her home in Portage, and this year I am a fully contributing partner in the enterprise, so I have to do my own labor. These are our hives and I’ll give you one guess which of these is mine. That silver thread in the background is US 131 near Centre Street, and you’ll hear the traffic in the videos in this post.

I know you can guess which one is mine.

We bought bee packages again this year from Bee Line Apiary in Mendon, MI. We went during their big sale, and bought some bits and bobs of hive equipment, most notably our very own extractor! At the end of the season we will be able to extract honey three frames at a time, which will be an immense savings of time and labor over our current method of scraping the frames. It’s also much less messy, and if you’ve ever been thoroughly sticky with honey, you know that is not an optimal experience. It is powered by a hand crank, but it can also be hooked up to a drill to do the turning for us.

The BSE installed her bees right before I got there, so my box of 10,000 bees (more or less, that’s what comes in a package) was already out at the hives. She did the honors with the camera, and now it’s time to bee-gin. Don’t you dare groan, bee-cause I have a ton of bee-related puns at the ready. Do not make me deploy the nuclear option. You see here I’ve removed the middle four frames to prepare the way for the queen and her minions.

That box was vibrating!

The large can that you see in the box is full of bee syrup to feed them during their shipping. I removed the wooden cover and pulled the can out, and then tried to put the wooden cover back over that hole before the bees come whirling out. I was not successful. Take note of the white strip on the left of the box.

Hey, this isn’t LaChoy!

That white strip is strapping that is attached to the queen cage. We chose an Italian queen, and Bee Line marks their queens so they can be easily found in the hive. This year the queen was marked with orange. The color of the marking tells what year she is from, so you know how old she is as the seasons pass. The queen box has a hole at either end, stoppered with small bits of cork. One side also has a large plug of candy in that hole. This photo shows the white candy. I dug out the cork with a small nail and put the nail through the candy, making a small tunnel.

No, I don’t know what the candy tastes like.

Ideally, what will happen next is that they bees will eat their way through the candy to free the queen, taking enough time to do so that they will get used to her scent and accept her as queen. If not, they’ll kill her and make a new queen. It bees like that sometimes.

One of the minions making sure the queen is okay.

I position the queen box in the hive, and then it’s time to get everyone out of the box and get this party started. You’ll see the queen box tacked in as I am gently inviting the bees to explore their new home.

This is the after, once everyone got settled. You can more clearly see the position of the queen box here.

Next, I carefully put the four frames I removed back into the hive. This is not my favorite part because I am concerned I’ll smush a bee. I need all 10,000 of them to live their best lives, and being smushed isn’t conducive to that goal.

No smushed bees!

Until they get situated, we will feed them sugar water. Luci had a bag ready for me, and I cut a few slits in it to give the bees access to the food.

Mmmm, simple syrup!

Then I put the inside cover on, and then the top goes on, and bada boom bada bee, we have an installed hive.

Holy cow, look at that GIANT bee over my head to the right!!

Once the hive was closed, the BSE relinquinshed the camera, and I took some Artsy Nature Photos, for your viewing pleasure.

The best color combo ever!
Bees pooping on my gloves.
Bee pooping on a concrete block.

Pretty uneventful install, no stings since the BSE forced me to gear up (she was right) and no problems getting everyone into the hive. We’ll leave them alone for a couple weeks and then go check on the queen and see how she fared. I’ll keep you posted through the summer, since putting bees in is the reason for the season.

Author: Amy Crabtree Campbell

figuring it out as I go, since 1967

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