We picked up the bees today. I’ve had a lot of people asking lately about the whole bee keeping thing, so I thought I’d walk through the set up process. This is only our second year at it and we are by no means experts! But I do know this, it is sooooo easy! It’s SO much easier then people think; care and maintenance of bees is minimal. They require only a few basic things.
The queen for each package is in a separate little container inside the big box. Upon getting home with the box of bees,
the top comes off
and then the old sugar water container gets pulled out and the queen’s little tiny box is attached to the top.
There is a tiny cork plugging the little box which has to pulled out (pliers are helpful here) and then there is a wad of sugar candy stuff plugging her the rest of the way in. The bees eat through that and free her, several days later. For now, the little box is hung inside the first deep brooder box and left.
Then the rest of the box of bees is smacked down on a hard surface several times, dropping all bees to the bottom. Quickly the whole thing is turned upside down and they are literally dumped on top of the brooder box frames.
Then the inner cover goes on. This has a small slatted opening so the bees can be fed periodically for a few weeks by us, while they acclimate to their new home and find local food sources. A this point, the pre-made (and cooled)
sugar water (1 to 1 ratio for the Spring, when they just come home ~ for winter feeding it is 2 to 1 ratio) which has been poured into mason jars with holes punched through the top.
The jar is put upside down, and the bees will go through a jar in roughly a few days. They will be fed like this for around a month, in which time they should have established their home space fairly well.
Put the top back on, and that’s it, the bees are homed and for the most part happy. This year our two sets of bees were homed on a cloudy, chilly, sort of rainyish day ~ the sort of day for which bees are known to be more temperamental on ~ yet my husband was not stung, the whole family was right next to him as he worked through this process, and we were all fine as well. My husband has been stung occasionally in the past, last summer, but it was almost always as a result of not paying attention and batting one, instead of letting it fly off on its own. The kid’s and I have never been stung by our bees, and I worked side by side with them in the garden all summer long.
As far as equipment, we obviously have 2 bee houses (hives) with frames. The bees do not get a new brooder box until they fill all the frames in the preceding brooder. So the hive starts out small and gradually gets taller. My husband does not wear a bee suit, however he uses the bee keeper hat and gloves. As for hive tools, he uses a smoker, a brush (to brush bees off the house or frames or whatever), and a plier-ish thing for prying the frames apart when they eventually become stuck together with wax. All of this is available online or at a local apiary.
Which brings me to the local apiary store or seller. There are lots around, but I’m always going to be a fan of Trails End Farm in Rhode Island. I call the owner “The Bee Whisperer.” His actual name is Mark. He’s fantastic! He will take as much time as you need and walk you through the process, very patient, and he knows his stuff. I’m sure most people involved with bees are equally awesome, but this is where I go.
We had a hard time coming by the bees we wanted this year. Even though we began looking in February, people must have ordered very early this year. We wanted Carniolans again, but there were none to be had. We ended up having to get Italians, but we do know someone locally selling Carniolan queens, and the plan is to switch our current queens out at some point and put in Carni queens instead. Bees only live, quite roughly, for a month, so with the new queens already fertilized eggs, we can have Carniolan hives about a month later.
Our bees from last year died the end of February. We had a terrible wind storm that blew the top right off their house, exposing and killing them. Prior to that, they sounded good each time we went out to check on them. The moral of this past winter was, secure the top with a rock!!!