Monday, May 04, 2009

Beekeeping: Hive Introduction

A while back I promised that I'd write a post regarding our honeybees, specifically their introduction to their new living quarters. Feel free to ask questions. Please note there are a lot more detailed steps besides the few pictures I've included; consequently, this should not be used as a beekeeping primary. I am, after all, not an expert. But do feel free to learn from our mistakes (of which there were plenty). I tried my best to point out the techniques that worked well for us...and those that failed miserably. Enjoy.
Hooray, we have finished prepping our hives and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our bees. This is our Blue Moon hive, looking lovely atop Dad's block foundation amidst the flowers. The entrance to the hive is tiny: look for the small hole in the lower right hand corner. We'll expand the entrance later as there are more bees to guard the entrance and to regulate the hive temperature. For now, we have the small entrance and only one deep super. Here are our bees!!! Three pounds worth. Approximately 10,000 ladies per hive. In the car bringing them home, one of the boxes fell over and the car erupted in angry buzzing. Thankfully we didn't have any escapees. Well actually, we did have a few. But she was more interested in sticking close to her buddies. The queen comes in her very own special cage within the box. We ordered an unmarked Italian queen. Let me point something out briefly: the worker bees don't necessarily come from this queen's hive. Consequently, you have to allow your queen several days to send out her pheromones to bond these workers to her, all the while safely ensconced within her little cage. Otherwise, the workers might kill her in they haven't had sufficient time to get to know her. Here mom is handing me the queen cage.

A word of advice to the novice beekeeper: if AT ALL POSSIBLE, purchase a MARKED queen. We didn't have the option of getting a marked queen and it was a royal pain in the ass. We bought a quick dry marking paint and prepared to mark each queen with a bright yellow dab of paint on her back. It was messy. And we ended up getting paint on the wings of both queens. Be not so stupid. BUY A MARKED QUEEN. Our queens appear to be ok (and laying well) but I would avoid the headache and heartache if at all possible. We locked ourselves in the bathroom in order to mark our queens since it was the smallest room in the house. Our queens were extremely agitated and flew circles around our heads. Technically, you're supposed to grab them by the wings, pin their feet between your fingers, and delicately place a lovely small dab of paint upon their thorax. Easy, right?! Um, wrong. BUY A MARKED QUEEN.

Quickly remove the staples holding down your entrance door. Then, SLAM the box down against the hive so that the bees fall to the bottom.... And DUMP them into the hive. Voila! Angry bees are now in your hive!

Here I'm dumping the bees into our second hive.
Next, place all of your frames back in the hive. Note that our frame foundations are black. They are plastic, coated in a thin layer of beeswax. Traditional beekeepers will probably be horrified by plastic foundation but we made the decision to proceed with the plastic due to their hardy nature and ease of assembly. We sprayed them down with sugar water in the hopes that our bees will find them more palatable. We'll keep you posted as to how they work. Lastly, we put the inner cover on the hive, placed the feeder (sugar water solution) in an empty super on top of the inner cover, insulated it with wadded newspaper, and topped it off with the outer cover.

Mom had quite an entourage by the end of the hiving.

And that's it! Overall, things went fairly smoothly with a few significant mishaps. We're learning as we go.