Hello honeybees

The UPS truck made a extra special delivery yesterday morning – three packages of honey bees. The topbar hives are set up about half way down the field, near the concord vines, in a gorgeous field of blooming dandelions. Jeremy has been working hard on cutting sod to make beds for row crops. I stole him away in the afternoon, quick – to help load the hives. Here are photos.

It was a cool day and not too windy. The bees were darling and docile. And so fuzzy. My understanding is that bees in a package like this are in swarm-mode which doesn’t mean “watch out, we’re going to get you”, but rather “let’s stick together, find a home, and be happy.” And that’s what they did. For each hive, we opened a package of bees, removed the sugar-syrup-tasty-food-cup, and pulled the queen cage out. The queen is sent safely tucked in a little cage within the package, isolated from the rest of the bees by a tiny door made out of candy. As she eats her way out, and the other bees eat their way in, (it takes a couple days) they get to know each other. When the queen bee makes her way out of the little cage, the hive adopts her as their queen, and they go about their hiving. It’s lovely.

After removing the queen cage from the package, we tied her cage to one of the top bars, so she hangs out in the hive. Then the super fun part. To get the bees out from inside their shipping box and into the hives, we got to pour the bees out, like molasses. Like fuzzy, writhing, blobs of molasses. Delightful. And then it takes some pretty thorough shaking to encourage the rest out. Once most of the bees are in the hive, we slowly covered the hive with the top bars, making sure not to squish anyone in the way. The hives are then covered by a sheet of plywood to help keep the hive dry. And the whole deal is then tied down with rope to two stakes in the ground (using the very same knot you’d use for staking down a circus tent).

We were well outfitted for the bees: bee veils, and smoker (thank you Lundberg Organics). Mason jar feeders. Lots of slow, deliberate movements. Gentle, happy, encouraging words.

We went out to check on them this morning.  Holding our breath. Did it get too cold last night? Did winds blow them over? Have they absconded? After the sun hit the hives and they warmed up, they all seemed pretty happy. Buzzing around. I could watch them forever. Worker bees flying in and out of their little doorway. I’m looking forward to them getting their bright orange pollen pants on.

These are Russian Carniolian bees, ordered especially because they are cold hardy and have a natural resistance against mites. Since they are Russian, I think it’s really only apt if we name the queens Anna, Lara, and Lolita. Jeremy’s not completely on board with this, but he’s not made any other/better suggestions.

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