It has been a month and a half already since we got and installed our packages. For those of you new to beekeeping (well newer then us) a package is a container of about 3lbs of bees (approx. 10,000). We ordered two packages on for each hive. They come with Queens that have been separated into a Queen box with a few attendants. When you go and pick up your boxes of tiny sting machines they look something like this:
After we put these guys in the car and drove home super carefully, so as not to piss any one off, we had to then empty them into the hive. Here we did what any novice beekeeper would do and consulted the literature. The first book we looked at said to set up your hives you start by removing half the frames, then open the top of your package, remove the Queen and close the package. Check we can do that. Next uncork the candy side of your Queen box and hang it (candy side up) between two frames. So far this was super easy, no big deal, we were already awesome beekeepers, well, until the next step. It is time now to shake the bees to the bottom of the box (yeah um ok), pop off the cap, turn the box upside down and shake the bees into your hive (time out what?!?). At this point we had no idea there was another method, so shake we did, in the rain mind you. I had the pleasure of being the shaker, of both packages, 20,000 bees. I shook and got most of them out leaving the mostly empty packages under each hive to allow the stragglers the chance to get out. Good news was I only got stung 3 times, which really is amazing considering the amount of bees I just shook out of a box.
After the excitement of getting the bees in, we added all but one frame back into the boxes, put their feeders on and closed up the hive. For the next week we kept the feeders full (we used a 1 part sugar to 1 part water mixture made into a syrup) to ensure the newly placed bees had plenty to eat.
Fast forward to week 2:
Although we did a quick check on the hives after the first week, we had been unable to add the remaining frame to one of the hives. The bees in this hive had already started to fill the extra space with drawn comb. As newbies we didn’t realize this was not what we wanted and left it, until this week, week 2.
Week 2 started with us going to a class about beekeeping. A local bee shop (Beez Needz) puts on a free bee class each month and it is a great way to spend a Saturday learning and asking questions. At this meeting we learned we were going to have to go into our hives, pull out and check the frames for brood, make sure the Queen box is gone, and last but most anxiously, take off the drawn comb that was crowding the space our last frame needed to go into. We were told to remove it and then put it into an empty frame using a rubber band (O.K. cool sounds super easy and not like we may piss any one off.)
We went out the next day to do just that. We opened the first hive and everyone looked like they were doing well, we even saw the Queen which was a great find. Then we moved onto the next hive, this is the one that had the comb we needed to fix. As we pulled out the frame and lifted it up to work on separating the comb the worst thing could have happened. The comb broke off and fell down with a crash. We both backed away briefly to be sure we just didn’t piss off an unknown amount of bees, then proceeded to work on our repairs. We got the comb attached to an empty frame and reinstalled them. Both hives had capped brood which shows that the Queen is laying and baby bees are being produced.
Now we are on week 3. We added our feeders back this week and checked in again on Sunday morning. We saw even more brood and what we thought looked possibly like honey in a few cells. However, in the second hive that we opened, the bees were less then thrilled to be bothered. They tagged my husband twice so we just closed them up and let them be. Both hives were very active and so far we were feeling good about what we had been seeing.
Week 4 came and went, we did not get a chance to go out and check them but from our observations they seemed to be doing well. Week 5 was a great check. We found the Queen in one of the hives. She was super busy laying eggs and had tons of larvae in cells. This hive was doing so well we had to add the next level so they could have more room to grow. The second hive (the one where we had to do the repairs) was doing ok but their development was much farther behind their neighbor. We were unable to locate the Queen and did not see any capped brood. We did notice that they again attached the last frame to the side of the hive. We didn’t want to ruin it and just left it and are hoping the Queen is in there doing her thing.
Week 6 and all we have done is observe. We hope to get into the hive later this week but we have been very busy this week and the kids were under the weather. We have learned so much already while dealing with the hives. We have realized that it is super important to watch the weather when going into the hives. We had known that we shouldn’t mess with them in the rain but even an overcast day seems to make them more likely to be angry (see week 3 when they got my husband twice.) We also started trying to open the hives once the sun came up a bit more allowing the bees more time to “wake up” and get good and warm. This seems to help them be a little more receptive to us coming in and taking a look.
Do you also have bees? I would love to know what your experiences have been!! So far we have loved learning and watching the bees each week!!