Monday, May 11, 2009

The bees have landed.

Today was Bee Day on the calendar for the farm. We trundled down to McDonough, Georgia to pick up our Nuc (bee hive nucleus) hive from Mike at A nuc is like a mini hive where all the bees know each other already and they have a mated queen who has been busy laying eggs. All we do is bring them home and install them into our ready hive and supposedly they start making honey. Much better than bees-by-mail, at least for this beginner. Plus we've already freaked out the Conyer's post office twice this month with deliveries of turkeys and chicks, I can't imagine what the bees would do to them.

Mike's son Cody (who has been working with bees since he was five!) was very friendly and helpful, especially when bees started coming out of the bee box. Tragedy did not ensue, as it was simply a case of a couple of hitch-hiker bees along for the ride. Sadly, I did crush one bee by accident when I set the box in the truck. I didn't mean to do it, I didn't even know the little girl was there. But we pay for our sins, and the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and so the karmic wheel spins toward me later in the evening. More on that later.

Here is the bee hive and other bee items being delivered to the side yard by B.G. Transport, LLC.

The hive and bee things arrived last week. I spent this week getting it all ready for a season in the jungle of our backyard. I am trying out the all natural method of bee keeping. I've treated the outsides of the hive with linseed oil rather than painting it. I have no idea if it will hold up to the weather here in the south, but we'll find out. Barry and I chose an idyllic spot for the first hive (well, idyllic for the bees, we hope).

The perfect spot for bees: dappled sunlight, windbreak, morning light, no dogs or chickens to disturb them, and we can see the hive from the breakfast room window.

This is the waxed cardboard box the bees come in. Yes, this was in the truck with us all the way home from McDonough. They were buzzing like crazy. Apparently when a bee dies near the hive the other bees can smell the change and it really, really upsets them. Ours didn't sound happy.

The whole things weighs about 25 lbs, which doesn't sound like much until you are trying to open the gate at the same time as you are trying not to drop the box, which means you really aren't paying attention to where your hand is which means somehow one of the little buggers must have been waiting on the other side of the air hole and...

OUCH! Yes, one stung me even before I got the box in the yard. That was the most concentrated pain for about 30 seconds that I have ever felt. Then it wasn't so bad and I almost forgot about it. Part of the reason I forgot so soon was probably because as I said "Ouch! Damn, one stung me!", Barry said (don't try this at home, spouses), "Well, it won't be the last sting you'll get, will it?".

I won't tell you my response as I am trying to keep this blog as family friendly as possible. I will advise all significant others to respond to the new beekeepers first sting with something more along the lines of: "Oh, honey, we knew it would happen, but I'm sorry you're in pain". Harrumpf.

I don't know if you can see the sting spot. It is in the pad of my hand just below my fingers between the middle and ring finger. It has swollen a little and my hand is slightly achy, but other than that, I have successfully survived my first sting as a beekeeper. Glad to get that out of the way, now on to other things.

Me in my bee gear. Note the funny hat and boots. Pre- sting I wasn't sure I needed gloves, but I'm keeping them on now.

I soldiered bravely onward, getting my bees ready to spend the night in their new area. I am leaving them in their box until tomorrow, because otherwise they might get confused. The queen will stay in the box, but the workers will go out and have a look around, use the toilet (yes, bees do their business outside the hive) and then return my scenting for the queen. Tomorrow around noon when the workers are all out mauling our honeysuckle I will use my smoker on them and move the full frames of the nuc into my new hive. Since the workers now know the location of their new home they will be able to return and have a new condo to boot.

Once I got the smoker going I puffed them with it a little, then opened the hole in the box. It was just plugged with a plastic plug. As soon as I popped it out they all came flying at me. (puff, puff....PUFF!!!!) Whew, bee keeping is a rough business.

Now I will make sugar syrup to feed them until they get their honey flow on, and I wait and watch and add supers (more condo floors) when needed. More on the moving in tomorrow.

((PS: Big thanks to Susan for the reminder about apis m. homeopathic remedy. I took it as soon as I could get inside and I'm sure it helped.))


  1. This is great! It's like having a friend writing the Foxfire books as she goes along! (But funnier.)

  2. My husband keeps bees as well, our new ones are coming on Sat. As to the stings, you gradually build up a tolerance over the season. He says it will sting like mad the first time you get stung, but by August you barely feel it any more.

    Good luck with your ladies!