Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The bees settle in to Treffynnon Farm

Installing the bees into their new home was quite an interesting challenge. I have been reading all the bee books I could find, plus bee info on the Internet, and I even asked Cory at Beeyond Wonderful for some tips. But you know, no matter how much you prepare yourself, opening that box of buzzing, roiling insects who would kill you if you touched their children, well, that is just a little bit intimidating.

When I opened the nuc box, this is what I saw: bees, bees and more bees! Over 25,000 is what Cory told me. Now in the middle of the day most of them are supposed to be out and about foraging for nectar and pollen. I'm not sure about that. This box was so full of bees I think they had a bank holiday or something. You can see in this picture that they have been busy building comb, and it is a little bit wonky, not straight at all.

Here is a shot of all four frames in the box.

If you look closely you can see how the bees have started working on the side of the box (at the bottom of the photo) to build another frame. They are more than ready for more frames to build out with beeswax. They had even started a drop down comb on the inside lid of the box. I pried that off because it was just so cool. They wouldn't have been able to use it anyway.

Now that the box is open, I have to pry each frame out of the box and carefully transfer in to the super (wooden box on the ground, it is the foundation for a bee hive). Sounds simple, doesn't it? Now, add to that the buzzing bees around your head, hundreds of bees on the frame which weighs at least 5 pounds, and the curious bees want to crawl all over the frame as I am putting it into the super, even under the frame where it is supposed to rest on the little piece of wood on the side. All the books tell you to try and not squish any bees because when they die the emit an odor that sends the other bees into a frenzy of concern and they are more likely to try and sting the bee keeper. Oh, and did I mention I'm wearing thick leather gloves and a hat that doesn't fit and keeps sliding off my head. Geez, the problems that come up when you least need them!

I am smiling for the camera, but I am totally freaked out at this point. I have transferred two of the nuc frames to my super on the ground, and there are bees all around me buzzing and curious. I don't really get the sense that they are threatening, but my natural instinct is to run away screaming and swatting at them with my hands. I won't do that, but that's what is happening on one level of my brain.

The queen was on this frame. Just as I was putting it in the super Barry asked, "Have you found the queen?", and honestly, I hadn't even thought about her. My goal was to get those bees in the new box and get out of there. Plus, I had to do all of this very s l o w l y so as not to alarm the bees. Don't get me wrong, on one level I was freaking out, but on another level I was having a great time. I want to get to a point where I'm not so inexperienced so that I can enjoy it more, if that makes sense. Getting stung day one made me not worry as much about that, but there will always be that "Attack of the Killer Bees" movie scene in my head. Damn media generation stuff. But then I saw her--the queen was moving around the frame! Wow, I actually spotted her! I felt so...so...bee keeper-y.

Within just a few minutes I got all four frames transferred into the "super" and was ready to close up the hive. I am only using one super right now, but as fast as they are building comb it looks like I'll be adding another one in just a couple of weeks. Their four frames were full of comb, so I imagine they will fill up the other four fast.
I am not closing up the super. The white strip you see is a top feeder that has sugar syrup in it to give the bees food until they get to foraging on their own. Some bee keepers use corn syrup, but many of you know my hatred of the stuff in my own food (go rent "King Corn"), so I'm going with regular old white sugar. The interesting point in trying new things is that it opens you up to information and opinions you didn't even know were out there. Last night came across some fascinating information on all natural bee rearing. This bee keeping in Wyoming uses no medications of any kind, doesn't supplement feed, keeps his queen for several years, and uses some weird looking bee hives. I like what he has to say, so I'm going to give it a try. The bees I have were medicated before I got them, but if they do their stuff all summer then by next spring there will actually be a whole new colony of workers, so all natural at that point. If you are interested, check out his website: http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm

This is that small piece of comb the bees had started on the roof of the box. It is about two inches long by one inch wide. Pretty amazing that those little insects can create such a beautiful and useful thing. Barry's comment: "Who taught them how to do this? It is just amazing they can do this". Nature amazes me every single day.

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