Sunday, May 8, 2016

mother's day

Oh, what a lovely Mother's Day surprise I had.  I was lounging in my bed while only a small amount of the light odor of burning and the quiet sounds of gentle bickering were wafting up from the kitchen, when I checked my email and saw that the bee packages had arrived a day early at the Honey Exchange.

Which had me up and out of bed a bit sooner than I had planned.  Because I had some cooking to do.  For the bees.  We humans had delicious child-made muffins and eggs.  And they were excellent.

And then I did the two loads of dirty dishes while I boiled up some sugar syrup to feed my new bees while they were adjusting to life in their hive, which was also going to come loaded with honey as well.  I did this boiling to syrup process twice, since when I first looked up the recipe for sugar syrup, I apparently found the ratio of sugar to water for Southern beekeepers.  Luckily, I did a second search when Nicholas commented that my brew looked a bit more watery than he remembered.  

Ah. 2 parts water to 1 part sugar ratio in the South.  1 to 1 ratio for the North.  Which means I have a whole bunch of syrup now.  Maybe I could serve it for dinner?  Dessert?

Jonathan dashed off to retrieve thE package and I headed out to the shed and carried everything I needed down to the bee yard.  I had a bit of cleaning to do, as I was placing the new bees into a hive that had died over the winter.  And though they have left behind a ready home for these bees, foundation all drawn into comb and lots of honey stored, there was the issue of the bodies.  Ahem.  And the hive boxes are a lot easier to clean of the general stick and residue that thousands of bees can create in a home where they are dealing mostly in wax and honey, when it is not in the heat of August.  And you are not wearing a veil that holds bees out.  And heat in.  And when there are no bees, actually.  Scraping in bare hands is much easier.

A series of rainstorms moved through, the bee package spent some time in the barn, and soon enough it was late afternoon.  The perfect time to install a package according to my books...though perhaps, again, this is better advice for the South.  But I went with it.

Meghan at the Honey Exchange described my package as highly pendular.  Which seems very apt.  I enjoy beekeepers with good vocabularies.

Upon removing the cover to the package, I discovered a pleasant surprise for us clumsy beekeepers.  The queen cell in packages I have had before have hung beside the feeder can, and when removing the can, it has been known to happen that the queen cell can drop down into the cluster of 3 pounds of bees.  I am less likely to gasp in horror these days if this were to happen, but still.  I appreciate the little cut out design that someone has developed that allows the queen cage to hang beside the feeder.  And to not come out or fall down when I remove the can.

** do ignore the dirty looking gloves.  I have found, after our dog chewed my second expensive pair of leather gloves, that dishwashing gloves work just as well as more expensive options.  And these are last year's gloves, and were used for honey extraction and have all sorts of stick attached to them.  I need a new pair.  But I mentioned the unexpected package, right?

I pulled the queen cage from the package box, and shook the bees that came along for the ride down into the hive. 

And then, and you must understand why there are no pictures here, I did ye olde thump and dump.  And deposited most of the bees down into the hive.  This is a good package of bees in my non-expert opinion, as there were very few dead bees in the bottom of the box.  And I think, a few years into this now and knowing that I really can give these bees a good thump and a hearty shake and pour, that I got most of the bees out of the package and into the hive.

Next up, the queen.  The ladies are all wearing white this year (queens are all marked a certain color by year).  This one had more nurse bees inside the cage with her than I am used to.

I removed the cork in the end of the cage to expose the candy.  

Bees will begin eating their way into the cage now.  During the time it takes them to make their way through the candy plug, and to their new queen, they will acclimate to and accept her, hopefully.  This is important because bee packages are all new friends.  The three pounds of bees are scooped from hives in the south and an unrelated queen is placed in with each package.  The goal here is to give them enough time (think how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, here) that when they meet bug eye to bug eye that they treat her as their queen, and not, you know, kill her during the meet and greet.

I pressed the queen cage into a frame of comb, candy hole up, so the queen would not fall out when the candy is gone.

I secured this frame next to another to keep the cage from sliding down to the bottom of the hive.  And filled in the remaining frames.

If you look carefully, you can see the cage between two frames here.  In a few days, I will look back inside and make sure she has been released.  I have always found the candy gone and the queen loose in the hive when I have done so in the past.

I added another box of frames, with empty comb frames in the middle and frames full of honey on the sides.  

And then I placed a feeder with the sugar syrup in the top.  Just to be sure they have enough food while they are getting settled and finding their forage sources.

All in all, it was a fairly quick installation, finished just as the light was beginning to tilt.  And just in time to head inside for another of my Mother's Day requests.  A round of my favorite board game, 7 Wonders, with the kids.  

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