We picked up two packages of bees and installed them into hives this morning. The process can be quite mysterious and daunting so I thought I'd share how it's done. We ordered our bees in December and selected the first pick-up date (April 7th). The bee supplier is about a 90 minute drive from here. We arrived two hours into pick-up and they had already gone through almost a thousand packages(!) Sorry for the huge number of photos, but I wish I'd had this step by step the first time we did this.
(These guys could have used some Craftster help with their signage...)
The packaging comes in three parts; the screened transport cage, a can of sugar water with three small holes punched in the bottom so they have food for their journey, and a little queen cage hanging inside. Each package has about 12,000 bees inside it.
We (very carefully) drove home with them on the backseat floorboards of our car.
Today was overcast and 65 degrees. The perfect weather for this process. The first thing we did when we got home was spray them with a good dose of homemade sugar water. Simple syrup for those of you who enjoy the occasional fancy cocktail. This helps keep them docile during the process.
There is a thin veneer of wood stapled to the opening, it just gets pried off with a hive tool.
The sugar water can gets lifted out so you can reach inside and pull out that little queen cage. As soon as it's out, we just lay the veneer back over the opening so the bees can't escape.
Here's a look at the queen cage. She's in there with a few worker bees, that's her on the left. The white stuff on the end is a sugary solid known as candy, and is blocked by a cork plug.
The cork gets removed, exposing the candy to the hive bees. It will take the hive 1-2 days to eat away the candy and release the queen and her attendants. This gives them a little time to get used to each other.
The entire uncorked queen cage gets hung between two frames. Now we're ready for bees!
Just gather your nerve and dump em in!
Use a soft hive brush to coax them down between the frames.
If you look really carefully, you can see they are congregated around the hanging queen cage.
The feeder box goes on top of the frames. There is a pollen patty on one side, the other side gets a half gallon of homemade sugar water, plus everything left in the can they arrived with. We go through about 5 pounds of sugar every week for 4-5 months out of the year.
The lid goes on, with a rock to hold it down. We'll remove the screened cages tomorrow. There are always a few bees who stubbornly don't want to leave their transportation. They'll find their way into the hive eventually. I had every intention of repainting the hives this winter. Oh well.
Our hives live in our front yard, about 25 feet from the pond's edge in full sun. It's a great location for bees!
If you're interested in learning about harvesting honey, check out my A Sweet Harvest post from a while back.