Monday, April 30, 2012

The Bees Be Hived

On Friday night I received the email I've been anticipating and dreading at the same time; the packages of bees were scheduled to arrive on Monday, April 30th at 3:00 p.m. (today).  So I went off to work work with nerves on edge and a plan.  I would take some leave time and head home at noon which should give me plenty of time to get the hive set up, pick up the bees, install them and make it over to the high school to pick up my youngest at 6:00.   Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans...

I need to back track a little bit here.   As those of you who follow this blog know, my hive arrived on Thanksgiving morning with the in-laws.   I opened the boxes, pulled out everything that would need to be stained and sealed then packed the frames with plastic cell foundation back into the box, which was promptly forgotten.  In February I took my class where I ordered one package and one nuc as recommended.  We were told the packages should arrive some time in April and the nucs in May.  Now as you all know, taxes are due on April 15th and for those of us in Virginia, state taxes are due May 1.  Obviously, there was a lot to be done in April.  Swapping the plastic foundation for wax crimp wire foundation went to the bottom of the to do list. 

Now back to today.   I am one of the carpentry challenged so on the way home from work I stopped at Home Depot for wood glue and 5/8" brads to replace those I would inevitably bend or break when I swapped the foundation. Then I remembered we needed milk (and I bet you can see where this is going...) so my one hour commute turned into two hours.   By the time I got home I had exactly one hour to swap eight frames of foundation before I had to pick up the bees.   Then I pulled out the first frame.  Wait a minute, didn't the instructor say there was a little bar you have to pull off?  These frames were completely "solid" with the foundation set in groves.   Short of breaking the frames apart there was no way I could see to remove the plastic foundation.   It is now 2:30.   Maybe one of the guys from the club can tell me how to do it.

I pack the frame and box of crimp wire wax foundation into the car and head over to the pick up point.  This is where I learned things were about to get ugly.  The frames that came with my kit are absolutely the wrong kind to use with the all wax foundation.   Here I am with a three pound box of unhappy bees in my car and I have to find the right frames NOW.    Off to Hertzlers I go with fingers crossed.
Package of unhappy honeybees

As luck would have it, Hertzlers had just received an order of bee supplies.   And I mean JUST.   Everything was still banded and they were checking it in.   Previously they carried Dadant supplies (pre-packaged) but these were bundled in individual parts from Mann Lake.   Did I mention this year is the first time Hertzlers has carried bee supplies?   My luck must have been truly in; another beekeeper was picking up his hives and helped us figure out what parts went with what.  It was now 4:00 and the bees were waiting, impatiently I'm sure.

I managed to prepare three pathetic frames - glue oozed everywhere, I bent about six nails and split two bottom rails before I finally worked out a system for assembly.  There is an art to hold everything in place while also holding a nail and hammering it in place, darn tiny nails!  Lesson learned...tap the nails in enough to hold them in place before assembly so they "self hold."  Yeah, I know you carpentry competent people are saying "Duh," right now.  Anyway, by the time I finished the eighth frame, it was time to head to the high school.   The poor bees were still outside waiting on me. 

Finally - ready, set, go...
Finally, at 7:00 this evening I was able to get the lid on the hive but not without more issues.  The cork on the queen cage wouldn't budge; I had to dig and break apart some of the screening over the candy and place her cage on the slatted bottom board of the hive. I'm still not sure there is even a queen in there - two of the bees in there were dead and I can't tell if one was the queen or not.  At e bees are all swarming unhappily and its starting to get darker (the day is overcast to begin with).  At this point, the bees are buzzing angrily and I just dumped them in the hive, half of them that is.  The other half refused to come out of the package.   I didn't want to keep banging it on the hive as it was distressing those clustered around the queen cage, so I just set it in front of the hive and inserted the feeder.  Hopefully they find their way inside and the feeder doesn't leak all over the place.

In spite of all my clumsy handling, I DIDN'T GET STUNG.  NOT ONCE!  And now I have my first hive of bees in place.  Yay!


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