14th May 2007

Day 3

The girls seem to be settling in. This morning there was very little random buzzing about the hives- the bees would leave, spiral up to the tops of the trees and house, and head off on missions. I have no idea what foraging they’ve found, but they appear to have found some. There’s more buzzing now, but a lot of nectar sources dry up by the afternoon, so it’s not that surprising.

Also, right now they’re chugging down the syrup again, though not at the amazing rate they were at first. And I made plenty of syrup yesterday, so that’s good. It just figures I’d end up cooking for 27,000 or so new pets!

I find I still get a bit of the heebie-jeebies the first time I look at them in the morning. Not so much the flying ones, but the crawling ones- especially if there are a lot on the sides of the hive- give me a shudder. Then I remind myself that they are the girls, and cute, and helpful and useful and all, and it passes.

And the hives are more discreet than one might expect. While there can be a fair amount of buzzing right around the boxes themselves, once the girls take off there is not any noticeable concentration of them, even about 10 feet away from the hives.

Tomorrow we get to open the hives and check the queen cages. Hopefully, they will be empty, and so we can remove them and add the 10th frame to the hives.

Fun bee fact: One of the reasons honeybees are such fabulous pollinators is that they will only visit one type of flower per trip. For example, if they are foraging on a cherry tree, they will stick only to cherry blossoms that time, no matter how succulent a field of dandelions might appear on the way. (Bees are reported to like dandelions a lot.) This means that they’re spreading cherry pollen only tot he other cherry blossoms, increasing the chances of pollination because it’s not diluted with some other plant’s pollen.

-Amanda

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13th May 2007

Bee packages installed

Yesterday we installed our 3 packages of bees - all went well, no one was stung.

–Justin

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13th May 2007

Pictures of the Package Installation

This is a very picture-heavy post, with more under the cut.

Our 3 packagesOur 3 Packages
These are the 3 packages of bees we had in our car’s back seat for about an hour and a half as we drove them home. The leaf in front of the center one obscures the gas receipt that is thwarting the Great Bee Escape of 2007.

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13th May 2007

Day 2

The girls are buzzing around. All 3 hives seem to be doing well. They are little piggies and are going through sugar syrup so fast that J went to the local warehouse store to get 20-25 pounds!

I woke up around 7:30 this morning, after the sun had risen but it was still pretty cool, and peeked out at them. I noticed the feeders were low or empty, and also that there were almost no bees out and about yet (the hives were still in shade). So I thought: now would be a perfect time to add more syrup to the feeders! I’d made some last night, so it was nice and cool. And so, that’s what I did; I threw on some clothes over my nightshirt, didn’t even bother with the veil (though that was probably not a great idea), and filled the feeders. Susan- the first one we installed- had a few bees on the feeder and they were buzzing around when I filled it, but both Mary and Elizabeth were sleeping in. :) So, feeding was accomplished.

And then I thought, they’re probably going to need more syrup later, so before going back to bed I made another batch with 3 pounds of sugar- which pretty much used up the sugar we had- so it could cool for a later feeding.

By the time I got up for good, J had filled the feeders again (I didn’t have enough syrup to fill all 3), and they were busy plowing through it.

Susan is now tapering off a bit on the syrup consumption. I don’t know whether it’s because her girls are starting to forage- they had an extra hour to explore the area yesterday- or because she had fewer bees to begin with (there were about twice as many dead ones in her package as were in the other 2). Still, she’s going strong based on external indicators.

Elizabeth is at something of a disadvantage. First off, her hive is closer to the house, so doesn’t get sun nearly as early as the other 2 do. Secondly, her queen might be a bit less solid; during the installation there were far fewer bees on the outside of her cage than were on Mary’s and Susan’s, indicating less or weaker “queen essence”. That’s only 1 factor in a good queen, though, so it may well be fine- the hive location is more of a problem. Although the closer-to-the-house location might be a benefit come winter; she’ll be more sheltered. Hmm. I hope she’s not right under the roof edge; that could be a problem if a lot of rain and snow got dumped on her…

-Amanda

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12th May 2007

Bees: Summation

Now what we have to do is NOT MESS WITH THEM for 3 days. (OK- we need to refill the feeders when they need it!) At that point we can open the hives enough to check the queen cage; she should have been released. We also will put another frame in, to bring it up to 10 for correct spacing. And then we refrain from any additional investigation and close it up, and wait another 4-7 days before doing anything else.

Then we can pull some frames and see if we have eggs and/or larvae, or at least a queen. That’s the first real test…

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12th May 2007

Bees! The Installation

Dan- our beekeeping teacher/mentor- says that package installation is one of the very most fun aspects of beekeeping. After doing 3 of them, I think he’s right.

We installed the first package right after getting home. J did most of it- but I was pretty pleased with the amount of hands-on, glove-free (I really hate gloves in general) involvement I had, considering that my normal response to any bug on me is KILL!!!!1!!! And yet- I controlled that, and had bees on me, and coped. And was even helpful. :)

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12th May 2007

Now that was a strange feeling

Now that the sun has set, the bees are quiet in their hives, and it seemed like a good time to top up the syrup supply for hive “Elizabeth”. Looking out the bathroom window I could see that there were no bees flying in and out or hovering about the entrance to the hive, so I didn’t bother with the bee veil.

I removed the feeder from the hive, and there were a few bees on the feeder, but not much activity. Filled the reservoir, and re-installed the feeder. So far, all is going very well.

So, I decided to check on the middle hive, “Susan”, because there hadn’t been much syrup consumed and I wanted to be sure it was flowing properly. Well, many more bees emerged this time, some buzzing my head, but on the whole I was keeping my cool.

Until a bee flew up my nose.

I had never had that experience before, the bee was still buzzing inside my nose. Should I try to crush it before I was stung in the nose? Instead, I closed other nostril and blew the bee out - thank the gods it worked!

From now on, I think I will wear the bee veil.

–Justin

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12th May 2007

Bees: Quick Update

All 3 packages are now installed, and from what we can tell, the bees are happy. More stuff about the installation process later- right now I have to get dinner started and the pate fermente (sp?) going for tomorrow’s French bread.

-Amanda

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12th May 2007

Bees: The Trip Home

We are now officially beekeepers!

We drove out to western MA early this afternoon and got our 3 packages of bees- plus a couple of other useful things like pollen substitute (gives them a quick start) and feeders in which to put sugar syrup.

And then we drove back home, with a back seat full of venomous stinging bugs.

Now, while most of the bees in a package are IN a package, there are always a few stragglers that are not. These, fortunately, decided that the rear window of the car was a delightful place in which to buzz, hang out, and explore. This meant that they were not buzzing me or J, who was driving, and that is a good thing. They were very happy there, it seems; at least one of them was wandering around doing the “come hither” pheromone release, which baffled me. If there is anything less like a beehive than the rear window of a Saturn, I have no idea what it would be. J said that they were impressed with the wall-to-wall carpet and skylight.

However, at one point J looked in the rear-view mirror and commented that there were a lot MORE bees there than there had been. So I craned around and looked… and saw evidence of the Great Bee Escape of 2007. To wit: bees were crawling out of one of the packages where a board had warped.

Now, packages for bees are not, shall we say, fine carpentry. They are pretty ad hoc. And they mostly keep the bees in most of the time, apparently.

Note to future beekeepers: I have never seen advice that tells one to check the packages for leakage before putting them in one’s car. I am now so advising.

Anyway, we were on the Mass Pike at this point, where there is a no stopping EVAR rule. I am not sure that a bee escape would suffice as an excuse- but we ran into a traffic jam right about then, so I twisted around and managed to wedge a folded gas receipt into the crack and jam it in more with one of my grocery store discount cards. Thank goodness I do not clean the car regularly!

So! Bee Escape thwarted! And just in time, because there were 3 separate bee heads sticking out ready to make their moves when I did this.

We stopped at the next rest stop, considerately parked in the middle of the lot with no adjacent cars, and examined the packages. There was one more with a potential escape route, and a bee trying valiantly to squeeze her body through it. We used another folded receipt to push her back in and close that gap too.

Over the rest of the trip the number of bees in the window diminished. I did see several head out of the open windows, and wish them well- although a lone bee is not a happy thing.

Next: The Installation

-Amanda

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5th May 2007

More Bee Stuff

Justin- cosmicirony- has posted about Dan’s experience with a bear on his hives.

-Amanda

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