Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Introducing a New Bee Colony, Part 2
Just in case you're wonderin', this is the second half of the story. For the first half of this post, you'll have to go here because my typing skills ain't what they used to be.☺(And if you are introducing a new package of bees to your hives, Part 1 is a step you don't want to leave out!)
Once you've recovered from day 1 of installing your packaged bees, it's time for day 2. But first, remember to put all of your bee gear on before heading to the hive.
Even if it's a sunny day and you just really, really, really wanted to wear your blue tie-dyed skirt.
A little known fact: Bees can fly faster than a human can run. Especially if that human is wearing a skirt. Just so ya know.
Very carefully, open the hive. Use the 1:1 sugar water spray to calm the bees. (A smoker can be used instead of the sugar syrup, it just takes a little longer.) It's a good idea to work with the bees on a nice day because they'll be out and about. Just remember to never work with them when its hot outside. Bees get cranky when it's too hot. In our (limited) experience, it's best to work with the hives between 10 a.m. and noon.
Carefully remove the queen cage. When we picked up our package bees, there was a small marshmallow attached to the outside of the box. If you are installing packaged bees and do not have one, bring one with you to the hive.
It's important to inspect the action between the queen and the worker bees. If the worker bees seem aggressive toward the queen, they could kill her. It's best to wait another day before proceeding if this is the case.
Gently sweep off the bees that will be covering the queen's cage. The bees instinctively know to surround their queen, so there will be a few. Remove the cork from the queen's cage and stuff the marshmallow into the hole. Be sure to keep the hole covered with your thumb so she can't fly away. Don't worry about being stung; queen bees only use their stingers to fight off rival queens.
To be sure, don't make eye contact, bow humbly, and use the term "Your highness" while stuffing the marshmallow in the hole. That should keep her from seeing you as a rival queen.☺
Tack the queen's cage back into the hive. The bees will eat through the marshmallow to release their queen. My own theory is that the queen will be so grateful to be out of her cage that she will want to stay in her kingdom forever and they will all live happily ever after.
I prefer the fairy tale version over the horror story any day.
Remove the box that the bees arrived in. Add 4 or 5 empty frames to the hive. Shake out any bees that might still be in the package. For stubborn bees, just lay the box in front of the hive entrance and the stragglers will walk in on their own. Replace the hive cover immediately.
Open the hive. Remove the empty queen cage and replace the last frames in the hive. You should notice the bees clustered together, this is a good indicator that the queen is in the middle of them and all is well. Refill your feeder with the 2:1 sugar water and replace your cover.
Wait one week before checking for any drawn comb and eggs. This will show that the queen has been bred and she's doing her job. Remember to check the feeder and refill as needed.
Now it's time to let the bees do their jobs. We usually check our bees weekly during the spring. Sometimes just a quick walk past the hive and seeing the activity around it is enough. Other times we check the feeder and remove any dead bees from the opening.
This post is only meant to encourage you in your own beekeeping journey. We are by no means "experts" in beekeeping and have made a lot of mistakes along the way. If you can, take a beginning beekeeping class, and read everything you can get your hands on. Our favorite book is "The Backyard Beekeeper." But the best advice I can give you is to find someone in your own area who keeps bees. They know things. Good things. Important things. And they are more than willing to pass that knowledge along.☺