Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ladies Flock Like Bees to a Hive.

Hey Ladies, Get Funky ...(cue the Cow Bell)

Spring has sprung! Flowers are blooming, trees are getting green and bees are buzzing, especially when you dump six pounds of bees into a couple of hives. This is the 3rd year my brother has had bee hives but this is the first year I have been his right hand man since he has been in and out of town with work and I have had to get into the hives by myself.
This year since I was going have to be the primary bee care giver when Trevor was out of town We hived the bees and made up gallons of sugar water that the bees will need to feed off of when the nectar flow is slow. Hiving bees sounded easy enough I have helped my brother n the past how hard can it be? open the hive, dump a box of bees in and shut the lid! Done! uh...maybe not.
A 'Package' bees is a wooden box with 3lbs of bees, a can of bee food and a 'Queen cage' with 1 queen and 3-4 attendant bees (the queen cannot feed herself). The bees stay in the 'Package' for 2-3 days and come to recognize the queen the the cage by her pheromones this key for when you 'Hive' them because they will stay where the queen is. The package of bees usually contains bees shaken from two or more colonies, and the queen supplied with the package is bred from selected colonies to be sent in the package. So to get them ready the bees are sprayed with sugar water from a spray bottle to slow down their flying and making them easier to install. The lid of the box is then pryed off and the feeder can is removed. The 'Queen cage' is also removed and the lid is laid loosely back on the box. At this moment I was regretting my brother convincing me to not wear gloves because he has decided that he like most proficient bee keepers do not wear gloves because it dulls their sense of touch handling the bees. I being newer to it I was like 'what the hell? I'll go without gloves too'! uh...maybe I'm not ready for that because the moment the bee package was opened bees were steady flying out of it and my arms were getting shorter and shorter when Trevor needed the next nail or frame. Two small nail are then pushed into the soft wood of the Queen's Cage and a small cork is removed. Under the cork is a glob of what they call candy (or fondant) which slows the queen getting into the hive and thus keeping the bees near the hive and setting up house keeping for when the queen is released. To help a little we bore a small hole with drill bit in the candy to assist the attendant bees. The Cage is then placed suspended by the nails (candy down so if an attendant bee dies it does not block the queen getting out) between 2 frames and the bees are ready to hive. The box is sprayed one more time and with a quick bang on the table the bees fall to the bottom of the package and they are dumped into the open part of the hive(see top Picture). Believe it or not but this makes the bees a little testy and you'd be surprised how many bees make up 3 pounds. the bees are dive bombing my veil and I am doing a quick inventory of my boots, suit and veil to make sure I am protected because it seems like they are everywhere and I am not above running away and screaming like a girl if an angry bee somehow managed to get in my suit or veil. The finish the job a half gallon jar of sugar water is placed upside down on the frames, a small vent frame is put into place and the lid is put on on the hive. We repeat this for the other hive but with much more ease since we had practice with the first hive and we can now go have a beer and watch the bees from a safe distance as they make themselves at home. I checked the hives Monday and Wednesday to keep track of how much sugar water they had been consuming and Easter Sunday, with Trevor home, we smoked the bees and opened the hives to make sure the Queen were in the hive and that she was laying eggs. I had witnessed that both Queen's Cages were empty on my Wednesday inspection and we did find one of the queens and that both Queens were indeed laying eggs and hive had been busy making comb that we had to pry off to get into the frames. Bees are pretty cool and not something to be afraid of, they don't want to bother me any more then I want to get stung...but it is a good idea to wear the right protective equipment and Bee careful when doing full inspections of the hive and removing frames. See what I did There? BEE CAREFUL...get it? HAHAHAHA...uh...forget I said that!


  1. This is pretty cool Milhouse. I've always been interested in bee keeping ever since I was a kid in Boy Scouts and the Postmaster in my hometown came to a meeting to talk to us about his bees. Now that I'm older and into homebrewing, I'm thinking how cool it would be to have a bee hive to get honey to make meads. Is that the ultimate goal of your brother's bee colony?


  2. I'm not a huge fan of Mead. I'll probably make a braggot or two it's closer to beer. Mead's take a lot of honey we will have little to small yields for the next two year. If you ever want come down and help with the hives when we are doing inspections drop me an e-mail.


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