Rainy Day

I had completely forgotten to check what the weather would be like this week, and so this morning when I awoke to rain my thoughts went immediately to my bees and I became so worried. The funny thing is of course they know how to handle the elements, they have always been a part of nature rather than under the care of people alone.

I couldn’t help but go out to see the hive a few times today – just to check on them, ya know – before I left for work, again at lunch, and then a couple more times in the evening. All is well! Actually, this morning I was surprised to see a few casualties on the landing platform, but I remembered reading about how they push any dead bodies out of the hive to keep their space tidy – I actually got to see one being pushed! Even though it was raining, there were occasionally a few flying around. There were a few going out for a drink and I even saw one return with pollen baskets (brave soul!).

Didn’t look like they touched my simple syrup much that I made for them. My bee mentor mentioned to me today that they really didn’t need it as they are already probably gathering nectar and pollen of their own, which seems to be the case. He also mentioned that I was right in keeping those stuck frames together. I would have caused a lot of damage if I had tried to get them apart, so I’m glad I didn’t do that! Tomorrow looks like a nice day, hopefully I’ll get in some more good observations.

Got my bees!

What a day. Started off bright and early in the morning taking a trip out to White Lake to get my bees from Don Schram, the nicest and most patient nuc supplier. I must have called him a dozen times with questions over the last several weeks with a few calls being from today as we somehow left our iPhone at home  and got half way there before realizing we didn’t have iPhone driving directions. That was undoubtedly the most stressful part of the day since we got turned around a little bit on the way there. Finally, we made it there. Don answered several more of our questions, and then we left with our cardboard nuc box including 5 frames, 4 of which already had very strong brood patterns, of 3lbs of bees.

At the beginning of the drive home one of them got out of the box even though we had duct tape holding the lid shut and their entrance was closed. It went straight to the back of our car for the rear window. We had all the side windows rolled down and the moon roof cracked to allow any escapees to fly out; however, at one point we had to pull over and put on our gear because it seemed that too many were getting out – maybe 8 or 9, but it was hard to tell if they were all the same ones because we knew some were flying out the windows yet there always seemed to be the same number inside the car. With the drive home being about an hour, it was good to take precautions; however, I didn’t ever feel threatened by the ones that got out of the nuc.

Once home, we took the nuc out to the backyard and placed it next to the hive, leaving the car doors open and windows rolled down to let the rogue bees find their way out. We didn’t have a lot of time before Andrew had to go to a photo shoot, so we decided to save moving the frames over to the hive until he got back later in the evening (teamwork!), but I opened the entrance of nuc to let orientation flights to start taking place. And wow, once I opened that door so many started pouring out and circling the nuc. I knew they would do this, but it was fascinating to see them in action and a bit intimidating I must add!

After that, we left the bees alone for a while. Andrew went to work, and I just kept an eye on things from inside the house. They calmed down after a couple hours. There was only steady traffic coming in and out of the nuc at that point. AMAZING how fast they seemed to adapt to their new surroundings.

Around 4pm, Andrew got home and we began to move the frames over. Using my hive tool, I had to pry a couple of the frames apart in order to move them individually. Starting with the outside ones first, I worked to keep them in the same order they came in – this is a VERY important step of which I don’t totally know the reason for, but it seems logical. When it came to the middle frame, it was completely stuck to another frame. I really wasn’t sure what to do in this predicament because the middle frame contained the most bees and probably the queen. I figured that if I tried to cut all the comb that was built and connected between the two frames, I could easily and unknowingly kill the queen, not to mention create a riot with all the bees since those were the busiest frames of the whole nuc! Rather than doing anything like that, I just picked up the two frames together and transferred them very carefully into the hive. Not sure if that was the best way to handle or if I’ll have to un-stick them at a later point….

The hive installation was a great success! AND I even made it in time to 5:15 yoga with Amanda at Serendipity Yoga. By far the best day of my week, and such a great way to go into the new work week. I’m going to try to resist the urge to check on the bees until next weekend. I’ll of course keep tabs on the simple syrup I made for them and the water dish I put out for them (who knows if they’ll use it though, I hear they prefer odorific water to the clean variety), but I plan to just kind of let them do their thing and see how they get acclimated to their new home.

Overall, the whole process almost seemed too easy. The biggest trouble I am having out the whole thing is locating my DV cable for my camcorder – I can’t wait to share the footage we shot of the day with everyone! Video (hopefully) coming tomorrow!!

Tomorrow is Bee-day!!

This is it! The night before I bring home my little ones. Time to go through the checklist.

– EpiPen training – check!

– Special clothing laid out – check!

– Simple syrup made – check!

– Hive set-up and facing southeast – eh, I’ll do that tomorrow….

– 5 frames removed to make room for the nuc frames – check!

– Water source ready – check!

– Hat & veil, and gloves packed for the road trip – check!

– Smoker and fuel all set – check!

– Video camera charged! – check!

Well, guess I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. Here goes it.

Honey Bee Hive

Here’s the completed hive! Hopefully the flowers I  painted on the supers won’t confuse the honey bees – not that the flowers are so realistic looking, but only because I heard they like geometric shapes and bright colors. I wanted to take the opportunity to make each box different AND I wanted to use lots of color because…well, why not? It was a lot of fun to personalize it!

Bee pick-up day is probably now going to be on Saturday. There are a few showers in the forecast which will help keep the bees calm for transporting; however, I know you’re not supposed to open a hive or nuc if the weather is at all chilly or windy, and especially rainy, which might make putting them in their new hive a little challenging. So far Sunday looks promising to move the frames from the nuc to the hive even if it’s the day after I get them home.

Dec’ the Hive

This is just one picture of how my hive is coming along. I actually finished decorating it this weekend but the photographer wants to capture it as a whole under special lighting circumstances tomorrow morning;) I used my acrylic Liquitex paints. The colors will dull over time with exposure to UV rays, but I think that’s ok. I had looked into matte medium varnish to protect from UV but it’s probably better the less chemically types of things I put on the hive. One more picture to come hopefully tomorrow so you can see what it looks like before I put my bees into it.

Besides decorating the hive, I’m doing some last minute preparations this week. Went out and bought a mason jar today for my boardman feeder. This is a hive entrance feeder that I will put my simple syrup in to feed the bees and help get them acclimated into their new home. It’s a 1:1 ratio of water and sugar (just plain sugar). I wasn’t really sure where to buy a mason jar from, searching online Kmart kept popping up. I don’t usually shop there but they had a whole pack of them in the regular quart size for $10. I just needed one, but these are the kind of thing that won’t go to waste.

Maybe I’ll try canning this year. I’m hoping to do some tomatoes, but we haven’t planted any yet and we have some other priorities. So far we have planted arugala, kale, beets, 3 blueberry plants (one is from last year, we learned you need more than one to be able to produce anything), some sunflowers, and 2 bloomerang lilac bushes. It’s a pretty good start, but we’re aiming to do what’s called a 3 Sisters Garden too. That’s basically corn, squash, and beans. The beans climb up the corn stalks and put in nitrogen or nitrites (I forget which) to the soil that the other plants take out, and squash grows really sprawly with the leaves catching the sunlight that otherwise would block other plants from growing in the shadow of the corn stalks, so it ends up being a really good combination of plants. The squash seeds that we are getting from Seedsavers is a type of pumpkin, so if all goes well maybe we will have our very own home-grown jack-o-lanterns this year. I love urban farming!

Speaking of urban farming there’s a truly wonderful film called Urban Roots that was playing at the DIA last week. If you missed it I think you can go to the site and purchase the DVD. Maybe it will come out on netflix; I don’t know, but it’s worth seeing! It was very inspiring to me and just makes me want to get more involved in the Detroit community with their urban farms. They touch on beekeeping in Detroit a little bit as well as people who keep goats and chickens. Here’s the site for more info if you’re interested – http://www.urbanrootsamerica.com/urbanrootsamerica.com/Home.html

Honey Bee Delay

Somehow there was a misprint in the flyer for my nuc pick-up date, so sadly I will not be getting my bees until next week:( On the bright side, this gives me more time to decorate my hive the way I want it and to read those chapters in my Backyard Beekeeper book that I haven’t gotten to yet! Also, I need to think a bit more about how we transport the bees next week. I’m a little nervous about the possibility of a few stray bees in the car. It’s about an hour-long trip I’ll be making with them. I’ll potentially need to wear my protective gear for the drive. Another factor is I have never been stung before. Because of that I requested a prescription from my doctor for an epi pen (just in case), so I’ll be bringing that along for the ride. Here’s some instructions that my nuc supplier gave me:

At the pick up location, please take the box or boxes with your name on the lid.  You are welcome to inspect the frames before you take them.  If you encounter any problems, let me know as soon as possible.  We want you to be satisfied with your purchase.  Please know that the bees may be agitated from the long ride, and it’s advisable to wear protective clothing for frame inspection and installation.  We also suggest bringing a bee veil for your car ride, as accidents can and do happen.
The ideal way to transport nucs is in the bed of a pickup truck.  This provides adequate air flow and cooling that the bees need.  Every year, a number of people transport their bees in passenger cars without problems.  In general, if you treat them as you would a small dog in a pet carrier, you should be fine.  It is not advisable to put them into a car trunk, nor leave them in a hot car while you eat or do shopping.  Do NOT place them in a plastic bag for transport.  If any bees do escape from their cardboard nuc box during transport, DON’T PANIC.  Honey bees will fly toward the windows and will try to get out.  Simply unrolling the windows and letting her out will solve most bee-in-car problems.
When you arrive at your location, take your nuc of bees out to where you will be placing your full sized hive.  Do not leave them in your car overnight.  Installation is simple.  Take the five frames out of the nuc box, and keeping them in the same order, place them in the center of your 10 frame box.  Add two extra frames on one side of them, and three extra frames on the other.  Replace your lids and feed.
Your bees will do better after the stress of traveling if you feed them a light 1:1 sugar syrup.
If you can’t hive your bees immediately, it’s advisable to place the nuc box where their permanent home will be and open the little door on the cardboard nuc box.  This will allow free flight and orientation flights to begin.  Your bees can remain in their nuc box for several days, however, it is possible that swarming may occur due to the strength of the nuc.  Again, do not leave them in your car overnight.  Please use common sense.  Hive them as soon as possible.  They ARE perishable livestock.

I love the advice about not panicking if a few bees go rogue in the car…whew, I’ll sure try! And you know the last two lines of this was spelled out because someone had actually left the bees in their vehicle and complained about the result. I am definitely planning on getting the bees into their forever home as soon as I get home with them. We’re planning on videotaping this once-in-a-lifetime event. The experience should be interesting so stay-tuned!

Painted Pink

I’m not really one to enjoy pink, actually I tend to avoid the color, but somehow it just felt right for the home of my 10,000 girls. I used Behr Premium Plus Ultra paint. It has the low VOC that I was looking for so I don’t harm the bees. A gallon of paint was more than I needed, so if anyone needs some baby-girl pink exterior/interior paint, let me know! This weekend I will put some decorative touches on the hive to give it more personality.