A Beautiful Weekend to Install Some Bees

By Andrew Potter

With the dandelions taking over yards, and all the trees in bloom with little white and pink blossoms, spring is finally here in Michigan and the bees know it. Just last weekend walking by a Cherry Snow Fountain tree, I’m pretty sure every beehive within the radius was visiting this tree. Something delicious must be in those flowers!

Along with Michigan’s springtime comes new deliveries of packaged bees. I got my new bees from Keith Lazar yesterday. These bees are Italians from the Gardner’s Apiary in Georgia. Andrew took some photos of the installation process. This was the second time I have installed bees from a package. Luckily, I remembered this time to remove the cork on the queen cage from the “candy end” rather than inadvertently releasing the queen via the other cork end! The queen was a beautiful golden color, and she was caged with three attendants. Her pheromones continued to draw a cluster of bees as I worked on her cork and pinned her cage to one of the middle frames of the hive. I’ll check on her mid-next week to ensure she has been released into the hive successfully.

Everything went smoothly with the installation process, the new bees in their new home – I might add that they should be quite happy since I gave them full frames of capped honey and already-built comb from my deadouts (less work for them to do)! However, it wasn’t until much later in the day, just out in my backyard putting the chickens away, that I got stung in the face by a rogue bee. No warning at all! Now my cheek is swollen up to the size of a tennis ball. I wonder which hive that bee was from – the friendly Italians who were probably a bit testy from their long and stressful journey, or my over-wintered colony that seems to be getting more and more aggressive (another sign of the varroa mites problem). Today I will treat my overwintered colony with Apiguard to start getting these mites under control!

Despite the facial sting, it truly is a beautiful weekend to be spending time outside with bees and BBQing with friends. I hope everyone has a chance to enjoy this weather!

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!!