The bees have arrived!! We’ve been waiting for a year for them!
We picked up two 3-pound packages of bees on April 25th! One package of Carniolans and one Saskatraz. A 3-pound package of bees has approximately 10,000 bees in it, so we had about 20,000 bees to transport home! We put them in the backseat of the truck and covered them with garden row cover, and it was so cool hearing them buzz on the drive home.
Package installation is a fun process! We read a lot of articles and watched several videos on the process. We felt as prepared as we could be! There’s really no way to be totally prepared until you actually open up the packages and do it. The queens come in their own little box inside the package, and you have to take out a cork (and make sure she doesn’t get out!) and replace it with “bee candy” so the bees slowly eat the candy and release her over their first several days inside the hive.
Then you spray the packages with sugar water to sort of weigh the bees down a bit, then you literally dump them into the hive! They kind of roll out like a ball. Of course quite a few take flight and everyone is a bit confused, and there’s a handful of casualties as they crash into each other, but overall it was pretty successful.
The Carniolans (which we have named that hive the Clutch hive) were a bit more excitable than the Saskys (now the Stellar hive), and there were A LOT of bees flying around when we went to install them. I had to actually take a step out of the madness for a minute because having that many bees around your head is a little intimidating. We had our veils on, but still.
After we got everyone installed and the hives put back together we cracked a beer and sat in the garden and watched them. And the burning question – no stings 🙂
So beekeeping is an interesting thing. There are a lot of different philosophies and opinions about how you should do things. We are more on the hands-off side of the spectrum, and try to keep the same philosophy with their care as we do our other animals, and ourselves for that matter – let them do their thing, don’t interfere with treatments/chemicals/medications if at all possible, and give them a safe place to live. We trust that the bees know what they’re doing.
For example, we were told on the 3rd day after installation to open up the hives and make sure the queen had been released, and if not, to release her ourselves. Well, on the 3rd day it really just felt too soon, I mean, they just got here. So we made the decision to wait another day. That day I get an email from the local beekeeping association saying that at least 2 people had lost their new packages because they checked on the queens on day 3, she wasn’t out so they released her, and the bees immediately absconded (left). Gone. Flew away. And ya know, maybe if she’s not out yet just leave her in there longer (which we were thinking we would do all along).
So on day 4 we checked on them, both queens were out, and they were working away! Truly amazing how much comb they had built in 4 days. We spotted the Stellar queen, but not the Clutch queen, but figured she must be in there because they’re working and happy. We didn’t mess with them long, just a quick check and put their hives back together.
The next big thing that EVERYONE has an opinion on is mites. We were given an acid treatment to give them 7 days after installation for mites. I have read so much about mites it just makes me sideways. Yes, varroa mites are destructive little things. Yes, mite control is important. But, an acid treatment never sat right with us. Just a week after getting them we’re going to dribble them with acid? (Yes, everything says it’s perfectly safe for the bees… but still).
So I read and read and read and read some more, and we decided to try a sugar roll test, which I’ll admit did not go well and we hated it. And apologized profusely to those poor bees. I’m not gonna go into details, but they survived and weren’t too beat up (and I got a cute picture out of it), but we decided to never do that again. Instead, after more reading, we decided to sugar dust the entire hives on day 8 after installation. There are two theories to sugar dusting – one is the mites lose their footing and fall off the bees, and two is the powdered sugar encourages the bees to groom more, so they get the mites off. Our hives have screened bottom boards and the mites are small enough to fall through to sticky boards that we placed underneath the hives. The sticky catches the mites and we count them about 24 hours after dusting. This is nice because we don’t have to open the hives again
After dusting, we got 9 mites out of Stellar Hive and 0 from Clutch Hive.
We took the opportunity to take pictures of both hives activity before we sugared them. We were so amazed by how much they’ve built in a week! Busy as a bee is not just a figure of speech.
We are going to open up the hives again this next weekend and sugar them again just to be sure of mite numbers and to see their progress so far. Unless we have a crazy mite number, we probably won’t bother them after this for at least a month. We love sitting in the garden in the afternoons when they’re busiest – simply watching them do bee stuff.
Beekeeping is so fun and so interesting!