So the next step of my bee saga begins…Actually working with bees. Mid- April I got an email from my source that my bees would need to be picked up on May 5. When I read the email I was immediately perplexed and a bit panicky because for some reason my planner said “late May: bees arrive.” Hmmmm….would I be ready?
The fact of the matter is that you need a decent amount of stuff for your bees, and although we have Betterbee close by, it’s still 45 minutes away from me. I can’t just quickly breeze over to pick up supplies. Also, I was going all the way to Columbia County that day for Dottie and Ejay’s wedding (Farmers & Owners of R’Eisen Shine Farm). Hmmmm….how was that going to work?
First, I made a list of the final things I might need for the bees, got some containers ready for my sugar syrup for feeding, got a huge tote and filled it with everything, finished putting together my hive frames, and contacted the seller of my nucs (via Wikipedia: Nucleus Colonies: are small honey bee colonies created from larger colonies. The term refers both to the smaller size box and the colony of honeybees within it. The name is derived from the fact that a nuc hive is centered around a queen – the nucleus of the honey bee colony.) I asked if I could possibly swing by Sunday the 6th in the afternoon to get the bees instead? Uh oh, rookie mistake!
I completely forgot about the fact that the bees want to be out during the day, looking for pollen and nectar. If I came in the afternoon, a decent portion of my colony would get left behind. He said I should come early in the morning on the 5th, and they’d still be snug in their nuc box and I could install them then. Thankfully it was early enough that I wouldn’t be late for the wedding later that day.
I contacted my amazing mentor Aaren, she made sure I had what I needed, talked me through it all, and we agreed to meet at the field where my hives are as soon as I got my nucs.
The morning of the 5th I got into my truck and headed down to Round Lake to get the bees. The drive back from Round Lake to Ballston Spa was interesting because of the loud BZZZZZZZZZZ in my cab the whole time, and the fact that 5 bees managed to escape somehow, and I promptly rolled down the window for them to go free. That was a bit nervewracking.
Aaren and I got to the field and prepped the area. The trouble with hives is that you sort of have to get them just right before the bees go in, because bees orient themselves to the exact spot where their front door is, so it isn’t super easy to make adjustments later. We had to make sure the pallets they sit on were just right, and very secure.
Ever so carefully, like graceful, veiled ballerinas, we lifted one frame at a time into each hive box. Once all 10 were in we put feeder boxes on top, loaded them with sugar syrup, put the tops on and marveled that we had got them happily into their new homes.
A week later I returned to add another level of frames onto their hive. I had to check the three fresh frames (a NUC comes on 5, and my boxes hold 8 altogether) to make sure they were building cells and laying eggs. All seemed fine. The little ladies were quite confused as to what I was doing to their abode and kept “pinging” me, which is basically them just bopping you with their bodies without stinging. It’s kind of humorous actually.
I got everything put back on, made sure they still had enough syrup, and then stepped back to watch them fly in and out. They are incredible to watch. They are just so focused all the time and so busy!
When I look inside I’m not really scared, I’m just always filled with wonder. They talk with scent and motion, doing little dances for each other in the pitch darkness. As you lift their frames out they just keep on working, trying to complete the job they’ve been tasked with in their short life span.
We’re on Day 2 of a lot of rain, with more in the forecast. I worry from afar that they have enough to eat. I’m glad I gave them more hive space before the rain. I imagine them all in there, clustered around the queen trying to keep her warm, and always very busy with everything else they must get done.
More information on beginning beekeeping on the American Beekeepers Federation.