Monday, May 11, 2015

New Packages!

8:15 on the dot this morning, I rang up the post office to find out if my two packages from Wolf Creek Apiaries had arrived. As soon as I'd introduced myself, the clerk on the other end of the line laughed, "You're the one with the bees. I was just picking up the phone to call you! Your package is here!"

"Great! Has it gone out with the mail carrier already, or can I pick it up?" I inquired.

"Oh no, it's here! You can pick it up any time. You can pick it up now."

He seemed just as desirous to have me pick up my bees as I was to do so, so my girl and I rushed over to the P.O. As we awaited our turn, my daughter impatiently asked, "Mom, are we ever going to get our bees?"

Immediately, the desk clerk, who was helping someone else, exclaimed, "You're the bee person? Linda [my carrier] is going to be soooooo happy to find out you're here!"

When it was our turn, the clerk rolled a cart with my packages out to the area behind the counter. They were wrapped in window screen mesh on top of the package mesh. "They are really making a lot of noise. You're going to have to come back here and get them. I'm just not picking them up!!!"

It's funny how a few seasons of beekeeing can change a person's perspective. My first year, I might have been a bit intimidated by a "box of maniacs" to quote Sylvia Plath. However, now that I have a bit of experience under my belt, I can tell angry buzzing apart from happy buzzing, and they sounded pretty mellow to me. Anyway, I thanked her and drove my babies home to await the late afternoon so I could hive them.

The USPS deserves major kudos because even if the bees got here later than promised, they arrived in excellent shape. There were extremely few dead bees lying at the bottom. However, I'm still glad that the packages arrived today because I'm not sure they would've made it in those tiny boxes another day. Christy Hemenway says packages can survive in the box for 10 days, but mine were nearly out of syrup.

Installing the first package was textbook perfect, which was nice since I had a couple of junior beeks helping me out. Because the packages had been with their queens for 5 days already and had obviously accepted them, I decided to direct release. We put a couple bars of empty comb in each hive and put the cage entrance right between the edge of a comb and the side wall so that she could walk right out and hide immediately. Direct releasing is a bit like playing with fire, but I'm pretty sure that between all the comb and the late-in-the-day install, the packages will decide to stay put.

Another generation playing with bees

I waited an hour before installing package #2. During that time, my helpers absconded, so I was on my own. The can was really hard to pry out, and I ended up pulling the strap that held up the queen cage out of the package. Urgh. Once I finally got the can out, I couldn't even find the queen cage because the bees had already begun building comb and storing syrup. I tried sticking my hand in, but came up empty. Finally, I ended up dumping the bees gently into the hive and fishing the queen cage out of the ensuing mass.

Queen cage strap came out. Doh!

There were three tiny combs that I mashed onto some bars. Another good-sized comb was too heavy with syrup to mash, so I used one of the emergency bars that I always keep on hand. It's just a piece of hardware fabric bent into boxy C and stapled onto a flat bar. I just shoved the comb right onto it. All the bees were busy fanning and making orientation flights when I left them today.

Comb with syrup

When I talked to Ruth Seaborn back in January, she repeated several times, "Our bees are real gentle. They're good girls." She was certainly right about that. The bees I got from Sam and from White Oak Apiary were not mean, but they're not super docile either. They're usually simply spicy. Sometimes, they're naughty. Sometimes, they're downright b*tches. Ruth's bees, though, are truly mellow yellow.

An emergency bar

They really do hold very well, and they're easy to use when you don't have any extra help.

Even better than not getting stung is that I think I got through it all without killing any bees. I almost never use gloves because I like to be able to feel what's going on. Even so, sometimes I accidentally drop a bar on one of the girls during an inspection and the resulting crunch is a real bummer. It just makes me feel terrible. No crunching, today, though. Hooray!

So I'm going to feed behind the follower board, but otherwise, I won't open up the hives again until Saturday or Sunday at the earliest. Fingers crossed that they stay put.


  1. I'm so glad your packages arrived safely with very few dead bees on the bottom! Love your helpers and their bee suites - my wife said "they're such cute little munchkins!" Dropping the queen cage into the package is one of my fears, but now I know what to do. They must have been traveling a while to build up that much comb. Mine had one little comb this year and I used it to rub on the new top bars. I'll have to make a bar like you have for those emergencies. I've used the hair clip method, but the hardware cloth seems easier for a quick fix.

    I've never been brave enough to do the direct release method like Michael Bush suggests, but maybe I'll give that a try if I have to do a package in the future. I think they'll stay put (unlike your absconding helpers) - they have some comb and old hives so they should feel right at home. Looking forward to hearing about their growth over the season.

    1. Thanks! I think I have cute little munchkins, too (most of the time, anyway), even if they do have a habit of absconding when there's work to do.

      This is the 2nd time I've dropped the queen cage (happened last year, too). I would have preferred being able to fish the cage out of the box because I worry that I'll hurt the queen by jostling her around. I just had trouble finding it, though, with all the comb and pile of bees over it. It worked out ok last year, though, and I'm hoping all will be well this time around, too.

      Will let you know how the direct release goes, but so far so good. At least all the bees are still there tonight! lol!

  2. Hi Julie, congratulations on your new lodgers. Best of luck with getting them settled and I hope they can afford to pay you some rent this year.


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