Sunday, May 9, 2010


           The bees are here!!   My second year as a bonifide beekeeper ( maybe last year shouldn't count since my mentors did all the heavy work for me!).  I was able to add one more hive this year,  my original intention was to add 2 hives but sadly, my bees didn't survive the winter.  It is very hard to keep bees in a hive alive through a Minnesota winter, esp like the one we had this past winter.  I wasn't even able to get to my hives until the end of February, and even then the usual 5 minute walk took me like 20 minutes because every step was a struggle, I was hip deep in snow, and so I had to pull each leg out entirely to make the next step, it was truly exhausting!  A great work out though...  I thought I was going to have to give up before I even got to the hives though, I was just whipped!  And quite disappointed to open that first hive and find a whole mess of dead bees in there.  Then finding the same thing in the second was quite devastating.  I knew I wasn't going to give up, but it did put quite a damper on any grand hive expansion I might have had in mind.
      Happily, my mentor was with me this time for homing my bees, and so I actually have pictures to help me tell my beekeeping story.  I don't have a camera, since mine took a swim in the Atlantic on our vacation to North Carolina in April of 2008.  Hence the reason my blog isn't filled with pictures... Someday, it will be but right now a new camera just isn't the priority.
    So, I have 3 2 lb packages of bees to place in their respective homes.   Last Monday, that is exactly what my mentor/friend and I did!
  Here is a picture story of putting bees into a hive:
   This is my beekeeping getup, I am wearing 2 pairs of pants to try and protect my legs from getting stung, my sting repellent beekeeping jacket with hat and veil attached ( we discovered wearing a baseball cap under the hat helps hold the hat and veil in place better).  Last, but not least are my trustly leather gloves,  I don't have the sleeve length ones because it is easier for me to pull these on and off.

  Now we are ready to place the bees into their home.First, we give them a good squirt with sugar water 1:1,  as you can see, I have removed 2 frames from the box that is going to be the bees' new home.

Removing the sugarwater can from the package of bees, you can see the hive tool in my left hand, this is the beekeepers "do it all tool", Anything  from removing burrcomb from the frames and top of the box, to loosening the frames from the boxes during the honey season ( bees LOVE to glue everything together with a substance called "propolis"), and there is a curved end that makes it look kind of like a crowbar for lifting items up, very handy tool.  You can also see the bees are at the bottom of the package, this is because I have already pounded the box onto the ground to drop the bees to the bottom of the package.

Shaking the bees into the box, you can see the bees tumbling into the hive.  This can be quite intimidating if you have a "hot" bunch of bees.   This is also the point where it is vitally important to make sure you have your suit completely sealed, those bees can crawl into any opening!

Most of the bees have been released into their hive, and I am going to try to shake a few more out before leaving the box in front of the hive,  waiting for the rest of the bees to leave the package.

This small cage contains the queen,  this is the most important bee in the whole package, without her,the hive will not survive.  She is packaged separately from the rest of the bees, first to prevent injury to her, and secondly to release her pheremones into the bees, so they recognize her as their queen, otherwise the potential is there for the bees to kill this queen.  We marked all the queens this year, it is much easier to find a marked queen  than not.  I helped mark some of the queens this year, but it is quite nerveracking, because the queens are so valuable, I like to leave the marking to my mentors. Our queens were marked with green this year.There they are!!!!  All happy and homey in their new hive!!  It will only take about a month for this hive to become a large hive of  60,000-100,000 bees.

For the first few weeks the bees will need to be fed, so I am placing a pollen pattie and a bag of sugar water on the hive, the frames are all put back into the hive, and I am ready to close up this hive.  If you count you can see nine frames on this box, this is called a "deep box", and it will only contain brood ( which is the young bees), and some food for the brood, the queen will continue to lay eggs in these frames until they are filled, then I will add a second box, as she fills this one to 80-90%.

That is an initial very incomplete lesson in beekeeping.  I am loving it!! This is such a fascinating hobby, and it is good for the planet~!  We are slowly but surely losing our natural pollinators, and I am just trying to do my part to be a responsible conservationist!  Hope you enjoyed the pictures~!  Thank you to my friend Harmony for taking them!

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