Thursday, April 12, 2012
My morning with the bees
They are here, finally. After two years of having my beekeeping supplies and hive, they are here. The first year I didn't realize that you really needed to order bees before Christmas for the next spring season. So, I was a bit late getting started, considering it was almost May. I breathed a silent sigh of relief. "Bees, am I crazy?" Last year I knew we were going to be selling our house and building, so I really didn't want to start another hobby. But, I was able to attend last month's beekeeping meeting and made some connections. There was a lady who had lost her hive to starvation and had found an apiary who still had bee packages in late March. Apparently, that was rare. Packages include the queen and a couple thousand other bees. I ran home after the meeting and looked up their website. Next morning, I called first thing and by the end of our 45 minute conversation, I had ordered 4 lbs. of Italian honeybees. I knew it was now or never. Bring on the bees.
Last weekend, I pulled out all of my supplies at the house and realized I was missing a key box of supplies. Basically, everything. Crap. I couldn't remember if it was in my mother's attic, my mother in law's attic, or one of three storage units. (The worst part of this move is not knowing where anything is!) I finally located it on Tuesday in a storage unit and had the boys help me put the frames in the supers. The apiary called on Tuesday night and told me to expect them on Friday. But, I had a feeling I needed to be ready. Like nesting for a new baby, I gathered my cinder blocks, bought 4 lbs. of sugar to make their syrup and positioned the hive just right. (Facing south-east with a view of the sunset, wind break of trees behind, lightly bathed in dappled light). This morning, I got the call to pick them up. I was so excited and Milo asked if he would be able to help in the clothes he was wearing. Yesterday I gave them a speel about wearing the right protective clothing and not wear dark colors and he wanted to help today! Their little beekeeper suits are coming soon, I promised them. I picked the bees up at the post office and the clerks were very nice about having them there. I drove them home slowly and placed them by their hive while I made the sugar syrup. Making the syrup wasn't difficult, but pouring into the entrance feeder made a huge mess. I could see it now, a swarm of bees infiltrate a house because of spilled sugar water. After I cleaned that up, I went outside to light the smoker. I have enough common sense to go outside at least. I didn't have any trouble lighting it the first time, but why won't it stay lit now? So, as I am trying to get the smoker lit, another dog comes over to bother Lucy. They end up in a tussle and I'm right in the middle of it and get a little bite on the leg. This is really going well. I make the trek out to the bees while scanning for copperheads. A friend had recommended "Beekeeping for Dummies", a helpful book, but stated that gloves are pretty much optional for installing a hive. I gathered my hive tool and started prying off the top. That first staple pulled out and I stopped what I was doing and put on my gloves. I'm glad I did. They say bees are nice and calm in the spring. I'm afraid to see them in the fall and winter. They were pissed. I sprayed them down the sugar water and smoked them. They were no longer calm as Hindu cows. As I was shaking them in to their new home, I realized that Lucy was getting stung. I stopped what I was doing and ran her back into the house. The whole time I'm thinking I need to get that epi-pen. (My doctor won't prescribe one over the phone and since I haven't seen her two years I need to come in on Monday.) She's o.k., so I went back out to finish up. I gingerly put the inner cover on and the top. There were still a lot of bees left in the mailing package, but hopefully they will find their way into the hive. I was stung once on the top of my head. I didn't feel it at the time. So, they are here. I'm very excited, but still a little nervous on this adventure!