Have you ever been a passenger in a car with thousands of buzzing bees in a box in the backseat? I was the other day, when I went to observe my friend install two packages into his hives. We are amateur beekeepers, or I’m about to be as soon as my two nucleus colonies arrive on May 15, so the more observing we can do the better beekeepers we are bound to be. We went to adult education “bee school” this past winter, but that was just the tip of the honeycomb….being a responsible beekeeper means continuously reading bee journals, books, blogs, talking to more experienced beekeepers or mentors and observing hives. If you are interested in becoming a beekeeper, search online for information on your state’s beekeeper association. The one in Maine is a great resource for classes, equipment, news…
Reasons to become an amateur beekeeper – aside from the obvious honey supply, hives can pollinate your garden (= GROW!), they are an amazingly developed animal you can observe for hours on end right in your backyard (forget TV, these gals will be so much more interesting to watch), you’ll meet other badass beekeepers (I am meeting someone in my tiny town for coffee in a couple weeks, who I found through bee connections), you can help save the bees (they are in decline due to pests, commercial agriculture…) and there’s the nostalgia. When I was a child I walked away from a picnic into a bumble bee nest in the family’s backyard (it was a big backyard). Forget the image you just cooked up from some horror movie a la Alfred Hitchcock. This was far more subdued. I raised a stir and was stung a few times on my neck. My father and the family hosting the picnic calmed me down (I was actually more surprised than upset), put something soothing on the stings and gave me ice cream. Because of how the situation was treated, that I was not stung more and ended up with a nice amount of ice cream this became a positive memory for me and thus bees have always been associated in my mind with part of the being outdoors positive experience. Sure I’ve been stung and it’s annoying – first it hurts then it itches, but hey I didn’t die and the bee did so make of it what you will.
Okay, Package Installation:
*To watch a pro check out Erin Forbes of Overland Honey install packages in this super fun video.
1. Sugar! We humans picked up DELICIOUS chocolate-chip cookies from Aurora Provisions (hey, I cut back on sweets I did not completely eliminate them and here’s the reality – you put a chocolate chip cookie with sea salt within arm’s reach of me and the chances are I’m going to reach). For the bees, Sugar Syrup (1 part granulated white cane sugar to 1 part hot water from the faucet) sprayed into the package.
Two Bee Hives (Hive Bodies or “Deeps” are on the bottom of each and two Supers – used for honey storage are on top of each). The rectangular wood pieces on the ground are frames (supports on which bees build their honeycomb) are on the ground.
Interior of an 8-frame hive’s Deep. Note how the frames are lined up in the middle (I can’t remember why this is).
Hives are ready for the packages!
Buzzing bees in one of the packages. *The bees were making a LOT of noise when my friend got them out of the car, so he sat them down in a sunny spot and sprayed them with Sugar Syrup while we prepped the hives. By installation time they’d calmed down a LOT.
Placing the queen bee box (or “queen cage”) inside the frames. The queen cage is inside a metal canister of sugar syrup that sustained the bees during their trip. *It’s important to keep her isolated till the other bees get used to her. The (I was helping, so could not get a photo of this) next step was to shake the remaining bees from the package into the hive.
The package is placed in front of the hive so (hopefully) the bees that did not get shaken out make their way into the hive before nightfall.
The outer covers are back on.