Monday, April 06, 2015

Beeginnings

After years of book/internet study, I finally have bees. Tomorrow night I will have had them for one week. I've made several posts about them on my Facebook account, but for some reason have not put them down in blog form.

Here is a brief accounting of what I've done:

  1. I attended the local beekeepers club last month (this month's meeting is this upcoming Thursday)
  2. I ordered my equipment from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm
    • A traditional 8-frame medium beginners kit, which comes with:
      • A fully assembled hive with two 8-frame medium supers, the 16 frames to go in them, 16 wax foundation sheets to go in the frames, an entrance feeder, and an entrance reducer
      • A veil
      • A pair of gloves
      • A bee brush
      • A hive tool
      • A smoker and fuel
      • A basics DVD
      • and finally, a beginners book
    • A complete unassembled hive of the same style (though with different frame style – the BeeGinners kit came with grooved top and bottom bars, all others I ordered with grooved top and divided bottom bars)
    • An extra unassembled 8-frame medium box for each hive, with frames
    • A "regular" 8-frame deep box and frames to assist should I get my bees from a nuc
    • An entrance feeder for the second hive
    • And a queen excluder (to assist in phasing out the deep box – so that I can standardized on medium equipment)
  3. I assembled all of my equipment last weekend (a week ago, not yesterday)
  4. I began looking for a source of bees - it seems everyone is sold out this time of the season
  5. Last Tuesday, I finally found some package bees at Lookout Mountain Honey Bees, but they had already been in their packages for several days and I had to pick them up that day, so I…
  6. Left work half an hour before I normally do on Tuesdays (I normally leave half an hour early so I can make it to Cub Scouts), and drove to Gadsden, AL to pick up two packages of honey bees (each package comes with about 3lbs of bees, a queen in a cage, and a can of syrup to keep them fed)
  7. I installed them that night with my wife's help, in the dark, just before a thunderstorm - pretty much the exact opposite of best conditions for working with bees - but the bees were gentle and went into their new homes just fine. They each got a single box with the 8 frames that have foundation (from the assembled hive I ordered), as I haven't put the guide strips in the other frames yet. I filled their entrance feeders with 1:1 sugar syrup and went to bed
  8. Each morning and evening I've refilled their feeders – they suck down quite a bit of syrup
  9. Friday afternoon I opened each hive and pulled the queen cages (one cage was empty, the other contained a dead worker – both queens had been released) – the girls had been drawing comb nicely, and Hive 1, which I had thought was doing poorly, was actually doing better
  10. I started adding green food coloring to the syrup so I can more easily see the level in the feeders and so that I can avoid taking capped syrup thinking it capped honey – I will maintain this unless I find compelling evidence to stop
  11. This morning there was minimal activity in Hive 2 when I refilled the feeder, so one of a few things has happened (possibly more):
    • The bees, like me, are lazy and didn't want to be up so early
    • All the bees are dead or dying
    • The majority of the bees absconded, hanging around just long enough to build their strength
    • The majority of the bees absconded, but not before the queen left enough eggs to continue the hive
    • The queen died, some of the bees left, some stayed trying to raise a new queen
    • The package was mostly older workers and have just died off while they build up new workers (emerging later in 2.5 weeks at the earliest)

For those of you wondering, I have been stung five (5) times: once installation night, and once each morning and evening the first two days – each time it was my fault, for either not paying attention, moving too quickly, or both. I have not been stung since.

When I opened the hives on Friday, they were still drawing out comb on just a handful of frames, I will open the hives again this upcoming weekend and check them again. If it looks like they are doing well, I might put another box on, though I won't -need- to until the following Saturday (Friday afternoon would likely be safer). As that Sunday (19 April) is the earliest the first batch of brood will emerge, and the hive could get awfully crowded awfully fast. From what I understand, when starting from a package, from then until that point is like the initial uphill climb of a roller coaster. Your adult bees are having to do all the jobs until the new bees emerge, dying off the whole time, then there is a sudden explosion in colony population, then the remainder of those original workers die and your first generation is having to do all the work, but with new generations being born fairly constantly after that point.

This is an adventure I am enjoying, even though at this time it's simply extra chores (mixing sugar syrup and refilling the feeders) – I am looking forward to the rest of the adventure though.

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