I've dabbled with bee keeping before, but this year I am keeping bees near my house where I can be much more involved as an apicurist. I like honey, but likely won't get much this year and I'm really interested to see how pollination of garden crops increases this year.
Today I got my package of bees. 3 lbs of Apis mellifera trucked here from Georgia complete with an Italian queen.
I picked up the package at a local honey farm where I joined many others like me in a sort of beekeeping Woodstock. The smell of Patchouli, honey and bee smokers in the air, it was punctuated with the surreal sights of beekeeping equipment from days gone by and the buzzing of millions of packaged bees. The people that I met, lead me to believe that this is another community that I will enjoy being a part of.
After a somewhat exhilarating drive with approximately 15,000 bees in the trunk of my car, it was time to install them into their new home.
The bees were very much huddled around their queen and the sugar syrup that they had been surviving on for the last 36 hours or so. The first task was to get the queen into the hive which required me to get that mass of bees out of the way. Fortunately, bees can't fly when their wings are loaded with sugar syrup, which is what I have in my trusty spray bottle.
After getting the bees to the bottom of the package, I was then able to open it and extract the sugar syrup canister. This was no small feat and it's clear to me now why a beekeeper's hive tool is so valuable and something I should probably have a backup always at the ready.
Next, I had to get the queen out of the package and into the hive. You'll notice that despite my best efforts there are still bees clinging to the cage containing the queen. The queen emits a pheromone that makes the workers who have accepted her want to defend her, and those that consider her foreign, want to kill her. I'm not sure exactly which behavior is being exhibited here, but that's why the queen is packaged in her own cage. Hopefully, within a few days in the new hive, she will be accepted by all.
In order to entice the worker bees into the hive, I pinned the queen cage in between two frames. The remaining bees were then dumped into the hive and everything was closed up. I checked to see how acclimated the bees were after grabbing some lunch and although there weren't many flying about yet, there were many bees exploring their new home.
I will check on the queen's status every day until I feel that she's been accepted and then it's time to release her from her cage. By that time, hopefully the workers will have built some comb and made the new hive that much more welcoming.