Hiving The New Packages

It's that special time of year when we install new packages of bees.

I have to say that after last year's complete and utter panic when hiving switching to relief and enjoyment was not relived this year. In some ways this year seemed anticlimactic, but that may be due to the fact that I have some sort of cold. Part of me is incredibly irritated and full of self pity (it's spring, warblers are coming darn it and I'm sick) but the other part of me is grateful that if I'm going to have a cold, that I have it this week and not next week when I'm doing the World Series of Birding.

We had a larger posse out at the hives this time. Above is Lorraine going over the instructions along with Non Birding Bill (who filmed it and hopefully will be able to get it up on YouTube soon) and Mary, a friend.

This is Queen Mimi. She arrived in this cage which was in a larger box with about three pounds worth of bees (please don't ask how many bees are in a pound--I have no idea). As my bee instructor says, she was placed in the crate in this cage with three pounds of workers from a different hive. The cage gives the queen and new workers a chance "to work out their differences" or rather, give the queen a chance to use her pheromones to work their mojo on the workers and everybody gets along. First we poured all the workers into the empty hive and once we had those in, we release the queen.

bee queen

When I opened the cage, she half tumbled out but soon mixed in with all the workers. We filled the box up with frames, put on a feeder pail and a pollen patty--key ingredients to help the hives get to work drawing out comb so the queen can lay eggs and we can get the next generation growing. Some flowers were blooming. Near the location of these two hives we found some wood anemone and bloodroot blooming. The anemone already had a bee foraging on it, but I think it was an Olga bee.

So, here is the Mimi Hive all set up and ready to grow. We added a new type of bottom, it's a screen that will trap varroa mites when they fall off the bees and prevent the mites from crawling back up to reattach themselves to a bee. It's not going to totally get rid of the mites, but every little bit helps and we can use this as a measure of our mite situation as opposed to rolling our bees in powdered sugar. By the way, TO BEE EQUIPMENT MANUFACTURERS AND SUPPLIERS: Is it too much to ask that you include some sort of instructions with the equipment? Really, just a one sheet, maybe with an illustration? Please? It's so frustrating to get these items in the mail and I don't know which way us up or how to put things together.

Next we put in Queen Kelli. I think she's going to be a tricky thing--she's really, really tiny. She not much larger than a worker. As a matter of fact, once we released her, we could not find her.

She's mixed in there somewhere swimming through a sea of worker bees.

So that is the Kelli hive. You will note that we've added a small luxury this year--see the table in back? It's to help us keep our equipment up off the ground and keep us from bending over so much. Whoot.

We also checked on Olga. We had to do a reversal--switch her top box with her bottom box to help brood production and prevent swarming before we do the divide later this month. We also had to move the hive two feet over. Above, NBB is using a Frame Spacing Tool to try and get all the frames spaced to prevent the Olga girls from making oddly shaped comb that makes bee inspections difficult.

Much of the comb on the bottom was empty and ready for eggs. The Olga girls have been doing a tremendous job of gathering pollen, you can see some of it in the cells. Bees build up towards the top of the hive. Once the top is full, they start to think that maybe they are crowded and swarming is a good idea. So, when the top has sealed brood, you switch it with the bottom box--it should be empty as all the brood as hatched. The workers go up and see the empty cells and think, "Hey, we got more room, get the queen up here to start layin' some eggs."

Many forager bees were returning while we reversed the hive boxes. Even though we've been providing them with a pollen patty, they are doing just fine on their own.

Check out all these forages coming back with loads of pollen! We're dealing with new workers this spring. These are not the girls from last fall. These workers have no basis for comparison as for what humans are all about. In the past when we would open up the Olga hive, she would be friendly for about five or ten minutes and then suddenly have enough of us and commence with bonking us and stinging. This batch of workers stayed calm, cool, and collected while we rearranged the boxes, added a mite tray and a separate tray to improve air circulation. We'll see how long this honeymoon phase will last.

And now if all goes well, we'll be dividing Olga in a few weeks to restart Kitty giving us a total of four hives.