I got the call from Lorraine on Tuesday morning...our bees had arrived at the post office. And there were some serious challenges to start our day. Number one: I couldn't get out the door, emails to deal with and then a radio interview that involved me using the phrase "cloaca will un-engorge."
The other challenge for me was that the migration floodgates had opened and birds were pouring. Large numbers of rose-breasted grosbeaks covered Mr. Neil's yard and I could hear pine warblers all over the place. I had to focus on bees, not birds. It was harder than usual because I'm leaving this weekend for Kazakhstan and that is going to be way cool, but I'll miss the big migration waves while I'm away, so I need to soak up what I can.
Another big challenge was that when I arrived, Lorraine was just not herself. It was clear that she was not feeling well. Poor thing appeared to be coming down with a migraine. She really wanted to help, but her body was screaming, "Go to a dark place. Rest. Don't play with a boxes containing thousands of confused bees in the bright sun."
Bless her heart, she tried to put up a brave front, but as I made nectar and pollen patties to feed our newly arrived guests, she realized her health took precedence. We drove her home and Mr. Neil's groundskeeper Hans and housekeeper Merry offered to pitch in (above). I told Lorraine not to worry, this was just the shipment of our Minnesota Hygienic Bees, chances were good that our order of Russian Bees would arrive while I am away in Kazakhstan and she'll have to hive those without me.
I always assume people are like me when it comes to working with wild creatures--you want to do as much of the experience as possible. I asked both Merry and Hans if they wanted to do any part of this, especially what I think are the fun parts like dumping the bees into the new hive or releasing the queen. Both said no and sensibly wanted to avoid killing the new queen. But they were incredibly helpful--Hans (above in a forced pose with one of our new queens) did a majority of the heavy lifting. He made sure to have all the hives set up before arrival and he took quite a few of the photos and videos of the hiving.
Merry (kneeling above) had the important job of keeping me on task--despite all the warblers and vireos singing overhead. She held onto the hiving instructions and made sure I did everything in order. She was like a skillful nurse aiding a surgeon, hand me tools when I needed them and making sure we had all of the equipment when we went to each hive. It was a good team and we systematically installed each hive without any major snafus.
As I understand it, Non Birding Bill and Mr. Neil went through a book of baby names (and I suspect Mr. Neil's body of work) to come up with names for our hives, rather than naming them after people we know (it's too hard to deliver the news, "Hey, your hive died."). We started naming the hives after a blog reader suggested it and it's easier to say, "Hannah hive is ready for harvest" as opposed to "yellow hive is ready for harvest."
The first hive names are Hannah, Yvaine, Juliet, and Wendy. Of course, now that I look at the names, I can picture them from movies and books: Hannah, will she be all Woody Allen and neurotic? Yvaine--will she be a cranky fairy? Juliet--will she be an impetuous teenager, ready for suicide when her love dies? Wendy--will she pine away for a slightly efiminet flying boy who refuses to grow up?
We'll have to see...
More soon, I need to shower.