My New Book


Part 2: Enjoyment At The Beehive

So, when I last left you, Lorraine and I had installed one colony and totally wigged out during the first hiving. The bees didn’t pour out of their travel crate as easily as I thought they would and I got to experience having bees fly all around. It was weird, when they would land on the face netting, they almost looked like they were inside of the bee suit with you. Yikes!

We suited up in our full bee armor and returned to the hives. We realized we forgot the instruction book and that Lorraine’s camera batteries were running low, so we walked back to the house. Yes, we were stalling. Finally, we went back. There were still quite a few bees in the air from the first installation. Several had worked their way over to the unopened box of bees.

Feeling safer with the gloves on, I zoomed in for a photo. Lorraine sprayed the box and the bees on the outstide were licking up the sugar water. If you look closely in the above photo, you can see the tongue of the bee in the middle, lapping up the nectar.

Here is what the travel box looks like up close. From the top of the box, a can full of nectar is suspended and the queen cage is next to it. All the workers pile on top of the feeder and the queen. You could wiggle the box and watch the mass of bees wiggle back in forth together. Freaky. I gave the box one, good, hard BONK.

And all the bees fell to the bottom exposing the feeder tin. The queen is still covered in workers. I tried to pry the tin out, but it was lodged in with propolis. I tugged and tugged and couldn’t get it out. Lorraine offered to give a whirl.

Okay, here it is. I know people who know her are going to be shocked, but yes indeed, that is Lorraine workin’ a box o’ bees! Who knew? It took several tries, and me holding the box for leverage, but we finally got the feeder tin out.

I pulled out the queen case. In the above photo, I am holding the cage and it is covered with worker bees. It was at this point when Lorraine snapped a photo of me that I realized we had gotten over our panic of the first hive installation and we were having a great time.

I held the queen cage over the hive, flicked my wrist and all the workers on the cage fell in. Lorraine offered to keep the queen in her pocket this round.

Even with all the prying issues with the feeder tin getting stuck, the worker bees in this box seemed way more relaxed than the first. Some were flying out, but not at the rate of the first box.

I poured them into the hive and this time they did go in like pizza sauce. I got most of the bees inside the hive in very little time. I don’t know if this is just a more mellow colony or if the bees sensed that Lorraine and I were more relaxed so they were more willing to go along with the plan.

After the worker bees were installed, Lorraine took the queen bee out of her pocket, we opened the cage and the queen crawled right onto the frame with the workers. She is in the above photo. Can you see her? Let’s zoom in:

Now do you notice her? She’s in the middle, the one with the big eyes facing front. All the workers eyes are on the sides of their heads. Still can’t see her? How about this:

She’s in the middle of the red circle.

I was so relaxed this time that I was able to sweep excess bees onto my hand and put them in the hive.

We were covered in bees and this time instead of peeing our pants, we took photos of each other. Incidentally, you always have the most bees on you when the camera is off. Once it turns on, 90% off bees leave your body.

I placed the empty queen cage covered with worker bees next to the pollen paddy and nectar feeder and closed up the beehive.

We closed everything up and left our girls to begin the process of growth. Tomorrow we will check on them to make sure the feeder pails are working well and then let them build for the next week to 10 days. I’m glad I will be out of town, I want to check on them every day now. Based on reader advice, we have named the hives (Kitty–green and Olga–light orange).

Lorraine and I both feel like different people. This day feels like it’s been a week. I really do feel different (don’t worry, this won’t turn into an all bee blog–it’s still a bird blog). I think for me, I had a lot of fear about working with bees that I didn’t want to acknowledge–I was forced to face it during the first installation. By the second hive, I was having a blast. I had survived the first installation, I had a friend with me who makes me feel comfortable and we could both laugh at our mistakes and discomfort.

It reminded me of when Non Birding Bill and I got married. We actually got married twice (another story for another entry). During the first ceremony, I was so overwhelmed and emotional, I really can’t remember much apart from crying (with joy) a lot. The second ceremony I really got to pay attention and enjoy the moment and what was being said.

We almost started off with one colony, I’m so glad we did two. This way we can compare and on the off chance I really messed up installing the first hive, we have a back up.

Oh, and for the record–no stings today. I’m sure there are some in our future, but for now we are sting free.

16 comments to Part 2: Enjoyment At The Beehive

  • Liza Lee Miller

    Congrats! I wish you great success and few stings!

  • D Scott

    Sharon, didn’t Mr. Neil have bear problems last year? Are the hives safe from hungry bears?

  • birdchick

    d scott,

    last year Mr. Neil did indeed have a bear. About a week after it attacked the feeders, it was found dead–apparently hit by car. There has been no bear activity since then. And none before.

    We have looked into putting up an electric fence and had every intention of getting it up before the bees arrived, but it just didn’t happen.

    Yes, I know fences work best before the bears attack. We’ll get to it when we can.

  • Anonymous

    Very cool! Thanks for describing both times with the bees. You are a great storyteller. I wouldn’t mind if this became a bird/bunny/bee blog. It is all fascinating to me. Hope your busy week is running smoothly.

    Wayne, PA

  • Anonymous

    How very wonderful that you are helping the environment with the bees. You are one great chick. Kudos!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks so much for allowing us to share in these unique experiences.


  • Jody

    Glad the second installation went more smoothly. Love the hive names, the dramatic reenactments, and the cool gear. I hope to see them all in person some day!

  • gmnikki

    Fantastic, I’m in awe of you and Lorraine. You must be acouple of bee charmers.

  • DK & The Fluffies


  • spacedlaw

    Very good pictures !
    What camera and lens are you working with ?

  • Peggy

    I’m a real bee dunderhead, I couldn’t spot the queen, even when you were so kind as to zoom in. The only time I ever saw a queen bee was at the Henry County Fair in Iowa. The bee exhibit had a live swarm on display (behind glass) and the queen had a dot painted on her back.

  • birdchick

    The camera I used for these photos is a Fuji FinePix E900. For many of the bird photos in the blog I use that camera with a Swarovski Spotting Scope.

  • Anonymous

    I have a feeling this story may inspire a certain author to start writing his latest epic graphic novel on “BeeMan” and his adventures in the hive with royal characters and all

    THANKS for that brilliant ‘Dummies Guide’ – no insult intended….in fact RESPECT to you!

  • Anonymous

    Great story! It would be good to hear more about the bees.

    For what it’s worth, something I’ve found effective against wasp and hornet stings is baking soda toothpaste (with or without peroxide). I discovered this when a wasp got into the house and I went looking for baking soda to put on the sting, which I vaguely recalled might help, and baking soda toothpaste was the only thing close. It worked instantly, and afterwards you never knew you’d been stung. Don’t know if it would be helpful with a bee sting, however.

  • Quiet Paths

    I have been following bees for a number of years.. just with the pen and camera. This was a totally interesting essay. Thank you!

  • Marcie Klein

    Thank you for sharing your story in such detail. I am getting interested in bee-keeping and think this is entirely possible after seeing your photos and hearing you talk about the experience. I particularly enjoyed the emotional aspect of the story as I know I would go through a rainbow of changes if I went through what you do.
    Any books or videos you’d especially recommend to a newbie?
    I look forward to reading more posts.