Friday, April 22, 2011

Box O' Bees...

I picked up my two packages of bees today. I drove about an hour north of here to the Bee Man's house to pick them up. I finished up assembling and painting the last few parts of the hives this morning, and they're ready to go to the vineyard tomorrow.

The bees came to Iowa on a trailer from Northern California, and each package includes about 20,000 bees, and a tiny box containing the mated queen. Tomorrow I will install them in their new homes.

I was a little nervous about driving home with them in the Jeep but they did fine. Only two bees got loose in the car, and they joined me in the front seat, and as soon as I cracked open the window, out they went. They were apparently clinging to the outside of the cage when I put them in the back of the Jeep.

The little circle on top of each box (in the picture above) is a can that contains corn syrup or some other sugar mixture, (probably from Cargill, LOL) and it has a hole on the bottom so the bees can feed themselves during the trip from the West Coast. I just checked and the cans are still about half full. I put the boxes in the garage for the night and will install them in the morning once I get everything set up in the vineyard. The weather is really crummy today, light rain and kind of cool. The bees were pretty sluggish. Tomorrow is supposed to be much better, warmer and sunny. I'll put plenty of syrup in the hive feeders so the bees don't get hungry but there are things starting to bloom around here, including dandelions and some kind of wild cherry bushes, as well as some maple trees in the surrounding woods so it should be warm enough for them to start leaving the hive right away and foraging on their own, at least on sunny days.

Tomorrow will be exciting. I will take the boxes up to the vineyard and take a few frames out of the hives. The little box containing each queen will be pried out of the hole with the can, which will be discarded, and the cork in the queen box will be removed. Inside the hole in the little box is a piece of squishy candy which prevents the queen from running out of the box. Over the course of the next three days or so, the bees will chew through this candy and release the queen into the hive, where she will take up residence. Once I put the queen box in between a couple of frames in the hive box, I'll bang the bee box on the ground, flip it over, and dump the bees into the hive through the hole in the top of the box. After that, I'll put the feeder on, with some syrup, and then the lid. According to my bee class instructor, you should leave the hives alone for three to four days, to allow everything to settle down,give the bees a chance to let the queen out of her box, and start building comb on the foundation, which is coated with beeswax to encourage them to get started. Once there is comb, the queen will follow along behind and lay an egg in each cell of the comb. In 21 days, there will be a new generation of bees in the hive. This will go on all summer to the point that there are 60 or 70 thousand bees in each hive.

I will take pictures tomorrow as I set things up out there and get the bees into the hives. I'm sure Greg will be filming too (from inside the truck)...

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