They're in! We transferred the two packages of bees into their new hives. Each package contained four pounds of bees and a single queen. Here's how it went...
We loaded the tools, a gallon of syrup, the guidebook, the smoker and fuel for it, and the two packages of bees into the truck. I suited up in my new bee suit and put on the veil and we headed downstairs. Doogan and Sophie both freaked out at the sight of the bee suit until I took the veil off and they realized it was me. The picture to the left is what one package of four pounds of bees looks like.
Once we got out to the vineyard, we opened the gate and I put all of the tools and supplies on the platform between the hives. Greg ran the camera from a safe distance, since he has no bee suit. I then put a package of bees next to each hive and took the cover and feeder off the hives. I've never done this before so I wanted to take my time and not screw up and end up standing there watching my bees fly away.
With the hive tool, I pried one of the cans of syrup out of the first package and slid the little box containing the queen out of the package and covered the hole with a coffee can lid. There were probably a dozen or so bees clinging to the queen cage. I brushed them into the hive, after removing five of the foundation frames. I then wedged the queen cage between a couple of the frames, but not before realizing that there was a cork but no candy in the queen cage, meaning there was nothing to puncture with a nail to allow the bees to chew through to release her over the next couple of days. That means I'm going to have to release her myself in a couple of days once they all get acclimated to their new hives.
Once I wedged the queen cage between a couple of frames, I used a stapler to attach the metal strip attached to the cage to the top of one of the frames so she wouldn't slide down to the bottom of the box. I then picked up the package, banged it on the platform a couple of times, and flipped it upside down, dumping the majority of the bees into the into the hive where the missing frames left a big space. Unfortunately, I failed to remove the coffee can lid that I had temporarily covered the hole in the lid of the package while I finagled around with the queen cage. Once I dumped about 20,000 bees in there, it was going to be way too disruptive to reach in there and retrieve it so it is still in there. I plan to get it tomorrow when I go back to release the queen and replace the missing frames in each hive.
After I put the bees in the hive, I put the feeder on top and then poured about a half gallon of syrup into one side of the feeder so the bees have plenty of food, then put the inner cover and the outer cover on the hive. The only thing I forgot to do was put the pollen patty that I had made to supplement the diet until there's enough real pollen in the area for them to collect. I left it on the platform. I'll put it in there tomorrow when I open the hive to release the queen.
Once the first hive was finished, I had a few minutes to reflect on the mistakes I'd made and on the second hive, I managed to do everything right and things went pretty smoothly. With both packages, I could not get 100% of the bees out when I dumped them out. According to conventional wisdom, putting the open package in front of the entrance to the hive will eventually encourage the stragglers to crawl or fly out of the opening and into the hive, because they can smell the beeswax on the foundation frames, and they can smell the pheromones of the queen, which is still trapped in her cage. We'll go out there in the morning and see if that's true.
All in all, things went pretty much without a hitch. Once the queens are released into the hive population, they should start laying eggs and raising new bees. Within a week I will need to go out there and pull out a couple of frames and examine them to see if the queen has put any eggs in them. If not, I will need to estabilish if she is still alive, and if not, I will need to order a new queen, quickly.
I noted today that there were quite a few dandelions in the grass around the hives so I would expect that if it is warm enough, some of the bees will begin to forage immediately. The sooner they do, the faster the hive population will build up and the more honey they potentially will make.