Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bee installation, or - What not to feed your bees

Our bees are here and successfully installed.    Now, I just hope they like their new homes and stick around.

This is how it went.

First, we did a lot of reading.   A lot of talking.   A lot of studying.

A lot, I tell you.

We painted and placed the hives in full sun on a little hill in front of a big hill.   They should be happy here. 

We watched a lot of videos of bees.

We watched this vid of Beemaster installing bees and we decided to do it that way.

So, Eric went and picked up the bees at Graham's because I was at work in town that day.   And when we all got home around 6:30, we gathered everything up and went to the hives.

When we got it all together, Eric and I looked at each other and said, "I don't want to wear the suit.  If the guys in the vids can deal with gentle bees with no gloves and veils, then we can, too."

And we did.   We installed two packages of bees into our hives, placed the queens, fed them, covered them, etc - barehanded and with no veils.

It was amazing.   Here are the pics.   [Note:  Lily took the pics.  With bees swirling all around.  Fearless.  In a skirt.   With no protective clothing on either.  Wow.]

Our packages, the way they came from Graham's

All the lovely buzzing.  They sounded like an air conditioner.  

These two bees traveled for heaven knows how long on the outside of this package.   Eric noticed them when he put them in the car.  They were still there when we installed them.

First a little smoke to make sure everyone is calm.   Probably not necessary, but since we were not in suits and veils, we thought we'd make extra sure they were calm.

Just a few puffs.

Then Eric took the wood off the sides and bottom of one of the screened sides. 

And the bees started coming out as soon as they could squeeze through.   Which we weren't really prepared for.   
Then they were swirling through the air around us. And we weren't quite ready to dump.   And we missed that little staple in the middle.    But finally we got it and dumped them into the hive.

This is the doublewide hive.  It has a Tardis on the front and a window in the back.   It was designed for top bars, but they weren't ready yet, so we used regular deep frames.   I'll checkerboard them out and add top bars as we add more supers. 

Here are the bees in the Tardis hive.   We only put them in half.

One thing we hadn't thought of well enough was how to keep the bees completely out of the other half.   A couple of girls got in there, so I left a reduced entrance so they could get out of that side and in with the queen.   I hope they do.

And here is the queen!   She has some attendants in with her.  On the right side of the box is a compartment filled with candy.   We opened that up to the other bees, so they could eat her free.   Then she'll lay and lay and lay.

I put her box on the bottom of the hive, under the frames.

Look at the empty box the bees came in.  See that can?   It's still 2/3 full of syrup that they put in for the bees to eat in transit.   We can use that to feed them with once they're in.

In the meantime, the bees were getting diluted honey to eat.   These are regular jar feeders.  I did a 1:1 solution of honey and water. 
That turned out to be a BIG MISTAKE. 

I found out today that honey might carry the spores for American Foul Brood.   Don't feed your bees honey unless you know exactly which hive it came from at that it is free of American Foul Brood.  Unfortunately, I found out too late.  If we do get AFB, we'll have to burn everything. 

In all of the reading and studying and researching and talking to people, no one ever mentioned that 'strange' honey might kill your bees...until I mentioned on a forum that I was feeding honey, but by then it was too late.  Fingers crossed that we'll dodge that bullet.

I put them on sugar water now.   [They're not actually eating much - good nectar flow now.]   UPDATE BELOW!

Here I am installing the second package.   We had a better idea of what to do this time and it went a bit smoother.   [Yet another reason to do more than one when you start out!]

Once the bees were in and the queen was in, it was time to close up the hive.

First I put in the frames we had taken out to make room for the bees.    Since the bees are everywhere, I put the frame in gently and slowly and let the pressure of it tell the bees to scoot.   It took a bit for some of the bees to get the message, but they did.   Then I pushed all the frames together so there's not too much space between them where the bees can go crazy with burr comb.   We don't want burr comb.  Then I put the tops on.

Here are the fronts, with the bees in, tops and feeders on.  You can see a lot of bees in the air.  They soon gathered on the hive and feeders.  The bees love the honey water. 

Lots of bees still on the front of the flower lang.  That's the one we did last.

While Lily was taking pics, some bees decided to check her out.   She took this pic of her own hand, herself.  

These bees are very very gentle!  

When we got done, we watched the Beemaster's vid again to see what we could have done better.   Turns out we did better than we thought we did.  His bees started escaping, too.   It's normal.

We checked on the bees the next morning and despite the damp, they were orienting and moving around. 

Already the hives have different personalities.

UPDATE:  We forgot to completely sterilize the whole feeder units.   So we brought the entire units in - bases and all - and took everything apart to bleach it.   The syrup is a waste, and I'm sorry for that, but we've got a ticking time bomb unless we're careful.     

I put the bases and all the lids - including the extra ones - in a gallon bucket.  Then I filled it with hot water and a good glug of bleach - 1/3 cup or more, then some antibacterial dish soap and let them sit for a bit.   I rinsed each jar out and set it in/filled it with the bleach water to soak for a bit, then washed it out thoroughly and rinsed it again.   All 4 jars that way.   Then washed the lids and bases and rinsed them well.    Now we're putting in 1:1 sugar water solution.    The bees will be a bit confused, but maybe an apian smorgasbord is a good thing?   

This is very stressful, but hopefully a good learning experience for us and anyone who reads the blog.   I don't want anyone to have to go through this if they don't have to.

The good news is that one of the less extreme treatments for AFB is to put the bees in a new box with foundationless frames [burn all the old wood equipment] and have them draw all new comb - which is exactly what we're doing in the first place.  Apparently there's a chance that they'll metabolize the bad spores while they're drawing comb and render the spores harmless. 

Fingers crossed!


  1. Sounds great... I think I understood about half of what you said but it's interesting, and I loved the pictures... and without suits!!!
    I think you all are gonna be very happy with them. I want to hear the progress!!!
    **** OMG Robin!!! I LOOOOOVE photoshop actions!!!

  2. Wow! Thanks for writing this post. It's fascinating. I know very little about bees.

  3. Wow...that is So. Much. Work! I don't know that I'll learn enough to get it going. Hopefully hubby will be able to grasp it better if and when we ever decide to go for it. And I thought it was hard learning to weave...but at least nothing dies and I won't get stung if I screw something up while weaving. :}

    Kudos to you and Eric for getting it all up and going!

  4. I guess the best way to learn is by making mistakes! I'll be getting my two packages in about two weeks but I'll be wearing my suit for sure! Hope my installation goes as well as yours did.

  5. This is so interesting. And the bees do seem very docile, although I'm sure if they get riled up it won't be pretty. I'll be looking for more updates! I'll send good bee vibes against the possibility of AFB.

  6. What a thing. You people amaze me. I love how you just research and dive in. It's why your life is so fascinating. I've got my fingers crossed for your bees. I hope it all works out and you have a bounteous harvest. And no one gets stung. Can't believe you did it without the suit. YOU ARE WOMAN! AND ERIC IS MAN!


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