I ended my last post with anticipation, and a little apprehension, concerning hiving my first colony of bees. Last Saturday morning I took off from home with my eight year old son heading to Jones Bees in Salt Lake to pick up the 2.5 pound package of bees which included the caged queen. Friday night I brushed up on my copy of Beekeeping for Dummies and I thought I had my plan figured out. Once I got to Jones’, the main beekeeper changed my game plan which seemed to be a lot simpler and less stressful than the book and you tube videos illustrated regarding shaking the bees into the hive. The expert told me to simply take out the cork from the queen cage and smear the exit hole with cake frosting and place the cage sandwiched between the two middle frames of the first hive box. He instructed me to fill my inside the hive feeder with a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water that had been dissolved and cooled. Rather than pour out the bees he told me to place an empty hive box on top of the lower box and simply put the opened package of bees, hole down, in the second box and cover with the inner and outer lids. He told me to wait a few hours and then simply take out the empty bee package and leave the bees alone for a few days to settle in and then check and make sure the queen had escaped her cage. No shaking required and a lot fewer bees flying everywhere. Sounded like a good plan.
My son was kept out of the bee loop until we were en route to pick them up. I told him we were going to come home with a few thousand new friends. When he learned that the friends were bees he became a little concerned but I reassured him that the bees would be caged and he would be just fine.
We picked up our package from the back of a flatbed truck along with many others bee veterans and fellow amateurs. The package contained a mass of bees surrounding the queen cage. There were a few escapees that were clinging to the outside of the cage, which initially caused the son some concern, but he soon stared fascinated at our new bees. We took a quick stop at Harmons for frosting and home we went to hive the bees. The day was a little cool and rainy but the bee expert told me it was a good day to place the bees in the hive.
I have to say the instructions went like clockwork and I wore the head net but did not use the gloves. I opened the package by pulling out the sugar can and queen cage while quickly using a piece of scrap wood to hold the bees inside the package. I lost a few out of the cage but all was calm. I inspected the queen cage and the queen was moving around and appeared healthy. I pulled out the cork, plugging the hole with my thumb when I realized I left the frosting in the truck. After retrieving the frosting I plugged the opening with the treat and placed the queen cage in the hive box wedged between the two middle frames. I then opened the package of bees and placed them hole down on top of the frames where the queen cage was placed, I put the second empty box on top and covered the hive with the inner and outer covers. Piece of cake. No stings and I felt strangely calm handling the bees. Several bees landed on me and hung out on my hands with no issues. They were calm and I was calm.
I waited until Monday to check out the queen cage. I opened the hive, again with only the face mask and no gloves, and I pulled out the queen cage. The cage was full of bees so the queen had indeed been released. I gently shook out the bees from the cage, topped off the sugar water, took off the top box and replaced the inner and outer covers leaving only the bottom box including the frames and feeder. Again a piece of cake with no issues or stings.
This week I have witnessed an increase of activity at the hive entrance. The bees are out foraging the many flowering trees in my area and it’s fun to watch them come back to the hive with varying colors of pollen on their back legs ranging from white, yellow, light green and pink so far.
I was initially concerned that my chickens would decide to take on the bees at the hive but upon letting them out they have stayed clear of the hive as they apparently don’t like all the bee activity. So far so good. I can actually say that my initial apprehensions about having bees were more fantasy than reality. We will have to see how my first inspection and vaccination of the hive will go which will happen sometime this week. I may wear my gloves for that.
I received good news this week. I have been accepted into the summer downtown farmer’s market. I guess my two auditions at the winter markets were a success. The plan now for the summer is to build, build and build with the Friday morning markets at Thanksgiving Point and the Saturday markets downtown. I am also doing some backyard landscaping reclamation work, assisting with the Westlake garden and I also plan to continue teaching a few criminal justice classes here and there. I am also spending every evening at tae kwan do, baseball or both.
Tonight I got to spend a few hours in the garden tuning up the sprinkling system and screening around 25 gallons of compost which I used to top dress my strawberries.
There is nothing like the look of a freshly composted garden bed. Gives the soil such a dark and healthy appearance. Hope everyone decides this is the year to compost. I sure appreciate having my own free supply or organic matter. Saves a lot of money which can be spent on other fun gardening projects. Time to plant the summer veggies in about ten days to two weeks.