Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"We survived. I don't know about the bees."

For two people who have just been stung by bees, they look pretty happy, don't they?  Saturday was a big day - our two new packages of bees, which arrived at the post office on Friday, were installed in the hives!  Mom and Dad managed to get the bees from the little box they are mailed in, into the hives which I set up the last time I was there, without any help from me.  Around 2:30 on installation day, while I was working at the farm house, I couldn't wait any longer and sent mom a text: 

me: "How is it going with the bees?" 

I expected that everything would go smoothly, since dad and Brandon installed the last bees a few years ago without a hitch.  Dad only got one sting last time because a bee crawled up his shirt.  I figured he would know to tuck his shirt in this time, so it should only take a few moments and be a breeze to accomplish.  And, I specifically reminded them to wear the veils, just in case.  Mom's text response surprised me: 

mom: "James got stung 4 times."

me: "That's too bad.  On his hands and arms?"

mom: His ear, arm, finger, and between his eyes."

me: "Oh gosh!  I bet he wishes he wore the veil."

mom: "He says that's for sissies."

mom: "We did everything wrong that could be done wrong." 

Uh oh.  

mom: "We didn't get all the bees to go in the hive.  I hope they figure out where to go."

I just though she meant that there were some bees that wouldn't come out of the mailing box, which is no big deal, and we had the same thing last time. 

me: "I think if you leave the box by the hive they will figure out where to go."

mom: "We had grass to plug up the first one by the garden.  James tried to get the sugar can out and dumped all the bees on the ground."

me: "Oh no!  Then what?"

mom: "We tried to scoop them up.  I panicked & stuck the queen in without taking the cork out.  Then I got stung on top of the head when one got tangled in my hair."

Since I remembered what it was like three years ago, when we installed our fist package of bees in a hive box, I knew knew what she was talking about.  See the small box dad is holding in the photo above?  Well, this box has about two pounds of bees in it - that's probably more that eight thousand bees!  The bees come in the mail in this box with screens on two sides, and hanging from the top of the box is a can, like a soup can, filled with sugar water, that has some tiny holes so the bees can drink while they are in route.  Also inside the box is an even smaller box, a little bigger than a package of gum, that has a queen bee and some attendant bees inside.  

What I didn't realize about bees until I bought some, was that when you get a package like this in the mail, the queen bee is not the queen of the all the bees in the box, yet.  She is a new queen, and has to be protected from the other bees, who have been stolen from some other queen, until she can gain some control over them - they have to get used to her pheromones.  So, the idea is that you put all the bees in the hive box (called a super), sort of plug up the entrance with some grass so they are forced to stay in, and then hang the new queen in her little box inside so they can get acquainted without killing her before she begins to control them with her pheromone signals.  Pretty cool, huh?   The queens box has a hole in it that is crammed closed with some hard sugar candy.  On top of this candy plug is a cork.  When you hang the queen in the hive, you are supposed to remove the cork so the bees can start eating the candy, and in a few days they will have released the queen into the hive by chewing a hole for her to exit.  By that time, she has asserted her control and has everybody working like a team.  

So, dropping all the bees on the ground, and then forgetting to take the cork out is not following the suggested rules for hive establishment! 

me: "Ha!  Now I'm wishing I was there to watch!  Did you go back for the cork?"

mom: "I ran in the house because all the bees were all swarming around but your dad hung in there and got the cork out and took the straw out of the door"

mom: "Then he knocked the cage against the hive to get the rest of the bees that weren't on the ground in the hive." 

mom: "And that made the sugar feeder fall on the ground and the super get knocked off the base and base off the blocks." 

me: "Lol! No wonder he got stung!"

mom: "That was the first one!  We were sure we could do better on the second one.  We put lots of water o them but that didn't seem to have the promised effect."

What she means by putting water on them, is that when you pick your package of bees up at the post office, you are supposed to bring a spray bottle of sugar water with you.  This is so you can spray the bees with the sugar water, through the screen on the box, in case they are thirsty and hungry from their trip in the mail.  Then, right before you dump them in the hive, you give them another good soaking so they are all wet and busy licking themselves and each other and they won't fly around so much.  That's the idea anyway.  

me: "Did you drop the second?"

mom: "Then your dad pushed the queen cage down in the little box of bees.  That's when he got stung.  Trying to find the queen cage." 

mom: "He thought it was in the hive and didn't understand when I tried to tell him it was still in the little box." 

mom: "A video of us would have made americas funniest.  I am not doing that again.  That is your job!"  


mom: "We survived.  I don't know about the bees." 

me: "You did it!  I'm proud."

me: "I hope we don't regret getting mean ones."

Now, I'm not sure the bees we have will be mean, but this time around we ordered a Russian queen. She's installed with Italian bees, but it won't be long before her new brood replaces all the gentle Italians and we end up with a Russian hive.  From what we have read, the Russian bees are hardier, and less susceptible to the cold, but may not be as gentle as the Italian bees.  The Russian bees are also not as pretty, according to some, because they are a darker gray color instead of the golden hue of the Italian bees.  

mom: "We made a mess of it!"

mom: "I hope the bees know what they are doing because we sure didn't." 

mom: "I don't think they are mean.  Not yet anyway.  They took a lot of abuse." 

So, they both got stung, but sounds like the poor bees got the worst of it!  

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