We picked up our package of bees (read the previous post about how we got our bees here) and headed home. For the first hour and a half going home, they buzzed quietly in the back seat. We made sure they weren’t in direct sunlight and that they were getting fresh air, and twice I sprayed them lightly with a very light sugar syrup. They were happy, we were happy, everything was right with the world.
…we got to the dirt and gravel road leading to our property. Bummer. You see, here in California it’s legal to grow marijuana if you have doctor’s orders saying that you need it. Unfortunately, the county in which we live has been very permissive on how much you can grow, so several commercial pot growers have purchased or leased properties adjacent to us. Why is this so unfortunate? For several reasons – the most important of which is because of the drought we are currently having here in California. Marijuana takes a lot of water to grow. A whole lot. So the commercial pot growers are draining all of the wells in the foothills, drying up streams and stealing from others. You can’t even leave a water hose unattended anymore! So, when the “growers” well goes dry and they run out of options to get cheap (or stolen) water, they have to pay to truck in water. Some of those trucks haul in 2,500 gallons of water at a time – or more! Let’s see – 2,500 gallons x 8 pounds per gallon – that’s 20,000 pounds (not even counting the weight of the truck itself) traveling across our dirt and gravel road several times per day! Needless to say, they have torn up our road so much that it has become one rut and pothole after another. The entire 1.6 miles of it! Now we literally bounce and slide our way home.
Which brings me back to the bees. With every bounce, bump, jump and jostle, they started buzzing louder and louder. Let me tell you, they were not happy! 🙁
Once we finally got home we set the bees in the shade of their new Kenyan Top Bar Hive, I sprayed them down with a little more light sugar water, and we left them alone for about an hour. Sure enough, by the time we came back, they had calmed down again.
So now, the fun part was to begin. Installation!
Have I told you how nervous I am about getting stung? The fascination with the bees has partially overcome my fear of being stung (along with a nice bee suit and gloves), but nonetheless I decided I should be the photographer for this momentous occasion. 😉
I am blessed to have a very brave and understanding husband, and let me tell you, he looked like a pro while he was installing the bees!
The first thing we had to do was remove several of the top bars so that the bees could be dumped into the hive body. We also placed a light sugar water solution in the feeder and a
“bee patty” in the bottom of the hive. We do plan to raise our bees organically and naturally, and using a sugar water solution and a bee patty isn’t necessarily natural. However, we did want to give our bees every advantage to get started, so we opted to make our own sugar water solution out of organic sugar. The bee patty was just another bit of insurance, though we don’t really know how organic it is. That being said, we will not be giving our bees any more bee patties, and will only give them sugar water if they need it. Ray removed the queen cage from the box so that she could later be hung in her cage between two of the top bars. Ray accomplished this task without any problem – just like they showed us during the demonstration at the Olivarez Bee Company Bee Day. Once the queen cage had been removed from the bee cage and set aside, Ray set about the task of dumping the worker bees into the hive.
Just as instructed during one of the demonstrations given at the Bee Day, Ray removed the can of sugar water solution that the bees had been living on for a day, which also releases the bees. A few bees started to fly out, already looking for and locating the queen.
Ray gently turned the box upside down, and shook it a few times.
Seriously – that’s the sound it made! Fwooommmmph!
Most of the bees fell in one large clump into the hive! It was so cool to watch!
Once most of the bees had been shaken into the hive, I sprayed them again with the light sugar water solution. The sugar water solution hydrates the bees as they lick it off of their furry little bodies. Because it has a little bit of sugar in it, it also feeds the bees and a fed, hydrated bee is a happy, complacent bee, less likely to sting!
We then replaced all of the top bars except one. Ray stuck a couple of pieces of straw (carefully!) through the top of the queen cage and these pieces of straw were placed between two of the top bars with the queen cage hanging in the space where the one bar used to be. In this way, the queen could be accessed by the workers from all sides. Once this was done, we replaced the lid and roof, wished the bees good luck, and stepped back from the hive.
There were about two dozen or so bees still left in the cage, but we were instructed during the demonstration at the Bee Day to just leave the cage near the hive in the shade, and these bees will find their way into the hive to be with their sisters.
We had our granddaughter’s birthday party to attend later that evening, so we made sure the hive was secure, latched the gate on the enclosure surrounding the hive, and said our goodbyes to the bees. There was nothing more we could do for them right away.
The next day when we got home from the birthday party, there they were, flying in and out of the hive! It looked like some of the bees were still doing their orientation flight, which is the first flight out of their hive. The bee will exit the hive door, fly right, then left, then up and down. Once the little bee has done this, it will fly away to find pollen, nectar, water or whatever it’s job is. It was amazing to see that some of the bees flying into the hive already had their pollen sacs full! Jeeze Louise, these bees certainly didn’t waste any time setting up their house!
Now we had to wait at least three days, then check to see if the queen had been released from her little cage. You see, she comes inside a cage for her own safety. If a queen bee is introduced into a hive right away, the worker bees will most likely sting her to death because they see her as a foreigner! However, if she is left in her little cage and the workers are exposed to her pheromones for 3 or 4 days, the will most likely accept her as their queen once she is released. How does she get released? Her escape route is plugged with hard candy, which the workers eat to get to the queen. This usually takes about three days – sometimes four. Clever system, huh?
So, after four days, we opened the hive to see if the queen had been released. At first when we saw movement inside the little cage we were disappointed that she had not been released. Then, on closer inspection, we saw that it was a worker bee in the cage, not the queen. She had, in fact, been released! Then we found her. Olivarez Bees marks all of their queens, and this year an iridescent blue was used. This is so that it is easier to find her and make sure all is well with the hive. Well – there she was – in all of her iridescent blue glory, on a small comb that had already been constructed for her!
Well I’ll be. We actually (ahem, my husband, Ray) installed our first bees with complete success!
And guess what – No Bee Stings! 🙂
So, now, the real adventure begins.
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