I know it is probably against blogging etiquette to use so many exclamation points in the title of this post, but I am a bit excited, if you couldn't tell! Oops, there is another one. I apologize now that this blog is going to be long, but there are a bunch of pictures to show and information to share about something I have been waiting a long time for.
Friday night at 12:30am I awoke to my cell phone ringing. I answered it and confirmed the call. I then went into the bathroom to try to keep from waking up the Good Wife and got my phone tree list. I then called the next person on the list below my name, letting them know that the bees would be arriving at approximately 1am at the Powhatan, VA fire station. I quickly got dressed and headed for the car. I had already put a few tools and things into the car that evening that I might need for this journey.
I got to the fire station and was like one of the bees, arriving in a swarm. All the other HBA (Huguenot Beekeepers Association) members were arriving, anxious for their bees. After a few minutes of conversation about what is blooming, what is flowing and other bee talk (I didn't have much of a clue about most of it, but nodded my head as though I was affirming everything they were saying), the truck with the bees arrived. I wish I had gotten a picture, but forgot. Remember, I was excited. It was a small flatbed truck loaded up with 65 nucs full of bees. It was quite a site.
The men that had driven the truck got the list out and started calling out names and how many nucs we had ordered. Within a few minutes, I had my two nucs in my car and we were ready to go.
Once I got the boxes into the back of the car, I put my hand on the screen on the end, and I could feel the heat coming out of that box. It was amazing how much heat those bees were producing.
When I picked up the bees, they instructed us that we would need a philips head screw driver to open the hives. Did I pack a philips head screwdriver? Lets see, I packed the camera, a hive top (not sure why I packed that), my hive tool, a towel, a flashlight, my bee jacket, my bee veil, my leather gloves, nitrile gloves, a... nope, no screwdriver. So I had to go past the house on the way back from picking up the bees to grab a screwdriver. It was only about a 1/4-mile out of my way, so no major problem.
I got to my apiary and set one box on top of each hive. They looked so nice. As I was putting the boxes on top of the hives, I noticed a few bees on the outside of the boxes that were hanging around the screen hole on the one end. I'm glad I didn't notice those when I put them in my car, or I probably would have been thinking they were flying around my head on the drive back, ready to sting me for taking them away from their homes.
Once I put them on my hives, I got my screwdriver and opened up the entrance to each nuc. I didn't bother putting on my bee veil or anything as it was cool out and they didn't seem that active. I'm sure the long drive on the back of the truck bed got them a bit disoriented.
Once I opened the entrance on one of the hives, the bees slowly started climbing out and going around the entrance to the hive. It looked like a sausage maker full of bees pouring out the front. I was quite amazed at all the bees coming out, but I didn't want to hang around to watch in case they were upset about their ride. It was also past 2am by this time. With that, I went home and went back to bed. The hiving of the bees would wait until Saturday afternoon.
Saturday afternoon came and it was time to "hive the bees." I won't lie, I was as nervous as I was excited. I had read all about what I was to do. I even read Beekeeping for Dummies from cover to cover. Other HBA members had assured me it would be no problem. I had some hands-on experience the week before. But there was no one else there, except for me and the oldest son. He was there to document the experience, good or bad. He stood nearer to the car than the hives, just in case it went bad. Not sure if he didn't have faith in my abilities or was just the more logical of the two of us at the time.
I got my smoker going and got suited up. I had all my tools out of the car and the hatch closed, just in case things went really bad and the oldest son needed a place to hide. Off to "hive the bees."
I took my drill and removed the two screws from the lid. Then I realized I had to move one of the nucs off the hive to open it up. I took the drill and put the screws back into the lid. The bees were all around the front and didn't leave me a good place to grab the nuc. A little puff of smoke and they moved out of the way. I moved the nuc over to the other hive next to the other nuc. I took my drill and removed the two screws from the lid, again. I had to use my hive tool to pry open the top of the lid. It was amazing as I looked into the nuc and saw all the bees in there. They had started to create comb between the top of the frames and the lid, which is why it was so difficult to open.
After a bit more smoke on the top of the frames to get the bees to go down into the frames, I grabbed the first frame and took a look.
I was looking for the queen, which was supposed to be marked with a yellow paint dot. I didn't see her on this frame, but I also didn't spend a lot of time looking. The bees were anxious and so was I. I wanted to get them into their home as quickly as possible. This was also one of the outside frames, so I figured the queen may be more towards the center. I grabbed a second frame.
No queen there. At least not with my 30 second look on each side. There were so many bees. During my hands-on experience the week before, I don't think I saw this many bees the whole day. These frames were LOADED! (This one required the exclamation point.) Quickly I got the frame into the hive. There were a lot of bees flying around by now.
I grabbed the third and fourth frame from the nuc and put them into the hive. I checked each one for the queen, and I didn't see her. I will admit that it was a half hearted attempt to find the queen. It was hot out, I was sweating a lot, although I don't believe these two were related on this day. Once all four frames were in the hive, I got the frames situated and spaced correctly. Then I had to get the rest of the bees that were in the nuc box into the hive.
A quick thump of the box on the ground and then I poured the remaining bees into the hive. Just so you don't think I made a goofy decision to do it this way, I was told by everyone that this is how it is done. The bees didn't seem to mind, but it sure put a lot more bees into the air. I quickly got the top feeder placed and then the top lid placed. I was done...with the first hive.
I will admit that the second hive went slightly easier. I knew what to expect to some extent, and the hive I had already placed was the hive that seemed more active and looked like the sausage press of bees the night before.
On the second hive, I moved the nuc box to the other hive top before removing the screws on the lid. I did learn something. I did a quick inspection of each frame, trying to find the queen on this hive. Again, I was unsuccessful at locating the queen on any of the four frames from the second nuc. My goal was more speed and getting the frames put into the hive, than taking the time to look around for the queen. There were so many bees, it wasn't going to be easy. And by now, there were a LOT of bees in the air.
As with the first nuc, once the frames were installed, a quick thump of the nuc on the ground and a quick pour into the hive.
After I got the hive top feeders filled, I placed the nucs and lids at the front of each hive, hoping that any bees that were still in the nucs would find their way back into the hive that they were near. There weren't many left, but I wanted to give all the bees a chance to be a part of the hives.
Overall, it was a good experience. Everything went as I was told it should go, for the most part. I never expected the nucs to be that full, of bees or brood. These hives look like they are going to explode in population in the next couple weeks. The queen was much harder to find than I thought she would be. And I didn't get stung once! In my book, that was a successful "hiving of the bees."
I did have one interesting thing happen. While I was doing the second hive, there seemed to be one persistent bee that kept banging into my veil. She just kept flying around my head and banging into my veil. Once I was done and walked back to the car, she was still there, banging into me. I even took the smoker, closed my eyes and gave my head a couple puffs of smoke, figuring that she would leave. Nope. She was my new friend. The oldest son thought it was funny and took a picture.
You can see it right in front of my face, buzzing around and banging into my veil. But I was done, and it was time to get out of the bee suit. I walked over to the hives and gave her a gentle swat to the side with my hand and I quickly walked back to the car. Apparently that was enough to discourage her from using her stinger on me and ending her life. Besides, she had a brand new hive that needed her help.
I went back and checked on the hives today (Sunday). I wanted to make sure a skunk or raccoon or something didn't get into the nucs in front of the hives. I was pleased to see everything where I had left it. There were still a few bees in the nucs, but they may have been cleaning out the left over honey from the burr comb they built on the sides and on the lid. I walked around to the front, giving them a large distance since I didn't have my veil on. I took my binoculars with me and looked at the entrances. The bees were coming and going. That was a good sign. In about 5 days or so, I will go back to the hives and open them up to see if I can find the queen. If I can't find the queen, at least I can look for eggs as a sign that she is there.
My bee adventure has officially begun. Remember, I am as new as it gets to this hobby, so I am sure I am going to do things wrong. But at the same time, whenever you ask more than one beekeeper a question, you will be guaranteed to get more than one answer. Please leave me your comments so I can learn if you have a different suggestion for how I should do something. I just hope that I am able to take good care of the bees and next year, they will take care of me with some honey for the Good Wife.