Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Bee Log 31: April 21, 2010
The above pictures taken by Sharon show my husband and me installing a package of bees in Sharon's back yard. Sharon is one of seven home owners who have graciously volunteered their back yards to host our bees. We will supply the host homes with honey in exchange for a spot in their back yards and they and their neighbors will benefit from the pollination provided by the bees. We will be selling honey from these hives at the Phinney Farmers' Market starting in July.
We ordered 12 packages of bees that came on April 17. We had the hives all assembled, painted and set up ahead of that date so that we could concentrate on installing the bees when they arrived. The weather was iffy all day long when we were installing the packages but it did not actually rain until we got to the second to the last home which was Theo's house. It just poured buckets while we were installing that package. That was the fastest installation of the day! Theo has promised me a video of the event. It will definitely be featured in this blog when received! We finished up the installations at Joe's house putting on wet bee suits and having Joe put on the wet bee suit that Theo had worn.
To install a package of bees, first the can of sugar water is removed from the opening in the bee box. Then the queen cage is removed from the midst of the bees. This is a small matchbox sized, screened box with the queen inside and lots of bees hanging on the outside. The three pounds of worker bees are unceremoniously dumped on top of the frames of the hive. The queen cage is opened and the entrance blocked with a marshmallow. The cage is suspended in the hive between two frames. The marshmallow keeps the queen from flying away during installation and gives the bees a few hours to settle down before her majesty walks among them. The bees eat the marshmallow and the queen comes out of the cage.
I returned to each house two days later to remove the queen cage and check on the bees. Each hive looked normal including the hives that were exposed to the rain. Some and likely all of the hives had already started building comb. I did not inspect the frames but some of the queen cages had beeswax on them. I will return in a week and check sugar water supplies, add a brood box and check the frames.
In our own back yard, the saga of the new queens continues. Yesterday was not an ideal day to work the bees as it was chilly and overcast but I did get in the two hives with the new $25 queens and take the cork barrier out of the queen's cage. The introduction period for a new queen is supposed to take 72 hours. A candy plug at entrance of the queen cage is supposed to take about 3 days for the bees to eat through. There is an additional cork barrier at the entrance. I left the cork in for 3 days so the queens could not get out before the workers were used to her scent. (With the bee packages, the queens have been traveling with the workers so the introduction period is over by the time the bees arrive in Washington state.) The separate purchased queens need this 3 day phase in or the bees will kill her. The health of these two hives is still pretty precarious. One of the hives was showing a lot more interest in the new queen than the other hive.