Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hiving the packages of bees

I picked up the new packages of bees yesterday.  Here's the scene at the Mulkiteo lighthouse park parking lot.  I ordered and pre-paid for my packages a month or so ago from Island Apiaries, a local bee keeping company, who collects orders and then drives down to california and gets a trailer load of bees.  In the picture below you can see each package nailed together by strips of wood.  The metal disk is a can of bee food, and the queen is packed in a small block of wood that's had a hold drilled in it, and a cork placed to prevent her escape. 

Unfortunately for me, one of my 13 packages had a hole in it, so by the time that I got to my farm i had probably 500 bees in the cab of my truck.  Made for white-knuckle driving, as I decided to just drive straight through, hoping that I could get to the farm before the whole package filled my truck cab. 
It was cold and rainy, which was good.  When I got to the farm I let the bees cool down a bit and then scooped them up and hived most of them.  
Hiving the bees is relatively simple, although the first time you do it you're fighting against your instict of fleeing from a buzzing hive.  At least I was.    I pull the food can out, extract the queen carrier, replace the cork holding the queen in with a minature marshmellow, and then carefully place her into the hive. 
Then you shake the other 10,000 bees into the hive as if they were wood chips; rapping the package a few times to knock the bees loose, and then shaking them into the hive.  The final thing I do is to use a handful of sugar to drive the bees down into the combs from the top of the hive, and then put the lid on. 

I use dry sugar to do that instead of smoke because the bees are already agitated, and they'll eat the sugar, too, so I both move the bees where I want them and feed them at the same time. 

I'll be actively managing these hives to create more hives later this year.  In the mean time, I'll let them settle into their new homes for 10 days, and then go and check on laying pattern to make sure that the queen is doing her job. 

Managed for honey, each hive will produce all the food they'll need for next year and an additional 60-100lbs of honey for sale. 


Joanne Rigutto said...

I'd really like to get bees this year for my farm, but I'm worried that it's too late to order. Perhaps next year.

Bruce King said...

Island is doing another package run in a week or two I understand and beez kneez in snohomish has packages this Friday.