Yesterday I drove out to east Olympia to pick up our package of bees from the Olympia bee club people. This is a tiny part of the order of bee packages they made this year. They arrived from California Friday night. Each package has three pounds of bees, a can of syrup and a queen in a cage.
Mark Savage gave a few demonstrations on how to hive the bee package, how to release the queen from her cage, how to place her in the hive, and how to install the feeder.
Then I signed out my three pound box of Italians and brought them home in my little Toyota. The bee club people brushed off all the hitch hikers, so I didn’t get stung while driving.
I was told to wait for “15 minutes of sunshine” to install the package. In Olympia, we cram in a lot when we get “15 minutes of sunshine.” It was raining on and off much of the afternoon. So we spent our time fussing with the hive until it was in its Final, Most Perfect resting place. Bees don’t like it if you move their hive around. They are very good navigators, but they depend on you to leave things in the same place. The clouds broke for a minute, so we suited up and carried the bees out.
As much as I wanted to hurry and get them in the hive, I was mesmerized by the package of bees. There they were, our girls, all in one box, for the last time ever. Once we open the box, it will never be the same. It’s one of those “no turning back now” moments.
I used my hive tool to pry the syrup can out of the package. Please feel free to admire my vegan cowgirl boots. I covered the whole with a paint sample sheet to encourage the bees to stay in the box.
I pulled the queen cage out. It was totally covered in bees like a magical ball of bees. This is testament to the power of her scent. These bees don’t even know this queen, but they love her so much. I gently brushed them away and they started flying around.
And then, there she was, Her Royal Highness. She’s going to determine everything about our hive, so I hope she’s a good queen. Levi said, in hushed tones, “She’s beautiful.”
There’s a cork in the queen cage, which is pretty easy to pull out with a screw. Just take care not to screw the screw into the queen. Then you replace the cork with a candy plug or a mini marshmallow. Mark Savage told the newbees that he recommends putting a small nail through the candy plug and roughing up the edge of it just to give the bees something good to hold onto and make it easier to chew through. They have to get through this to release their queen. This is supposed to give them enough time to get to know her before they are in physical contact, so they won’t harm her.
We nestled the queen cage in between two frames, and carefully, gently, with excruciating slowness and delicacy, rolled the box on top. I had to make some adjustments after this photo was taken. The queen cage should be directly underneath the hole in the box. The bees in the box think, “Hrmm, there is food, there is a queen, there is comb down there… what am i doing in this box!?” Then they move into the hive and start the business of running a hive. Hopefully!
Then, we put the second box over the whole contraption and closed it up. We’re supposed to leave it for 24 hours, then go back to see if the queen has been released yet, shake out the bee box and remove the syrup feeder. It is really hard to wait to check on them, but we’re distracting ourselves with all the other work we need to do on our microfarm. So cross your fingers for our little bee colony. We will report back as soon as we have more news. My hope is that Levi will come up with a phenomenal name for the queen. I’m also accepting suggestions of names for her – you know, the “too weird to name your baby” names are perfect for queen bees.