This morning a friend and I drove to the supplier’s place to pick up our packages of 10.000 bees (3 lbs) with a marked Italian Queen. Driving back with a couple of loose bees in the car was no problem: they stuck with their caged compatriots, maybe listening in while we talked doom :)

Installing the package was surprisingly easy. I knew the procedure by heart. I removed the can with the syrup, which opens up the box:

Then I fished out the queen cage:

I shook her helpers off into the hive, checked that she was alive (she was), then looked for the cork that is supposed to cover the candy, and found none (huh?), and so  installed it by wedging it between two frames. Then I shook all the other bees out into the hive.

You shake the box this way and that and they just fall on top of the frame and crawl in. I put the box near the hive entrance, so whatever live bees remained could easily find their way in. Then I carefully pushed the frames together and closed up the hive.

All this with three puffs of smoke and no spraying of the bees with sugar water like it is sometimes advised. The bees seemed happy to be out of that tiny box and into a new, clear home. They started clearing out the dead bees (because unfortunately, with this method, those get shaken in as well) and guarding the entrance right away. I was glad to get out of the bee suit, though: it was an exceptionally hot  and humid day, and the suit was a boiler.

Then came the doubt. Really, no cork? The tiny cork is supposed to cover a piece of candy that the bees chew through to release the Queen: a slow release that helps them get used to her pheromones. If I installed the queen cage with the cork, the queen wouldn’t be able to get out, lay no eggs, and the hive would die. I couldn’t afford to wait till the next inspection, which is in a week.

So I went in again, this time with some trepidation. I found the cork on the candy end of the cage. It was totally covered over with wax. It took me a minute or so to pry it out with my hive tool. Again the bees were docile – luckily, because I had to relight my smoker a couple of times.

I do love the sight of that hive  (just one brood box so far), and the bees flying in and out the entrance (reduced, so they can guard it more easily). I hope they feel at home and find their way around soon.

And Amie? She came running when I got home to see the box and was truly wowed by buzzing and moving of those many bees. Unfortunately I hadn”t come back in time to show it to her preschool class. She wanted to help me install them but I explained we don’t have a suit for her. So she and DH watched through the window.

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  1. I’m thrilled about your bees & so happy everything went well!

    Can I ask a few questions? We’re throwing around the idea for sometime in the next few years…

    How big is your lot? Did you site the hive in an out of the way area or do you feel pretty comfortable with them close to your activities? Can I ask how old Amie is? (Most of our hesitation is wanting to wait until our little guy is old enough to understand and consistently act on the understanding that the bees need to be left alone.)

  2. Hi esp,

    Our lot is almost an acre, but 2/4 of it was too shady and woodsy (to my liking) for a hive, and 1/4 is too close to daily traffic.

    Though I agonized over it, I like where I put it now: it catches the morning sun, then goes into deep shade at noon and comes into dappled shade in the afternoon.

    Today I worked the asparagus bed that is about 5 feet to its side and the strawberry beds which are about 10 feet more to its front, and none of the bees seemed to mind (it is early, though: they are not foraging yet).

    Amie (who will be 5 in August) stood about 10 feet away from it (to its side) to get a closer look, and there was no trouble. I did inform her of how close she could come, and that, if she is that close, she should not yell or kick and jump. She (or anyone, also myself when I work it) should not step right in front of the hive (the bees would not like bumping into me on their ways in and out).

    There are ways to accommodate a hive in smaller spaces: set it up high, so its entrance is raised above people’s heads, or put a hedge or some such in front of it.

  3. Ah, thank you. We have a smaller lot (1/3 acre) but it is very deep & there are a few spots that I think might work. Close to 5 seems like a good age — we are still in the toddler stages where I’m not sure he would consistently remember to be careful. Gives me time to read and learn.

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