You wouldn't know it from the weather, but it's officially spring and my two packages of bees arrived precisely on the equinox (March 20th). I always use this arrival as my real harbinger of spring (rather than groundhogs or robins! ) And, there was a spring in my step and a smile on my face as I anticipated picking them up.
A bee package is a wooden box with screen siding containing 3 lbs of bees (which equates to 3,000 workers) plus a queen in a queen cage with 5 attendants to feed her. There is also sugar syrup in a can hanging in the middle of the cage with the 3000 bees for their feed. The queen cage is a smaller wooden box with screen sides also hanging in the box, and with a plug of sugar candy in it. The queen cannot feed herself, so the five attendants eat this sugar plug slowly and feed it to the queen.
The 3000 bees in each package were all shaken together on Tuesday morning in a bee yard located somewhere in GA. These girls (all workers are female) are very young, recently emerged adults. They were literally shaken by a machine from probably 2-6 hives and mixed together. So, they have never met each other. My local bee club sends a representative down to pick-up all the bee package orders and bring them back up here to the mid Atlantic. So, my girls had a long distance drive. I picked them up from the club rep's house on Wednesday after work. I placed the two packages in my company car's backseat and headed home. It's about a 15 mile journey back to my place in Brunswick, MD, and all kinds of thoughts went through my head. First of all, my company car is a branded pest management vehicle. I was chauffering 6,012 (3K+ 3K+5+5+2 queens) ladies in my backseat within a pest management vehicle! I was also conscious that if I had an accident, any arriving emergency vehicles would more than likely not want to attend to me, and/or would have some well-meaning fire crew hose down these dangerous animals to their deaths! Not a good thought! So, I drove even more cautiously than my Tiwi demands.
We arrived at home in good order, and I gently carried my girls downstairs to the basement and set the two packages up on top of the freezer. I had already placed newsprint down first. The basement holds at a fairly constant temperature of about 50F and is limited in light. Because these girls have had about a 600 mile drive after being shaken together and not knowing each other, they are confused and discombobulated. So, keeping them in a nice and cool dark area is best. (The hive, of course, is always in darkness.) I had already prepared a sugar syrup mixture of 1:1 sugar to water in a spray bottle for their feed. To this I had added an antibiotic called Fumigilin B, that serves to cut down on dysentery resulting from their confusion, and also helps them to calm down. They were very thirsty from their trip. The ones clustered up against the queen and near the can of syrup can get feed. But, those on the outer edge of the cluster cannot get to the syrup. So, I spray the sugar water mixture in a fine mist on the screens and gently on the cluster for them to lick off of the screen and also each other. I feed them twice before bed and then I head to bed.
I will continue to feed them about 5 times a day-with help from my assistant Walt who can be there midday while I'm at work. I won't be installing them in their new homes(hives) until Saturday when it is warmer.