April 5th and 6th, 2014
My Georgia belles have arrived, all 6,012-6,014 of them! (Recall each bee package has 3 lbs of bees which is about 3000 bees, plus a Queen and her 5-7 attendants.) Walt and I picked them up Friday night and kept them fed through the package screening by squirting thick sugar syrup with a small dose of antibiotic into and on the screen of the cages. That initiated some activity! They were VERY thirsty. They had been shaken together last Tuesday and not everyone could maneuver to the enclosed can of sugar syrup with three small punctured holes in it to get a drink on their drive to MD. Satisfied that they had at least enough syrup to eat and hold them over, I covered them with newspaper to keep the packages dark, and stored them away for the night. They settled down to a nice harmonic buzz.
Saturday morning it was sunny, but a cold North wind was blowing and it was in the mid 50sF. I decided to wait until the sun was high in the sky to hive (install) them. Around 3pm it seemed right, even though the wind just wouldn't quit. I've never installed bees in such wind. But, it was sunny and warmer (now 60sF), so I decided to go for it. My neighbor noticed me heading out and said oh your bees are in! Yep, I'm going to hive them now. He said, oh, you might want to wait. I just heard it will be 31F tonight. Tomorrow might be better. Hmmmm. Dropping below freezing? That's not good for young new bees and queens from Georgia where it is warmer. I decided to go ahead and hive the bees, but to do it differently from in past years. (See very first post from last year). We will soon see if it worked or not!
Instead of using two supers on each hive, one to hold frames, queen cage, bees,and syrup can from their travel package, and the other to accommodate a gallon bag of sugar syrup laid over the top of the frames with a small slit to allow a drinking trough as in the past, I decided with dropping freezing temps coming tonight, we could not have a frozen bag of syrup, essentially an ice pack, lying on top of her majestys! And, with two supers, one of them empty to accomodate the bag of syrup, that would be a lot of volume to heat for a small cluster of bees. It would get too cold and kill the queen and many of them. So, one super would warm nicely. Being a veteran beekeeper, I keep some previous year's frames of capped honey stored and I pulled these out for the girls to eat on. As they eat the honey, they will make cells for the queen when she walks out of the cage to start laying eggs. (A brand new beekeeper would not have had this advantage,) I also slipped the ipm bottom boards into the bottom board slit area to provide extra insulation for the night. I hope these modifications worked ok.
I also decided to not pierce the candy plug in the queen cages. The queens are young already mated but small and look healthy. I decided with cold weather, I didn't want them coming out too soon. Any disturbance could cause the bees to sting her to death. Extreme cold from their Georgia perspective might do this. So, I'll let her attendants take a bit more time to eat through the candy plug and release her. As I've mentioned before, sadly they-the attendants-will be stung to death when they walk out of the cage.
As you can see, a beekeeper has lots of options. There are standard ways you are taught to do things by master beekeepers and special classes, but common sense and experimentation and experience teach us as well. There is no one way to do something in beekeeping I find.
So, other than these modifications, due to impending cold, I installed my girls exactly as I had last year. (See much earlier post and photos.) The trick is to see that at the entryway you have several girls "fanning" after a successful installation. It was windy, but they were fanning. (Workers stand on their tippy tarsi and do a sort of headstand. They beat their wings feverishly to release a pheromone scent on the back of their abdomen. It flows out in a plume from the bees doing this fanning and signals to others; here we are! Come over here. We've found a new home. You'll be safe inside.) Ok,...so I anthropomorphize a bit!
Baby bees (that's what I affectionately call these really young bees that have never flown), that had fallen from the hive during installation were crawling toward where the fanning was coming from and toward each hive entry almost immediately after install. A good sign. The wind was not adversely impacting the fanned plume of pheromone scent.
Within an hour of install, I watched the older workers that do fly taking their first training flights from each hive. First they would travel maybe 3 feet out and then circle back, taking in the sun's position and landmarks around their new hives. A bit later, they were going 6 to 8 feet from the hive and circling back.
By evening, some were actually finding the blooming maples in the backyard some 20 feet away. Amazing. They are fast learners! I'm proud of my child prodigies! Now, if they can just survive these temps!
April 7th, 2014
After church was over. I drove to the backyard to see my bees. (I actually drove by the hives before church, but it was still too cold and there was no activity yet.) After church, about noon, it was sunny and warm, a pretty day. They were coming in and out of the entryway. I got out of the car and went and sat on the bench to watch them for 30 minutes. Several girls were bringing in a pretty red pollen. Maple, no doubt. They found it. In less than 24 hours, really in less than 20 hours, these foreign girls had figured out their new homes and had found food 20 feet away and were making a beeline back and forth as they started their new colonies up and running. Walt came by later to watch as well and explained, now that's a fast learning curve!