Two years ago we added bees to the Chiot's Run Family. We picked up 10,000 ladies from Dave, a local guy who sells them. He knows what he's talking about, these were the hives in his front yard.
On our way home Mr Chiot's looked at me and said, "This has the makings of a horrible nightmare. The story would go something like this, 'I picked up my package of bees and all was going well. I heard something in the back of the car and then a swarm of bees attacked my face. I ran off the road into a ditch ....'" We had a good laugh about that on our way home. Such a common misconception that bees are dangerous!
When we arrived home we proceeded to follow Dave's instructions for, "the easy way to install a new package of bees". It's much different than the way the books tell you to do it. We decided his way sounded great, and since he's a veteran beekeeper we figured he knew what he was talking about.
First we pried to lid off of the box of bees, then we removed the can of sugar syrup and the queen cage (the queens come in their own little cage inside the bigger cage of bees). Then you put the small wooden lid back on to keep the bees inside until you want to release them.
Then the box of bees is placed in an empty super on top of the bottom board of the hive (lid on it's removed after we get the queen cage suspended above). This process takes the place of banging the box of bees and then dumping them into the hive, this seemed like a much "nicer" option both for us and the bees.
We taped a piece of wood over the opening of the hive to keep the bees inside until we move them outside (this afternoon when it's warm).
We then proceeded to hang the queen cage in a super with frames (the part the bees build comb on) above the empty box that has the bee cage in it. We wired her in so that the bees could still reach her. She will be released into the hive in 3 days (thanks for the question Christy).
Her cage gets placed over to the side so that the jar of sugar syrup that you put on top to feed them doesn't drip on her and get her wet.
After placing the super with the queen on top of the box that has the bee cage in it, remove the lid from the box of bees below, then place a the inner hive cover with a jar of sugar syrup on top so that the bees have something to eat.
Then you put an empty box or two (we used 2 because they were small ones) and then the hive cover to keep them warm and to keep them inside. It was a much easier process than we were expecting, thanks to Dave's great installation instructions and the cold weather which makes the bees pretty lethargic. We'll definitely be using this method whenever we instal bees from now on!
We kept our bees in the garage for a few days as Dave recommended because it was really cold outside (dipping down into the teens). When the weather warmed up after 2-3 days we moved the hive outside into it's finally destination. Then we released the queen a few days later. Our bees did well that summer and last summer, but they failed to survive this past long cold winter. That means we'll be doing this again, only we're hoping to build Warre hives to put them in (an old fashioned top bar hive).
Do you have bees in your garden or would you ever consider getting them?
I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, maple sugaring, and other interesting things. You can also find me at Ethel Gloves, Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op, Not Dabbling in Normal, and you can follow me on Twitter.
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