Sunday, May 15, 2011

My first lessons in beekeeping.

On Easter weekend of 2011 I installed two packages of bees into two ready and waiting Langstroth hives. The hive bodies had been given to me by a family friend whose brother used to be a beekeeper but gave it up. The hive equipment had been sitting in a barn for a while, and a few boxes had become the homes of mice, so they were in rough shape. I took what could be salvaged, burned the rest, and cleaned up what I thought I could use.
Dadant, Hamillton, Illinois.
I purchased the bees through Dadant and my son and I took a very pleasant, if not somewhat long, road trip up to Hamillton, Illinois to pick them up. The folks at Dadant were very helpful and friendly, and helped us get the bees situated in the car for the ride home.  When we got to the beeyard I set about getting things ready to install the bees. Although I had read quite a bit about installing bees, as well as watching a number of videos, I was a little nervous about getting it right. My son got suited up in his new beesuit while I decided to brave it out without any protective clothing.
Installing the first package went very smoothly with no issues, and I felt pretty good about how things were going.
When it came time to install the second package, things got a little trickier. When I removed the queen cage I noticed that there were already attendants on the outside of the screen, so I think the bees had already formed a bond with her, giving them something to be protective of. I also made a mistake of not replacing the lid over the hole in the top of the package. I didn't realize I was making this mistake because the package hadn't come with a lid to replace in the first place. I simply had removed the syrup can. The bees immediately began to come out of the package, even after I had sprayed them down with sugar water, and when I knocked the box down to get the bees in a clump to pour out they got pretty pissed. Bees were taking to the air rapidly and I got stung about four times, mostly on my left arm. However, to add insult to injury, I got chased for a bit by at least one or two more bees when I tried to distance myself from the package. My poor son had to witness what must have looked like his father experiencing a psychotic episode as I dashed about the area, swatting at my head and swearing profusely. Not exactly gentle beekeeping....
Notice the slightly concerned look on my face? See all the bees flying around? Yeah, this just before I started getting stung.
Once things had calmed down I decided I needed to suit up to finish the job. So, with jacket, veil, and gloves I got the rest of the second package into the hive. I also set up 2 gallon feeder pails but I didn't like how much liquid ran out before the pressure equalized. It made me really nervous to think about what would happen if 2 gallons of liquid was slowly but steadily running into the hive, right on top of the new queen, so I switched them out with smaller glass jars with lids that I punched smaller holes into. They have to be refilled more frequently, but they've been working out great. The bees have really needed the supplemental feeding with all the rainy days we've had this spring and early summer.
A look at the feeder jar. I've since switched to an even larger glass container. 24 oz I think.
A few days later I checked to make sure the queens were out and doing fine, which they were, and both hives have done very well since and are expanding nicely.

With the job done I headed home...

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