My packages came in on Thursday, and thanks to Lee’s wife, I was able to get them and install them yesterday. Here’s two of the packages (for another friend) on the front porch:
If you’ve never seen a package, it’s a shoe-box sized box with screen on two sides. Inside the box is a can of sugar syrup (you can see it in the middle) and a queen in a little cage. The bees stay alive in the box for a few days until you can get them in the hive.
Personally, I try to get my bees out of the package as quickly as I can. I don’t like seeing them trapped like that, and I’ve heard some people express concern that the queen being trapped in her cage can lead to stunted development of her ovaries. Since she’s mom to all of them, I’d rather not have her trapped any longer than necessary.
For my packages, I noticed that both packages had started to build comb on the queen cage already, which was a first for me. I also figured that was a good sign that the package had taken to the new queen already. I was tempted to do a direct release, but I didn’t.
So, one package became the new Hive 2 and the other the new Top Bar. I went out today to inspect things, and here’s the report.
Hive 1–Didn’t touch. Very active and happy.
Hive 2–I figured there was a good chance that they would have already released the queen, so I figured why the heck not. She was indeed out of the cage, and the hive was thick and full of bees. I gave them a lot of the old comb from my old hives, including honey, so they have a wonderful start to the year. They look great.
Hive 3–I took only the outer cover off on this hive just to see what was going on. There hasn’t been much in the way of flyers out of this hive, and I was a bit worried. I took a peek through the hole in the inner cover, and I think we’re okay. Lots of bees. I made sure they had a lot of stores when I split them off, so food isn’t exactly their top priority right now (getting a new queen is). I’m okay with this hive, a little worried, but okay.
Top Bar–I should probably have a more awesome name for this hive…. Oh well.
I went out first thing this morning to remove the old package boxes from Hive 2 and the Top Bar, and I also decided that I needed to flip this hive around. I had it facing one direction last night, but this hive was particularly defensive going in to the hive. In fact, I normally do my package installs sans protective gear, but I needed it for this one. I had to stop mid-install and put on my veil, which was unusual. I think it was because they were well on their way putting in comb; something to defend. It was fun when I dumped the package into the Top Bar to watch the bees spread up and over the sides of the hive as they explored.
Anyway, I decided to rotate the hive slightly to face another direction because last night they were a bit more territorial than I would have liked. We park right in the same area as the hives, and I hoped that turning that hive a touch would change the defensive area so that it did not include right around the car. I guess we’ll see. They also could have just been agitated from the install.
When I opened the hive this morning to pull the queen cage out (not released yet), I found the hive filled with bee bridges all over the place. It was fun to pull bars out and find a long strand of bees hanging off of each other. I popped the end off the queen cage, and she slipped right in. I feel confident that she’ll be well accepted given how long they were in the package together. Hopefully I’m right!
Here’s a few pictures:
Here’s the front of the Top Bar. There are four one-inch holes drilled into that central triangle (three low and one high) for entrances. There are also small caps here and there in the top bars that the bees can certainly use if they like. The food unit you can see at the top right of the image. It’s a rather ingenious tunnel through a two by four with a mount for a masonry jar of sugar syrup. Completely self-contained. I don’t like using sugar syrup, but in this case I didn’t have a way of getting the bees honey. I guess this works for now.
And here’s a shot across the bow. Hive 1 is the one farthest on the right. Yes, I know that my new Hive 2 is already two deeps and that technically you should only have a single deep for a new package. Dad and I were talking about it the other day, and we talked about how in a natural environment the bees neither expand or contract the size of their hive. I’m sure there is some reason why someone somewhere determined that they should restrict hive size, but I just can’t think through a logical reason to do so here. I’ve heard it’s harder to keep a stable environment, but again, they do it naturally somehow. I’ve heard they are harder to defend, and I have the same response. I guess we’ll see what happens.
Last but not least, I finally realized last night when I was doing the packages that this is my hobby again. Not for someone else, not for any other reason. It’s my hobby. It’s what I want to do. It’s nice to have people helping for sure, but it’s not necessary. I welcome the mentoring opportunity, but I’ve finally made a complete break emotionally in relation to the hives from the tragedies of last year. It’s nice. I honestly wondered if that would be stolen from me like so much else was (emotionally speaking).
Now I just need to convince my British Beekeeper Buds (BBBs) to send me some of the awesome cakes that they always have in their apiary! 🙂 I have yet to see them bring something that didn’t make me drool at least a little….