I happened to be sifting through Facebook when I noted that my friend, Luis, who I went to the bee keeping class with was excitedly announcing that he was picking up his bees that morning. …What? I checked my email, but did not have an email telling me to do the same thing. Others were talking about their soon to be filled hives as well and I began to panic. I called the bee company and sure enough, mine were in a parking lot an hour away. I had until noon to retrieve them. Doug had just woken up and I was in a manic scurry. What do we do?? The bees are coming!!
Despite the books and the class and badgering my poor mentor, Brett, with questions, I felt completely unready. It did not feel like bringing home baby ducks. A bit more could go wrong with 10,000 new bees. I called Brett. What do we do?? The bees are coming!!
Brett is the epitome of calm and collected. He is a handsome, shy, eighteen year old who knows everything about bees. He would come over after he installed his three hives. I acted as if I were preparing for a baby to come home. What do I need? I pulled our bee jackets and veils from the packages and laid them out on the table. My bee keeping book useless to me at the moment since nothing I could find helped me figure out a top bar hive.
Do I need the smoker? Brett would see how the bees were, but probably not. (Too bad in hindsight, I still have no idea how to use it and I will have to go out and check on their sugar water!)
I made the sugar water as he instructed. 50/50 water and sugar until dissolved. Don’t burn it!
I filled a five gallon bucket with water near their hive and floated wine corks for balance.
I put the sugar water in a Tupperware container with lots of rocks and twigs so we don’t drown on our first day at the new digs.
The bees arrived in the back of the Volvo. Doug went by himself in case we had a few escapees and the baby in the back seat together. None did and they were pretty preoccupied with freeing the queen. Bees are ever so medieval. I rather love that.
Finally our knight in shining armors arrived. An unknowing neighbor looking on would suspect a fencing match or a trip to the moon with five of us wandering about in our bee suits. Brett and his father, Lance, got right to work with photographer brother, Brandon, helping and taking pictures at the same time. We were really much more in the way, so Doug took pictures as well and I stood nearby in the cacophony of bees taking in that mesmerizing sound. I was not scared in the least in my bee suit. They were not interested in me and I have never heard that many bees. It was really quite magical.
First they took off the can glued into the top that holds sugar syrup for the ride over the mountains. A few bees got out but gravitated towards the box. They did not want to leave the queen. A few got crushed when the cardboard came down and covered the hole.
The queen was dangling in a box anxious to see her new kingdom. It was held onto the carton of bees by a piece of metal. Brett deftly (in large leather gloves even) took the box and stapled it to one of the top bars with a staple gun. This was after he took out the cork and replaced it with a tiny marshmallow that the workers can eat through.
One wouldn’t release the queen immediately as the kingdom may not be pleased and promptly kill her. It takes awhile for her scent and the bees to all get to know each other and realize that they are family. By the time the marshmallow is gone, it will be like they were never apart.
Now at this point we were taught to bang the box down so all the bees fall to the bottom then dump it upside down into their new apartment complex. Brett finds it easier to cut the screens with a sharp knife rather than try to fit everyone through the hole on top.
Then they are turned upside down and literally poured into the hive. If you could envision the sound of a “pfoomph”. And the bees were in. Now they are everywhere and Brett and Lance carefully replaced the top bars.
Immediately the bees went to work. Some had their backsides in the air calling the bees home that had run off. Some were cleaning the dead bees out of the hive that didn’t make it. The clamor of bees making a home was fascinating. They had no interest in us whatsoever. Just in making their new pink house a home.