Last Saturday I headed off to Vacaville to pick up my two 4-lb packages of Carniolan bees. Since it’s a 200 mile round trip drive, I believe next year I’ll let them mail the little buggers to me 🙂
Anyway, here’s their home-to-bee before I began installing them. Note to the left of the hives are the pond and a wonderful lavender patch – both are great for the bees well-being and honey production.
The photo below is of the partially harvested frames from last season that I’d tucked in the freezer to jump-start this year’s colonies. If you click on this pic, you can peer down inside the frame to see the comb and honey waiting for the bees. Note: directly opposite the visible comb / honey is another frame that looks about the same – lots of comb / honey.
To install the Queen in this hive, I will place her “cage” (it’s a plastic holding cell with a sugar plug in the bottom end of it) in between the two frames, holding her cage in place with the comb / honey. (Can’t be too much honey / too tightly or she will drown in the honey.) When I install the bees and the Queen, they worker bees will eat the sugar plug and free the Queen, who will immediately begin laying eggs in the surrounding comb.
The pic below shows the two “packages of bees. If estimates are correct, there should be 40k+ bees in each box, though I stopped counting at “10” 🙂 See that can on the top? That’s a container of medication that will be mixed with water and placed in the solution feeder that gets placed at their hive entrance.
Beginning an hour before installation, I lightly spray the bees with a very weak sugar / water solution… several times, in fact. This keeps them hydrated and enables them to eat the sugar water (for calories); pretty soon thereafter, when they’re in the new hive, the sugar water / food will cause them begin making wax and building out the hive.
The way installation works is, holding the box at a slight angle, I bang it on the ground to loosen the can. Then I remove the can and then, holding the package / hole over their hive, I bang the snot out of the package against the top of the hive, dropping the bees down in to the hive. Because they’re full, not engaged in protecting their own hive so are non-aggressive, we can be fairly rough with them.
Once I’ve installed them in their new hive, I place the medication / water solution in front of their hive and leave their package homes outside the hive… the ones who didn’t drop out will eventually find their way in to their new homes by nightfall. (Too cold for them outside @ night – everybody’s gotta be home by dark.)
Here they are around / inside and waiting to go inside their new homes.
Close up of the action. There’s an incredible amount of bee poop flying @ this point, btw!
(edit: An important note is that after leaving the bees as you see them in the picture below, not only will they head in to the hive before dark, but by early morning the next day, they’ll also haul away any dead bee bodies so they attract as little attention from bad guys (yellow jackets, birds, etc) as possible.
While I really enjoy many aspects of having bees – they’re wonderful for the neighborhood, our own trees / gardens, and the wonderful honey they provide – I find installing the bees to be fairly stressful… I suppose it could be the 200 mile drive immediately before installing them that takes a bit of wear on me.
I hope you like the pics – I’ll provide updates in a week when I check the Queen / hive for egg production.