Lots of beekeepers converging on Bailey Bee Supply this morning at the opening time to pick up packages of bees. This was my first time picking up and installing a package–last time around I started with a nuc–so, a new experience for me this year.
I spent yesterday evening reviewing videos and blog posts about how to install a package in the hive. After looking at all the “traditional” methods, I went back to some posts on one of my favorite beekeeping blogs, Honey Bee Suite, about an easier way to do a package install: set the shipping box into the deep from which several frames have been removed and let the bees wander out instead of doing the “shake” method. Since I’ve switched to deep boxes for my brood chamber, I decided to do the “overnight” installation.
The most difficult part of this was getting the package open–some very serious staples in the cover and the strips that held the boxes together for handling. The real hitch came when every rubber band that I had in my pocket broke before fitting around the frame. I had to leave the queen cage, briefly, lying on the top of the box, and go get new rubber bands.
Trying to inspect the queen in her cage was interesting. First I shook most of the bees that were clustered on it when I pulled it out of the shipping box and started trying to see the queen. I had just long enough to see a healthy looking bee zipping around in the cage when I had a “glove” (on my ungloved hand) that completely covered the cage as well as my hand. I was looking for marking of yellow, but a friend noted “orange” in a FaceBook post for his package, so I suspect that I just didn’t see the marking on her thorax through all the bees clustering on my hand and the cage.
The queen in her little cage is now rubber-banded to one of the frames, and from the activity, obviously anxious to get out. Even though she traveled from Georgia with this little group of bees, it’s still not the time to let her out: the bees will do that by eating through the plug of “candy” at the end of her cage when they both had a little time to settle in.
Several hours later, it looks as if the bees who got out and were flying around the hive are making their way back inside, though they are still exploring. Because I was putting the girls (and the queen) in a completely, brand new hive, I put an entrance guard on the hive so that the queen cannot leave when she leaves the cage–they girls need to stick around and make this home.
With luck, they will move out of the shipping box this afternoon and tonight. I’ll leave them alone until tomorrow when I’ll remove the shipping box from the hive and put the rest of the frames back in.
I got so entranced in working with these little creatures that I didn’t realize until writing this that I did that whole procedure without putting on my bee jacket and veil. I think I’ll try to remember that when I go back to check the hive in the morning! I guess maybe the girls are going to be friendly.