For the bees (and me)

After my experience with the dome veil and jacket while I was putting the new bees into the hive, my mission for today was to get a veil that would allow a lot more ventilation. My last experience while in the jacket and veil was a bit like looking at the world through raindrops–not the best for clear vision, especially looking at little moving critters and trying to find one specific little moving critter that (thankfully) had a nice, bright blue dot on her thorax. So, off to Bailey Bee Supply this morning.

new equipment on car seat

new stuff

As is likely typical of most of us when we start a new project/hobby, gadgets and new equipment are totally fascinating and there is such a variety to check out. I suspect that beekeeping gadgets are going to be like kitchen gadgets and widgets–a lot of them better  in advertisement than in actual practice, but you never know, though chatting with other beekeepers certainly helps in choosing, or not. You find out all sorts of things that never appear in the “book learning” part of beekeeping.

For example, in discussions of hats and veils that I’ve read online and in books, nowhere did I find any mention of having a chin strap on the helmet. A friend mentioned, while chatting on FB, that she wished her helmet had a chin strap. I was about to settle for the basic plastic helmet, when my brain registered the fact that a helmet sitting right in front of me had a chin strap–quick change, and I have a helmet that is ventilated and has a chin strap to support a veil that will allow some air flow. That doesn’t mean I won’t drip while working outdoors, but it should help.

Obviously I came home from the bee store with more than just a helmet and veil–just like when I go skulk around the kitchen store.  I had a delightful chat with the lady in the bee store about pros and consult of various gadgetry and her experience–much greater than mine, gave me useful information and contributed to my purchases.

After opening the hive once, I discovered that the disadvantages frequently described for a this type of hive-top feeder  8 Frame Miller Top Feederwere very real. Biggest one for me right now is the difficulty in lifting it off the hive without slopping sugar syrup all over the place. Think about lifting a big, fairly shallow pan–like when you use a bain-marie in the oven–how the liquid shifts and threatens to slosh.  Well, slopping sugar syrup all over me, the bees, the hive, and surrounds is not something I want to deal with right now when I’m doing frequent inspections for my learning experience. SO, new feeder. (Given the good points of this style of hive-top feeder, I suspect that I’ll use it again when I’m not in and out of the hive so often because it’s large capacity is attractive–so it’s not a write-off.)

Despite reading some very contradictory reviews on forums–seemly a definite love-it or hate-it reactions–I got a Bee Smart in-hive feeder in-hive feeder. I’ve read the instructions, and  I’ve been checking it out over the kitchen sink with water. It seems a little touchy about getting the cover screwed back on, but as long as I pay attention to that (and I think my OCD-tendencies will kick in there), it seems to work. Since can go on the inner cover, it will certainly make opening the hive easier for me right now.

My only other purchase was some Honey-B-Healthy–an all-natural feeding stimulant for bees that is HONEY-B-HEALTHY® Supplement 16 ozreported to help with some of the problems that one encounters with bees–like  Nosema ceranae and some of the other really nasty things that can get your bees! It’s not advertised for that (I guess like off-label drug use in humans), but for those attempting to do without giving heavy-duty medications unless absolutely necessary, it has good reports from experienced beekeepers.  So, add a bottle of Honey-B-Healthy concentrate for the girls.

Now comes the sort of hard part–they are not due for a hive inspection until Friday–I have to content to watch them carrying pollen into the hive.

bee with full pollen baskets

pollen into the hive

Honey bees are here. . . .

nuc box

box of bees

This might seem like a digression–but not really, since it eventually relates to honey, which is edible (so deemed appropriate by me, at least) though there won’t be even a single serving until next year.

Yesterday afternoon I went to Hillsborough NC and came home with a large box of bees:  brood in all stages, workers, queen, and even honey; all in a nucleus colony from Bailey Bee Supply.  The bees in that box had to be transferred into their permanent hive. I was a little uncertain about what their disposition might be after being carted around hither and thither–from apiary to supplier to home.  As you can see by comparing it to the cement blocks, it was a rather large box.  A buzzing box.  When I picked it up to take it out of the car I could feel vibrations. An adventure waiting for me when opening that box.

The bees from that box needed to be transferred to the hive body (below) that was to become their permanent home.  The nuc contained 5 frames–a miniature colony. Their permanent home will have 8 frames in each of the boxes.  Right now, only the one, but I C:UsersBailey Bee SupplyPicturesVent Jacket w Hood Veil 3.JPGhope I’ll be adding another super and frames in a week.

 

Before opening this box of bees, who might just be a bit PO’d after all the travel, I got the smoker going, and then I donned the “typical” beekeepers jacket and the veil despite the heat.of the afternoon. The jacket pictured here is a special ventilated one–you can see through to tell color of clothing underneath.  Mine is NOT ventilated–it’s heavy cotton–and HOT. I didn’t put it on until I had the smoker going, and was right ready to take the lid off the box. Even the ventilated one like that would not have been much help because there really wasn’t any breeze.

empty hive box

empty hive body

I started untaping the box after giving them just a bit of smoke through the vents on the ends of the box, and then a little more before I lifted the lid completely off–and a little more before I removed the inner cover. And there they were –a busy, bustling, buzzing mass of bees. . . .

By the time I picked up the first of the five frames to move it into the hive body, I was absolutely dripping sweat which plopped onto the veil in front of my face when I bent over to pick up a frame. I did even use a headband, too, but that didn’t stop the drips or sweat getting in my eyes. Drops of sweat clung onto the veil–not going right through, so I’m looking at a mass of moving bees with drops of sweat in front of my face. Now, being the truly quick learner here, I made a real effort NOT to bend over so far again. (At least I’d had the sense to put the nuc box on blocks rather than on the ground.)

I inspected each of the five frames–looking for the queen, and saw her on the last one, of course–at the bottom of one side of the frame.  I turned the frame to inspect the other side–probably not really necessary since I already spotted the queen–but I did it anyway and then put that last frame into the hive body, put the three additional empty frames in, picked up the box and tapped all the lingering bees down into one corner as much as possible, dumped them on top of the frames, put the hive-feeder on top and then the outside cover. Done! There were still some bees clinging in the box so I put it on the ground in front of the hive so those could climb up to the entrance. There were some bees buzzing around outside the hive, but all seemed good.

No problems, right? So I thought.

Being a bit like a new parent, first thing this morning before even first coffee, I went to take a look. What I saw, even from a distance and UN-coffee-d, evoked a fervent, emphatic (and unprintable) epithet!  Too many bees flying around and around the hive–not coming in and out, but flying around the hive. Dashing over to the hive, I found a fist-sized cluster of bees in the corner of the nuc box. That was NOT good–that’s when I realized that I must have dropped the queen when I rotated the frame (which fortunately I did over the box) rather than over the grass.  Too bad I didn’t do it over the hive–duh!  I guess that’s what you call a learning experience. I prefer that phrasing to either dumb, or stupid thing to do.

After taking off the cover and removing the feeder I did another dump of bees onto the top of the frames–queen still didn’t go in so I gently nudged her out of the box into the hive with my fingers–and closed the hive again.

Back for another look after about 30 minutes and all appeared much more normal–bees doing straight-line in and out, without all the flying around the hive.  Huge sigh of relief here, though the real relief will come only when I open the hive in a week  for an inspection and find things normal.

. . . .and I think this may to be a pretty friendly colony. I didn’t even think about getting out the smoker or putting on the jacket and veil. Here’s me in shorts and T-shirt opening the hive and popping the queen inside without all the paraphernalia. I had a few bees crawling on my hands and arms while nudged the queen out of the box, but not a single sting. Admittedly, I wasn’t pulling frames out of the body (in other words threatening their honey or brood).  I will wear a veil so that I don’t have bees crawling over my face, but I doubt I’ll put that heavy jacket on again.

So ends the first adventure of beekeeping.

closed hive and nuc box

home, sweet home