oh, bees

The bees...... oh, the bees.

This morning, I drove up and over the mountain and through some very sweet farmland to pick them up from one of the sweetest old men I've ever met.  We joked a bit, he told me about his "diversified hobby farm", and he shared his concern about making sure (really, really sure) that there were no stray bees in the car with Claire.  Because, you know, we have no idea if she is allergic to them or not.

So the plan had been for me to wait until after work this evening for our friend Josh to come pick up his bees (which I had gotten this morning as well, making the total number of bees in the car this morning somewhere around 60-75,000) and to help me "install" our 2 boxes of bees into our waiting hives.


But, I was feeling confident and didn't want to wait around for the (very nice and helpful) man to come help me.  I was ready to do it myself.  Claire went over to play with our dear neighbors and I set up a little staging area and got to work.

Everything went great.  I removed some frames from each hive, slammed the bee boxes on the ground, dumped the bees into the boxes, replaced most of the frames, uncapped the queen cages and dropped them in, then replaced the final frame and took several (several several) steps back to watch, veil and gloves removed.

If you type in "how to install bees into hives" into google, you will get hundreds, maybe thousands, of different links and you tube videos on how to do it, and they don't all match up.  We are following the advice, mostly, of a fellow named Michael Bush at Bush Farms.  His suggestion is not to close the hive up right away.

So, I didn't.  I gave them the twenty minutes I had until I had to go collect Claire and go to work, and then I put on the lids (but not the entrance reducers) and headed out.  Feeling good.  Brave, confident.  Accomplished.

A few hours later I came home and Josh was here waiting, bee suit ready.  I told him I'd already done it and he seemed pleased.  We went over to look at the hives and.........

And.  All of the bees were in one of the hives.  No one was paying much attention to the other.  Hmmm.  Not great.  Not exactly what you want.

Maybe I should have closed them up right away.

We opened them up and indeed, there were many, many bees in one hive and a handful or two in the other.  That handful, however, was surrounding the queen.  At least we still had her.  Unsure if they were 'balling' the queen (clumping around her to, essentially, heat her to death) or protecting her, we decided to try to catch her again and put her back in her little cage.  Amazingly, it was successful.  We shoved a jelly bean into the little hole to keep her put for the time being.  Then, we swapped an (empty)  frame from the abandoned hive with a frame full of bees from the other, placed the queen back in (the idea being she and the others will eat through the jelly bean plug within a day or so and she will then 're-enter' the hive and start doing her thing) and closed the boxes back up, fingers crossed.

It could have been worse.  They could have swarmed (while my tree-climbing husband is away,  and therefore unable to help by climbing up a tree and catching them), the queen could have flown off...... I could've not been so lucky as to have a friend here to help me sort out the mess I came home to.  And honestly, had he not been here, I probably wouldn't have caught on to the problem right away.  I'm very grateful Josh was here to help.  Very, very grateful.  He has also offered to come bearing a frame of brood (bee babies, basically) from one of his thriving hives over on Thursday should I open up the hive in a couple days and find it nearly empty again.

Still, I admit I was bummed to come home and have a bit of the wind knocked out of my little accomplished-feeling-self parade.   I worried that Mike would think (not say, of course, but think) that had he been here, it would have gone differently.

But he didn't.  I called him up and told him about the day.  He thanked me for doing such a great job (which I then realized was exactly what I needed to hear) and we talked about the hows and whys of it all (which we really can only guess at) and then he was off to dinner with his conference-going friends and I was off to cook up some syrup to offer to the struggling hive, and to hold my needy toddler who had earlier decided that today was not a day for a nap.

And to have some ben & jerry's and red wine for dinner.  (yes, truly) Ahem.

As Pooh says, "you never can tell with bees."


  1. Wow...I'm totally impressed...what a woman you are!

    1. Thanks, Nichole~ checking in on the bees today has been a mixed bag. I so hope we get it all worked out with an end result of two thriving hives!

      (and, you know, that bee veil does a lot to help with the confidence ;)


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