bees 2013 2

I was so excited to get my “spring” package of bees on Friday and escort them to their new home. I was also happily surprised by how many people were acquiring bees at the beekeeping supply store. Evidently, bees in the news have encouraged more people to join in this important hobby. Our particular store is pretty cool, too, as the entire storefront is painted like honeycomb.

After a 45-minute car ride, I tucked the wooden box containing 3 pounds of bees in a nice dark corner for a couple of days. This gave them time to acclimate to their queen, who resided in an even smaller box dangling amid them. Come dusk on Sunday, eager isn’t a strong enough word to describe how much they wanted OUT of their temporary prison.

Preparation is key with keeping bees, and perhaps the trickiest part of introducing a new hive is getting the queen squared away. I recruited my husband to help and he bravely went “gloveless” for dexterity purposes, which landed him a sting on the arm. One sting was “nothing” and he was more concerned for the bee that gave her life in a fit of panic than for his own flesh. Gotta love my man! Once he helped me remove the little cork at the bottom of the queen cage and insert a tiny marshmallow in its place, I fit her cage between two frames of comb, and proceeded to pour thousands of troops into the hive. I knew that by the time the workers ate through the marshmallow and set the queen free, they’d be fully adapted to her pheromones and eager to tend to her every need.

I will never forget a couple years back when I installed a new hive. The queen cage at that time had come with 2 nurse bees along with the queen. This practice is no longer used by my supplier, perhaps because others had complications with the extra bees as well. Days later when I checked to make sure the queen was free and laying eggs, I found her still trapped in her cage due to a dead nurse bee blocking the entrance. Oh no! I tore the side screen off her cage and out she went, starving and frantic. The workers immediately surrounded her and pulled her into the hive, and all the while a high-pitched “trumpet” noise emitted from the hive. Somehow I knew it had to be coming from the queen, and upon further research, I learned she was piping–a sound queens emit during battle with other queens or when entering a new hive. Wow. Talk about the trumpets blaring for a royal entrance. I was honored to be able to witness a sound rarely heard by humans, and will never forget it.

I look forward to watching my newest hive flourish in the coming summer.