So it’s been a busy couple of weeks here on the ridge, with new life all over the place. As mentioned in my previous post, on Earth Day I picked up my new bee package. They’d just come all the way from northern California and I strapped them into the back seat, a couple of girls loose in the car. They pretty much just wanted to be with the other bees and the queen, so I wasn’t worried. It was a warm day, thankfully, and I got them home and left them in the car while I got ready to install them in my new hive. I realized I didn’t have a marshmallow to plug the queen cage, and hoped that it had a candy plug. In case it didn’t, I had some creamed honey I’d purchased last year. It was stiff and almost like a thick paste. I figured it would work to plug the hole, mixing it with a little sugar for an even thicker plug. I put the rest of the jar, lid off, in the bottom of the hive for the girls to dine on something a little more natural than the sugar syrup I’d made up.
In the 10 or 15 minutes they’d waited in the car, the sun warmed them up, and when I got the box out, they were buzzing and alive, and unlike last year’s cold, sluggish bunch. I went out to the hive, suited up, and pried off the cover/can. They swarmed out of the hole and I realized this wasn’t going to be the crazy-easy piece of cake that it was last year, where I literally poured the bees into the hive. I pulled out the queen cage and plugged the hole with the gooey paste I’d made, then dropped her into the hive (literally!! Aaiiee!!). Thankfully she was okay, and I placed the metal clip over one of the top bars and slid things into place. I upended the cage of bees into the hive, and a majority went in there, though there were hundreds flying around me in the warm midday sun. I replaced the hive boxes and left the cage next to the hive, so the stragglers could make their way into the hive. It didn’t feel nearly as smooth as last year’s installation, but I had to hope for the best.
Later in the day I noticed a lot of newer looking bees at Aurora’s hive (my first hive – I’ve finally named her!), confused and just wanting to get with a colony. Then I noticed the little bowl of the leftover paste I’d made (left in front of the hive for them to eat). It was thick with drowning bees, as the honey liquefied in the hot sun. I was horrified, thinking of the blob I’d put in the queen cage, and the jar I’d left in the hive, and appalled at my own stupidity. I quickly opened the new hive. There were hundreds of bees clustered in there – a good thing – and my queen cage was empty. I got the jar from the bottom of the hive, filled with more drowned and drowning bees. It was so upsetting to see my poor girls suffering because of my incredibly dumb idea. It would have worked last year, when it was cool for weeks after installation, but this year, in the warm sun…how could I have been so stupid? I rescued as many as I could, rinsing them off gently in the kitchen sink and bringing them back out to the hive later, and in truth didn’t lose more than a few dozen, but it was still upsetting to me. The good news is the hive seems to be doing fine, and two weeks in, they have been busy with comb building. They built right up against the observation panel (I’m supposed to scrape the comb off of the sides of the hive, but am reluctant to do so, as well as confounded by the mechanics of how I’m supposed to do this (have to come from underneath…). I’ll tap into some local wisdom soon, but for now I am enjoying seeing the comb being filled with pollen and either nectar or sugar syrup (honey) as the girls get busy. And I even saw a waggle dance as one of the girls was telling her sisters of a great find. They’re flying in with plenty of pollen and seem to be doing well.
Aurora’s hive is doing very well. After our miserable March weather, where I worried I would lose them, they’ve rebounded in the April warmth. I was/am concerned with the frequency that I’m seeing white, almost adult pupae being dragged out of the hive and dumped into the grass – either there are too many drones, or they got chilled or the hive is using the drone cells to harvest/remove varroa mites. Or something. I am not as worried as I was, as this past weekend I thought they were swarming there were so many bees out. It was wonderful. I think they were just all out en masse because it was a warm afternoon and the hive needed cooling, but I wished I had an extra hive to catch a swarm. (It’s on my list, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.) I was thrilled to see so many, and took a dozen pictures of them and my little beeyard. I haven’t named the new hive/queen yet, though Regina or Beatrix are on the list.