Day Week Month (what can I say, I’m a slow writer)! We are celebrating with about 20,000 new members to Sourwood Hill. Our two packages of bees arrived last Tuesday morning! I was completely fascinated by them all day, and even video conferenced them in for work.
Hiving went about a million times better than expected. Most importantly, no one got stung. However, based on that crash course, I offer some advice:
Go easy on the sugar water spray. Yes, it makes the bees sticky and less able to fly, but also makes it harder to get out of the package and into the hive. I was worried about them going hungry when they were in their boxes all day Tuesday. I needn’t have worried; as my bees came from South Carolina, their sugar water cans were still pretty full when we installed them.
Have someone with skill (not me) pry out the sugar water can. DON’T use the queen strap to try and pry out the sugar water can. It won’t work, you will lose the queen box into the package, etc. It was a mess. Fortunately, my husband has what he calls finesse and came to my rescue to pull out the syrup cans.
No matter how hard you thump the box on the ground, not all the bees will drop off the top of the package. On the second package, I didn’t even try very hard to get the bees off the lid. They were so docile, and I needed that queen box back! The instructions made it sound like you could investigate the queen and several instructions said to put the queen in your pocket to keep her warm. HA! My queen boxes were absolutely crawling with bees on the outside. I did have to shake them off so I could get a good look at one of the queens! The other box, I didnt inspect as I got distracted. Hopefully she made the journey.
You won’t get all the bees out of the package. Don’t try too hard, it won’t happen! I ended up shaking maybe slightly more than half into the hives, and the rest I was more or less sloshing around the box but they wouldnt fall out of the hole. Remember those games as a kid where you have the maze and have to get the steel ball through the maze to the center without falling through the trap spaces? It was like that. And I was not so great at those games.
The end solution for us was thanks to my neighbor. We set the shipping box on top of the inner cover with some rocks propping it up so as to not cover the inner cover entrance hole. Wednesday, I went out to remove the shipping boxes, and there was nothing but a few dead bees in the bottom of the boxes. All the remaining bees had migrated into the main hive with the queen. For future hiving, I believe this will be my go to method.
My neighbor received his bee package the following Saturday, and he simply placed the queen in the hive and put his bee package on top of the hive inner cover and covered with two empty supers, which seemed to work much better.
An important note. The ground in front of the hive was also littered with dead bees Wednesday afternoon. Bees are fastidious creatures, and two experienced bee-people confirmed my thoughts that the other bees were just cleaning out the hive.
Some extra items not included in the instructions that I found helpful:
- Thumb tacks – for attaching the queen box to the hive
- Marshmallows – some instructions said a mini marshmallow would be needed to plug the queen hole, some did not. since I didn’t know what to expect, I took a few with us. Turns out they weren’t needed, so I had a nice post-hiving snack (there weren’t enough to share. Tragic).
- Extra supers for placing on top around those shipping boxes that still have bees in there. The only reason I had extra supers on hand was because I had been debating between a hive top and entrance feeder, and had them up there in case I decided on hive top.
Now that we are over a week in with bees, I have noticed one hive is clearly weak. Very weak and maybe at 1/4 capacity or less of the other hive. That hive started with a screened bottom board is the only difference I can tell. After the first day of sugar water that we mixed, we reused the sugar water that was sent with the bees, and it was very thick, I think mixed at 2:1 rather than 1:1. Weak hive got more of that water, but I can’t imagine that doing the harm. The hive base has been replaced with a solid bottom board and we have pollen patties arriving from Mann Lake tomorrow. Sure hope it helps as I don’t want to lose a new hive after only a few weeks! Wish me luck!