The day to release the bees arrived and I was up at the crack of dawn to do it before I went to work. I didn’t buy a special beekeepers suit as I just didn’t have the money to spend on any extras, but I did buy a veil put over my old gardening hat. I slipped into my barn boots, rubber gloves and tucked my jacket into my pants and headed out. I was scared to death.
First off I removed some of the bars from the hive to create space to dump in the new bees. Then I pried the syrup can that had fed them out of the box. This immediately released the bees, who POURED out of the box to freedom. Note in the above picture the look of extreme trepidation on my face!
The next step in ridiculously hard to do. You know how you are not supposed to piss of bees? How your entire life you’ve been told to not intentionally agitate them – in fact you should go the other way? Well, what I had to do next was BANG the bees out of the box. Yep. BANG them. This made the bees let go of the top and sides, falling to the floor so I could pour them into the hive. My hands were shaking.
I did not bang them hard enough and this took a loooong time.
(oh, as a side note….look at my bee veil. Notice the two bees on my hat? Especially the one that appears to be UNDER the veil and inside the net with me? Yeah….that will very soon be a problem)
So I had to keep banging the bees, each time a little harder as the last thousand or so held on tightly.
This is what they looked like all spread out when they poured into the hive. You can see the syrup can on the left hand side.
About this time I noticed a sound in my veil. Actually many sounds. Too close to my ears. And then I felt feet on my cheekbones.
The rules about beekeeping are few – stay calm, don’t piss off the bees without good reason, try not to kill anyone and dont get stung on the face.
My hands were full of the bee package, but I couldn’t think of anything else but those rules. I managed to walk away calmly even though I dropped the package of bees on the ground (of well, they needed to come out anyhow). I ripped the strings that tied on my bee veil that I’d had the sense not to tie in a knot. I was hyperventilating as I tried to hurry yet stay calm and smooth in my actions so I didn’t irritate the little sisters that were crawling all over me. And as soon as I pulled off my veil, they flew off, leaving me panting and wonderous in their wake.
I have no way to know this, but it sure seemed like they were getting to know me. Their tiny feet where so amazing on my cheekbones…like there were tasting my skin….it was magical. Even so, I don’t want to repeat that. Ever.
Moral of the story – bees get in TINY holes. Make sure everything is tight.
Once the bees were all dumped in and my breathing resumed normalcy, the queen cage was hung from one of the bars. She was held into the little matchbox by a cork that I pulled out with tweezers and replaced with a marshmallow. The bees would eat the marshmallow and release her into the hive – and hopefully by then they had accepted her as their Mother/Queen.
It was time to leave them alone and let nature take its course. This may have been even more nerve-wracking than banging them on the hive to get them out of the package. I had heard horror stories of bees deciding they didn’t want to stay or the queen leaving and abandoning the hive. And the weather was cold and I wasn’t sure I had done any of it right. How did I know all my careful preparations would result in just one comb??
I replaced all the bars in the hive, careful not to squish the bees that were now crawling up the sides, and shut the lid.
I was exhausted.
The bees stayed inside where it was warm.
But…they seemed curious…..