Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Jenny has Bees from a Box!

I was expecting to get bees as a swarm but instead Robin rang to offer me a box of bees that another member had ordered but no longer needed. So a big thank-you to Nick. And a big thank-you to Robin.

I hammered down the motorway to Taunton to be met by a very sceptical professional bee keeper, with 300 commercial hives. He was not impressed either by my knowledge (scanty) nor our methods. Armed only with Robin's confidence and knowing he was on his way, I took the large wooden box with several thousand cross hungry bees. They had been taken out of their hive only hours earlier, one they'd had no intention of leaving just yet. The queen was captured in a little plastic cage for her own safety. I drove back much more carefully with mad thoughts of accidents and large numbers of angry bees.

Safely home, Robin, with me watching, tapped the box to encourage the bees down to the bottom, then quickly lifted the lid and unhooked the queen's cage. We broke the tab securing her with the intention of wrapping newspaper around the hole it left, but she escaped! Oh no! But Robin managed to grab her, put her back and then we wrapped the paper round. The idea was to protect her for the time it took the bees to eat their way through the paper, by which time, accustomed to her smell, they will accept and not kill her. She was hooked onto a top bar in the top box of my Warre hive.

Next another box from my hive was turned with the top bars facing downwards and put as the bottom box of the hive. The box of bees was then tapped again, the lid taken off and the bees shaken into the upturned hive box. With the majority in, the top hive box and roof were quickly put in place. The remaining bees were encouraged out of the box by shaking and bees started to collect around the hive entrance 'fanning'. This is a sign to the others of a new home. Gradually the last stragglers went inside.

On the beekeeper's instructions, I fed the bees, using a mixture of 2lbs sugar to a pint of water in an upturned jamjar with small holes in the lid placed above the bees in the insulation box, and also closed the entrance overnight. [Edited to add: please see 'Note to Readers' in second comment below about feeding sugar to bees.]

Pleasingly they were still there in the morning. A few days later Dave helped me turn the upturned hive box the right way, and add two more, meanwhile also adding handles. So many thanks to Dave.

With good weather for two out of the first three days the bees took very little of the feed. A week later it is almost gone, but they have now built themselves their first three honeycombs which is wonderful to see. Thanks so much to Robin for making all this possible.


RectoryGarden said...

Congratulations Jenny, I'm pleased to see they're settling in!



YABeeP said...

Great post Jenny, many thanks and please keep us all updated as things develop.

It was a great learning experience for me too as I'd never loaded a package of bees into a hive - it was easier than we feared but I apologise for giving you kittens when I played butterfingers with the queen!!!

NOTE TO READERS: Jenny was advised to feed the bees only because they were a package. Please do NOT fed a swarm as they planed to leave their hive and stocked up on honey before leaving. A package is different. They are pulled out of the hive by the selling beekeeper so are totally unprepared to set up a new home - quite barbaric really as well as expensive.

As a sustainable/natural beekeeper you learn to do all you can to prevent feeding sugar to your bees - better leave them more of their own honey, after all they made it for themselves! Sugar's not a natural substance for them to eat so we only give it in emergencies. If you must feed sugar then use cane, not beet, sugar - Tate & Lyle usually mark the type on their packets - pesticides are used in British cane sugar production! For summer/autumn feed emergencies use a 1 pint water to 1 lb sugar mix (1 litre to 1 Kg).