Early in the winter I make my best guesses and place my orders for packages of bees. Those packages are two or three pound boxes of bees that will replace a hive that may (or may not) die out over the winter. After this is done I promptly forget how many packages I ordered and when I requested they arrive. This is key to my yearly process because that means when I get the call from the bee man that the bees have arrived, it’s always a fun spring surprise. Surprise! Drop everything, it’s time to hive the bees!
Now that sounds dramatic but here is a little secret. To hive the bees you take an empty beehive and you dump all the bees in the top. Then you put the lid on and leave.
Sure, it’s a little more nuanced than that. I usually take a few frames out so they have room to fall into the hive easier, the queen comes in her own special cage inside the package of bees and she needs to be placed in the hive within her little package first. And the art of slamming a two or three pound box of bees on the ground repeatedly and then shaking them out is… well, actually, that’s not much of an art. It’s just banging and shaking and it makes me feel like a mad woman every year. “Hey look, a few thousand bees in a box, lets bang them on the ground and dump them out!”
But, as beekeepers have known for ages bees without a hive to defend are really fairly docile. On a nice spring evening, the perfect time to hive a package of bees, many fly up in the air until you are inside a cloud of bees but they quickly locate their queen in the new hive and like magic settle back down inside. Before you know it the mad drama of shaking bees is over and you are free to put the lid on and leave.
Of course this year, as sometimes happens in April in Wisconsin, it was snowing. Making it a decidedly less idyllic situation. For starters it’s hard to wear a stocking cap under a bee veil without everything going cattywampus and falling over your eyes. In order to get them into the hive as quick as possible I upped my level of mad woman shaking and dumping and shaking and dumping, trying to get as many as possible inside, where they would soon warm it up before I put the lid on. All sorts of bees still filled the air but instead of finding the hive many of them found me and clung to me because it’s just too cold to fly in the snow when you are a little bee. A bunch of gentle flicking and swiping and plucking and shaking and finally the bees had been dumped on top of the hive, I put the lid on and walked away.
I’m participating in the April Squares challenge with The Life of B!