Bees don't bite, of course, they sting. I just couldn't resist the alliteration.
Friday, April 23, 2010
My beekeeping mentor gave me some advice today about my hiving problems. He doesn't think the bread plugs will be a problem, but I should check in 5 or 6 days and make sure the queen cages are empty, and release the queens if not. However, he said putting the boxes inside the hives was a mistake, and I should remove them right away before they start building burr-comb all over them. Don't smoke the bees, he said, just spray them with sugar syrup.
So I put on my gloves and my bee-hat and went outside armed with a spray bottle full of syrup. On the way out to the hives Homero saw me and said "Aren't you going to put on some pants?"
No, I wasn't stark naked beneath my bee hat. I had a floor-length skirt on. "No," I said, "I'll be fine." The bees have been very docile and calm. I figured I'd just spray everybody down good and then work quick.
It almost worked. I lifted the lids of the hives and sprayed the bees down, then lowered the lids and let them eat for a few minutes. Then I lifted the lids again and slowly, carefully grasped the boxes and lifted them out. The boxes were totally covered in bees. My guess is that about one third of each colony was on or inside of the boxes rather than in the frames of the hives.
Hmmm. If I had done it right the first time, I would have removed the syrup can, turned the box upside down, and sharply rapped it on the top of the empty hive and most of the bees would have fallen out of the box and into the hive. Replace lid, and bingo, you're done. The few stragglers still attached to the box would find their own way into the hive.
But now, rapping the box sharply on the open hive would be a recipe for disaster. Picture: Cloud of angry bees erupting like Mount Vesuvius into my face and then swarming away into the trees. How to get the bees into the hive?
I have a big, very soft bristled brush that is used to brush bees around. I tried to brush the bees off the box and into the hive. They brushed off the box okay, but they didn't go into the hive. I was just brushing them into the air. The bees were getting more and more upset. The buzzing was getting louder and louder. They were starting to dive-bomb me. They couldn't get to me beneath me bee hat, but I could feel the force with which they were hitting the mesh over my face.
Then I felt a bee on my leg under my skirt. Okay, time to go. I replaced the lids of the hives, set the boxes (covered in bees) right next to the hive entrances, and liberally sprayed the entrances with sugar syrup, hoping that would attract all the bees back to the hives. Then I mentally shrugged my shoulders and went inside.
I could still feel the bee under my skirt. It was on my lower back now. If my husband were home, he could have helped me carefully remove it, but I was alone, so I had to try and take my skirt off without disturbing the bee enough to make it sting me.
I failed. It stung me. Not so bad, really. Nowhere near as bad as being stung by a yellow-jacket. I'm really almost glad: now I know I'm not terribly allergic (which I was worried about) and that it only hurts for a few minutes. I won't be so nervous about stings anymore.
Hope the bees make it back into the hive. I'll check later on in the afternoon.