Thursday, April 22, 2010
The bees arrived! Hooray!
Now I can add "Beekeeper" to my impressive list of titles (Goatherd and Cheesewright). Assuming that the bees actually decide to stay, and stay alive. Well, also, to tell the truth, Homero and Rowan are more the beekeepers than I am. Homero picked the bees up, and Rowan read the instructions for hiving them, and all three of us worked together to overcome our collective willies and get them into the hives.
It was kind of silly. We couldn't find the queen cages at first. See the box with thousands of bees in it? And the round metal thing at the top? That's a syrup can, but where are the queens? They ought to be in their own little cages somewhere.... A phone call to Belleville Honey answered the question for us: the cages are hanging inside the box full of thousands of bees. You have to sharply rap the whole box on a flat surface to make all the bees fall to the bottom, remove the syrup can, reach inside and remove the queen cage.
Well, reaching my bare hand into a box full of 10,000 angry, disoriented bees goes against every natural instinct I have. So I made Rowan do it. Hey, before you report me to child protective services, SHE wants to be a beekeeper! She got the queen cages out just fine, but now we had another problem. The queen cages have a hole in them which is plugged with a cork. We have to remove that cork and replace it with something she will be able to chew through in a few days. This is to protect her: if she escapes her cage before the rest of the bees are used to her smell, they'll kill her. Beekeepers suggest using a mini-marshmallow to plug the hole.
Well I didn't have any marshmallows and I did have two open boxes of bees that I wanted to get into the hives ASAP. I know, I know - think these things through beforehand. Yes, would have been smart. I feel the same way when I am in the middle of making a cake, say, and discover I have no eggs. Read the recipe all the way through and gather your ingredients first. Too late for the cake, and too late for the marshmallows.
I had made sugar syrup for the feeders, though (see the feeder?) and I had an idea. I ran to the house and got a slice of bread. I ripped little pieces of the bread off the slice and dunked them in the sugar syrup. Then I wadded them up into balls about the size of a mini marshmallow and used them to plug the holes.
We hung the queen cages inside the hive and then, since it was after 7:00 and almost sunset, we decided to just put the opened boxes straight into the hive rather than trying to dump the bees in. The Bee Man said it was okay.
This morning the air around the hives is thick with bees, but they don't seem to be going anywhere or doing anything purposeful right now. They are just buzzing around, kind of agitated-like. Also I noticed that the syrup feeders are still just as full as they were last night, which is odd. I was told that they would last only a day. Maybe the holes are plugged up because I made the syrup too thick?
And I'm worried about the bread-balls. I don't know whether the queens will be able to chew their way out. Maybe I should remove them. But I'm not supposed to open the hives for at least a week.
I can see that the bees are going to offer me plenty of opportunity for self-doubt and second guessing.