Monday, April 30, 2012

The Hives Have Arrived!

Hello, new friends!

After six weeks of beekeeping classes back in October, a few frenzied days of building and painting hive bodies, a morning of assembling frames, and one painfully large check, we finally got our bees. 

Sunday morning, we drove half an hour from our house and met David, our bee guy, in a Walgreens' parking lot before following him to his house. While we waited, we prepped our hive bodies by placing duct tape over the entrance of the hive and getting our ratchet straps in place. The last thing we wanted was for the bees to escape inside our car while we were driving down the highway. (Nathan built most of the equipment himself, and will be writing up a fancy how-to post soon. Stay tuned!)

Taping up our hive bodies so the bees stay put during the drive home.

Ready to go!

David is well known in the Wilmington beekeeping community, and was one of our main instructors during our classes. The man knows his stuff. In addition to receiving international recognition for his honey, he also raises and sells bees to other local apiculturists. When we paid our deposit months ago, he told us the bees would be ready mid April to early May, and he was right one time.

Waiting for pick up.

There are two main ways to get bees. One is by ordering a package, the other is by ordering a nuclear hive, commonly known as a nuc. We went the nuc route and got two hives, and from our experience it was a straightforward and simple process. The nucs each consisted of four frames of bees and one Queen, already at work on honey, comb, and egg production. While nucs are more expensive than packages, they usually come from local beekeepers, while packages are shipped from large breeding farms. So in a way, a nuc is like getting your bees from a local mom and pop store, rather than Wal-Mart. Definitely worth the extra money.

The transfer process was pretty easy, too. Smoke the bees so they can't sense the Queen's command to attack intruders. Then, once they're docile and calm, lift the frames from the temporary boxes and place them into our hive bodies. We let David handle this part, since he was the expert and also the only one wearing a bee jacket. (We're planning to put one on our wedding registry.)

Goodbye tiny apartment...

Hello, spacious new digs!

Once all the bees had been successfully moved, we placed our lids over them, ratcheted them tight, and then drove home, slowly and carefully. Once safely in our driveway, we let the bees settle for about fifteen minutes before carrying the hives to their new spot in the back corner of the our yard, then carefully removed the duct tape. The bees immediately started zooming in and out of the hives, ready to get back to work. Bees! They're amazing! 

I took about a million photos of our bees while we were moving them, as well as an awesome video of David capturing a swarm (I'll post that later this week). For now, here are some of my favorite snapshots.

One frame down, three to go. Thanks to the smoke, we were not stung even once, despite the fact that I jerked too quickly when a bee grazed my ear. Amateur.

Hey, ladies! Yes, that's right. All the worker bees are female. The males - AKA, the drones - don't do much but sit around and occasionally have sex. I could make a lot of jokes about that, but I'll refrain.

We were able to spot the Queen in both nucs. Can you see her in this one? She's a little bigger than the other bees, with shorter wings and lighter stripes.

If you did not find her, don't worry. Nathan will point her out to you. Introducing: her Majesty.

Tools of the trade: a still smoking smoker, and a lid with some lingering bees. 

One last photo of David with our bees. If you live in Wilmington and need a bee guy, let me know. David is great - so knowledgeable and more than willing to share everything he knows. He answered all our questions readily and you can tell from the way he handles the bees that he cares about them. Because of David, our beekeeping adventure is off to the best possible start. Now it's up to us to keep the hives happy and alive. 

I know I've got some new homesteading readers, so if you're one of them and you have any advice for brand new beekeepers, please leave them in the comments. The bees and I thank you in advance!