Saturday, May 5, 2012

Houston, the hive has landed!

     It's Cinco De Mayo for some, for other's it's Derby day, and for me?! It's bee day. Our bees had been pushed back from the seller for a couple weeks, which for me was actually a blessing. I wasn't ready yet! However in the past few days I was able to get myself all sorted out and my new hive all ready to go! I didn't get to paint it, long story there, but I figure the bees won't much care one way or the other.
    Given that I was not feeling all that well last night a friend was kind enough to help me out with my hive and getting the last pieces into place. This morning my son, my Mom and I put the hive together. Got the Cinderblocks in place, then the base, the brood box, the feeder, and the lids. All ready to go, a brand new bee home. I watched anxiously as the time for the scheduled bee pick up grew closer. Finally I got in the car and headed off to pick up my bees. Tim Brod who is the beekeeper who I bought my Colorado bees from, has been a beekeeper since he was about 4, given that he's a little older than myself, that's a good long while! I've been told over and over by anyone who knows about bees in Denver that he's the go-to guy! So I "went-to". I followed the GPS to the warehouse district off of the highway out in Downtown Denver. The parking lot was packed with all of the people picking up bees today. I was a tad early for my grouping, but it was perfect because I needed a veil at the shop anyway.
     To Bee or not to Bee is a small store in the back of an industrial area off of 39th and I-25. When you open the door it smells of lumber. The store is small and was full of busy bee shoppers. I made my way to the back of the store, passing by the pretty painted hives, the plastic frame bases, the queen excluders and smokers. I saw tables of books, and packages of seed for bee friendly flowers. In the back along the wall I found the beekeeper's suits. Possibly because it was so hot today or maybe because I just was feeling brave but I have opted to go without a costly suit that frankly looks like one of those things that you buy because you "should" and then later go, "WOW, why did I spend $160?" So... I got a veil that goes over a baseball cap for $20.
yes I'm making a goofy "scared" face! 
     I looked at the hive tools and bee brushes but was put off by the price. I'm normally not the world's most frugal person when it comes to hobby supplies, but when I saw these tools I was like, really? I see things that look just like that at the hardware store for $5 not $16, so I opted out, and I have a drafting brush that is actually much nicer and softer than the bee brush I saw there, now it was only $6.50, but the line to check out was so long that I didn't get it because I'd already bought the veil and remembered I needed a tool and brush as I was leaving the store and I didn't feel like waiting again. I figure I can always order my goodies online if I need or want them later. I completely had made up my mind that I didn't want a smoker before I even went in, so I didn't even price them. I may at sometime in the future go that route but not today.
     After I did a little lap around the shop, I headed out for my bees. I stood back and observed the handing out to some other folks and everyone was very nice. It got to be my turn, I stepped up and gave my name to a helper, to his right was standing Tim, who remembered me from our conversation on the phone and was so very nice! The helper (didn't catch his name) looked me up and was like "OH, WOW! Tim must like you! He gave you the best ones!" Which made me happy! Tim's best bees! YAY! I'm super excited now! The instructions that Tim had sent out had reminded us to bring some gloves if you were worried about the bees crawling on you when you carried the package. I had made up my mind that I was NOT going to be afraid of them crawling on me, this was not the way to start out a relationship. I did bring my gloves but left them in my purse. I chatted with Tim for a few min and he told me some basics about where to put the bees in my car etc... We shook hands and he put the package of buzzing bees into my bare hands. There were about 100 loose ones buzzing on the outside and one decided to take a ride on my bare arm to the car. I was a bit freaked out because hey, we're always taught BEES STING! But I very calmly walked to the car with 25 or so loose bees flying around and one hitch-hiking on my arm. I could feel it's prickly legs walking on my skin. I had left the windows open in the car so I simply leaned in and set the bees in the front passenger seat. Bees were ridin' shotgun!
 Since its only May, we haven't charged up the air in the blue jeep, and bees need to be kept at a good temp, cause let's face it they are riding in a box with about 3,000 of their closest friends... I left the windows down and had the fan on for them. Soon, I found myself with a few of those loose bees buzzing around the car, I have to say, a little freaky, cause how wants to ride with a bee in the car? But it was all good, we got home safe and sound. But now what? I was on my own! 

     I got the bees into the house and and set them in the kitchen. Of course I snapped off a couple shots for my blog :)

I had made the bees food before I left mixing 4 cups sugar into a gallon jug and then filling the jug with hot water. Giving me a good syrup. (NOT a gallon of water, but fill the rest of the gallon jug with water) So, I filled the feeder at this point, not having done so before, so as not to attract robber bees when I had an empty hive. Now was the moment of truth. I got my new veil out of the package and put it on. I had opted not to do a whole big deal of cloths in the heat of the day, so I wore my tank top, shorts and flip flops to put my bees in the hive. I did of course wear gloves and the veil. I had a tool that looked a lot like the one they had called a hive tool so I used that to pry the feeder can out of the package box, this was  trickier than I thought it was going to be BTW... and took me 3 tries it was wedged in there pretty good. It was also sort of freaky because the sound the bees made was a direct line to their mood! They made a cool buzzing noise all as one, it was really a soothing noise, until they sounded pissed! I had knocked the side of the package and they clearly didn't like that! So I stepped away and let them calm down for about 5 min. Then I went back and was able to remove the can. No one can actually prepare you for the sight of about 1000 bees coming at you out of a box.... it was intense! It was around this time I was rethinking my decision to wear a tank top and shorts to do this... But I was in for a penny, in for a pound! The box was open, so I turned it upside down and did what the books all told me to do, gave it a good shake, dumping the bees into the waiting hive. I'd taken out 3 frames like the books said. A big pile of bees fell into the hive, but the box was still half full! So, I gave them another shake, and then one more. The box was still about 1/4 to 1/8 full, and I decided that was good. I then took out the queen in her box, made sure to put her in with the screened side facing out so the bees can feed her. Right about then, OUCH! I got stung under my arm, and then 2 seconds later OUCH! another sting on my leg... OK I feel ya bees...

I put the frames in, the lid on and walked away. I scraped out the stingers with my sharp nail after I had gotten a few steps away and took off my glove. I was still in a cloud of bees I could hear them buzzing around me. I wasn't afraid though, I know they only actually stung me because one got under my arm stuck in my armpit and the other must have been between the leg above the knee but both most likely got squished my me as I was moving around. I tried to make slow deliberate movements as I worked with them. All in all I think it went pretty well. I just went back out a little while ago and put the package they came in and the feeder can on top of the hive, most of the bees are gone out of the package now. I did notice that there was a big "line" to get in the hive since I have the entrance blocker on but now they are all in except for the scouts who are flying around checking out what's to eat around here....
     So, that's my first day as a Bee-Ma-Ma.... I do think when I release the queen in the next day or so I will wear long sleeves and probably jeans or yoga pants, not because I'm afraid of being stung, but I think that I would have been fine and gotten through sting free if I hadn't smooshed one or two bees in body creases... I am pretty dang happy and self satisfied right now and keep going over to peek at the beehive out the window. Just seein' what's up with them. I'll be posting again when I release the queen and hopefully have someone at home so that they can take some pictures of me doing it rather than being alone for it!

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