Unlike puppies, iguanas or even chickens, who can be settled into your household almost any time, bees require a very specific schedule. For our Italian species, April 21st marked the day to pick them up from our local store.
Hundreds of beekeepers filled the parking lot and sidestreets near the dilapidated building to pick up the ‘girls.’ Each package contains 10,000-12,000 bees and one queen. Because a hive needs time to accept her queen, she is packaged in a tiny cage with a small piece of candy blocking her exit– over the course of three or four days the worker bees eat through the candy, the queen crawls our and begins her glorious reign. All this information is familiar to Xander and I because we devour Beekeeping for Dummies for breakfast and lunch.
Our generous orchard friends offered a corner near the grapevines for our three new hives (we still have two in our backyard)– wouldn’t you want to live here if you were a bee? Choosing to stand back after my run-in with angry bees last fall, I handed the book on new hives to Hans and kept my distance from the angry cloud of bees.
As we walked back to the car, Erik reported, “Yeah, they had the queens in these little boxes so I shook them out into the hive.”
“You’re kidding.” I replied in complete shock (hadn’t he read the Bee Bible? Didn’t he know we just poured $300 worth of bees into those hives?). And then I shrugged saying, “Nothing we can do now.”
Our friend Dean assured us it would be an interesting experiment– how strong are those little queens?
Yesterday we suited up (me too! although I did have one moment of panic where I ran away and left Erik in a swarm), and examined each of our new hives. Searching for a queen in a box of bees is literally like finding a needle in a haystack, spying newly laid eggs is a bit easier.
Brushing a clump of bees away from a likely looking frame, I spied tiny (1.2mm) eggs laid in each cell. I shrieked for joy– “She’s alive!” Checking the next two hives, we were thrilled to find all three queens survived our ineptitude. Halllelujah! I couldn’t have been more proud if I’d laid all those little eggs myself.
ah, you can’t quite see the eggs (I think that would require a macro lens); the brightly colored cells are filled with pollen.
The moral: 1. queens are tougher than you think (and beekeeping less of an exact science than you’ve been told) and 2. never yell at your husband for dumb mistakes, because it feels really good a week later to know your kept your cool.
p.s. I officially despise the new version of blogger. Anyone else ready to tear their hair out?