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the (italian) girls are back!

April 15, 2010

Yesterday, we were excited to get a special delivery.
Mr. Riddle has made acquaintances with some folks that wanted to get involved in beekeeping.
He has kept in contact with them over the past year to discuss everything that he knows about taking care of bees. Which, in the scope of all things is not a whole lot, but he knows enough to be able to “talk bees” with the best of them.
In exchange for the camaraderie, and because they were also buying bees to start their own hives, these very nice people picked up and delivered four ponds of bees to our home. Did you know you buy them by the pound? Yes, you do.
arrival of bees
Of course you can’t just pick them up in the produce section at Meijer’s. They traveled to Forest, Ohio and back with 20 lbs.bees in the back of their vehicle. They want to start four hives, we want to replace the one we lost last year.
arrival of bees
To keep moving with this story, I’ll say that we really don’t know why or how we lost them. Sometimes it just happens. I’m sure you’ve heard or seen stories in the news about bee colony collapse disorder. This and many other hazards are out there. All we can do is take our losses and try again.
Which is what we are about to do.

First you find a good spot to set up the hive.
arrival of bees

Next we open up the box ‘o’ bees to uncover access to the queen. She’s in a little box with a few worker bee attendants to take care of her because she is the queen you know.
arrival of bees
That tin can you see there is full of bee food. There are a few holes punched down below and the bees have been getting their nourishment for the past couple of days from the sweet mixture. That’s why in that picture up above, the bees are in that upside-down v shape. There are all gathered around the food source. It’s just sweet, sticky sugar water.
And all of those bees on top, well, they are all dead. They were smashed when the lid was placed. This is animal kingdom folks, try to refrain from tears please.
Here is a close-up of the queen’s box. Please excuse the poor focus. It’s awfully hard to use my view finder when I have a bee veil on. She is in there. And her attendants are with her too. They feed her and try to keep her happy. Which really at this point is pretty much impossible. Her job is to breed and lay eggs. Without a hive she can not do her job.
arrival of bees
Solanna helped take some of the pictures. But she has a hard time working the buttons on my camera and she wanted to get in close to see what was going on.
arrival of bees
Like this picture below that she took . It’s not in focus, but you can make out the image of our neighbor who was ready to assist. Can you see the white lids of wasp and hornet killer spray in his hands? He thinks he’s so funny.
arrival of bees
Next we place the queen box in the new hive. She’s just kind of dangling there waiting to be let out. It’s up to her attendants to eat through a little “trapdoor” made of sugar. Once they eat through that door she is free to go about the hive and start giving orders. During this time all of the other bees are getting to know their new queen. The worker bees will get the hive ready for her. They will start to make a place for her to lay eggs and a separate place to store honey.
arrival of bees
After the queen is in the rest of the bees are literally dumped into the hive. There’s a little shaking and finessing. It’s like trying to dump electrically charged packing peanuts out of a box. They are as light as air and cling to the sides.
arrival of bees
Now, you can’t really see it or hear it but the bees flying around us are just buzzing away. At some point in the future I will try to set up my camera for video just to get the movement and sound that surrounds us.

After getting all of the girls into their new home, Mr. Riddle puts a lid on the top and sets up a feeder with more of that bee food. For now this will help them along until they get established.
arrival of bees
And there you go. Hive in place and hopefully they will get to work!
I should mention that not once did Mr. Riddle, Solanna or I get stung during this process. She was close enough to have a few land on her but not one sting. The key is to move gently and deliberately. Eddie and I have been stung in the past because of our own mistakes.
For me the biggest hurdle was getting over the life long fear turned habit to swat or shoo a bee away. This is the worst thing to do to a bee that is just doing her job, searching and collecting food.
Now you are schooled on the basics of starting a hive.
You are all given the honorary beekeeper’s helper endorsement.
This means nothing of course. My neighbor has stood on the sidelines and watched us many a times.
And look what that got him. A blurry, out of focus picture and a small mention on my blog.

Hope you enjoyed today’s lesson.
Until next time,
~Victoria

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2010 10:47 pm

    The bee experiment is sooo cool! MR. Haas would love to do that in our yard. Can you imagine the yummy from all the pretty flowers?

    • Victoria permalink*
      April 22, 2010 10:29 am

      They would love it Brenda! He should get a hive!!!
      Your plants and trees would thank you. Also Mother Nature ;)

  2. April 19, 2010 9:48 pm

    This was fascinating. Thanks so much for sharing it!

    • Victoria permalink*
      April 19, 2010 10:47 pm

      You are welcome ;)
      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. April 17, 2010 12:52 am

    I’m tempted, so tempted by bees, but worry about the impact on native bee populations here. Maybe I’ll just make bee house.

  4. Kelly Pratt Rajner permalink
    April 15, 2010 1:24 pm

    Loved reading about t your bees! Very interesting. I admit, I am quite afraid and allergic to bees. I try to have the attitude if they don’t bother me, I won’t bother them. They are important little creatures to our environment and would never purposely harm one, let alone get close like you have. I think what you are doing is very awesome and hope you get some great honey from the process!! Thanks for sharing!!

    • Victoria permalink*
      April 15, 2010 9:12 pm

      I totally understand your fear, especially when you have an allergy.
      Beekeeping is not for everyone. I”m not sure I would have started if not for my husband knowing about it. His father kept bees when he was growing up.

      Yes, we do get some great honey at harvest time. That’s in the fall.
      I’ll be sure to get you a taste when it’s time!
      Thanks for the support, Kelly :)

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