We are back in the honey bee business

Like a lot of bee keepers, I’ve had a tough time with my bees. Last year we had two really strong hives, and one not too strong hive going into the winter. One nice day in early winter I checked on the hives and as expected the not strong hive had died out. I think I had a bad queen but I really didn’t want to requeen the hive so I let it go. However I was shocked to find that my strongest hive was also dead. There was plenty of honey in the hive and it wasn’t even cold yet. Really not good. So in desperation I tried to keep the remaining hive (I only have three) alive through what ended up being a horrible winter. Like the first hive, this hive died off with honey still in the box and I went from a bee keeper to a bee murderer.

I had planned on getting three new packages of bees in the spring of 2015 and had already ordered them. Now I debated just getting out of the whole thing and forgetting about bees. Winter turned to spring and I was still discouraged about my bees when we had a swarm of native bees move in. That got me going again and I thought maybe I could try bees one more time. I’m glad I was in the mood because on Monday I got a call from the post office that my bees had arrived. I looked at my calendar as I wasn’t expecting the call. Yep, no notes of when the bees arrive… Oops, no notes at all! Apparently I forgot to put the date on my calendar. Ugh! Thank God I was in town and could run over to the post office. I hightailed it over there and picked up my package. Unfortunately, one of the packages had died off pretty severely and couldn’t be used, but I simply combined it with one of the other packages and gave the queen away to another bee keeper.

Bees in a box at the post office
Picking up bees at the post office

This is how bees show up at the post office, a box of swarmy, buzzy, scary, goodness. It’s often that someone is freaked out by seeing all these bees and is scared they will escape. The funny part is, I have always received my box with at least one hobo bee. That’s a bee that didn’t get captured in the box and elected to hang onto the outside. She rides all the way from Georgia to NC, through all the different loading and unloading of the post office, and rides all the way home with me with no problems, and no flying away, and most importantly no stinging. Bees with no home to protect are completely docile. These bees have been sucked out of their home and mixed with other bees they don’t know. They have a queen they barely know at this point and all they want to do is get inside somewhere and start making a home.

One of our new top bar hives
One of our new top bar hives

Well that’s exactly what we did. I took the packages of bees and went to work on cooling them down, getting them some water, and keeping them in the shade while I prepared our new hives. Normally you wait till afternoon to hive new bees because they are much less apt to fly away. But with one package already pretty much dead, I felt it was best to get them into a hive as quickly as possible. I had to clear away the two old hives, reset one of the stands to a new location, bring out the new hives, and get the feeders and bee gear all ready. All easy things to do and things I would have done earlier except I forgot the bees were coming. No problems though, it all got done and everyone is in their new homes. They are already defensive of their new homes and they are building comb so they are moved in as well as can be expected. They are all already drinking their feed which should give them a boost. Now if the queens will do their jobs we should have strong hives this year.

For comparison, I checked on the native bees as well. While these new bees are starting with shiny brand new homes, the native bees moved into a place that was well lived in. There was comb and honey already in the box. There was also dead bees on the floor, unwanted bugs running around, etc. The home had potential but it was a fixer upper. However the native bees have knocked it out! There is already capped honey in their new house and they are rocking and rolling. We’ll probably get a little bit of honey off this hive this year since they have such a start already. That would be nice.

It feels good to have bees back on the farm however I’m already dreading winter but we’ll deal with it when it gets here I suppose. SWMBO apparently has a new friend whose husband is a master bee keeper who needs some land for his bees. Hopefully he’ll be interested in coming out and helping out. If that’s the case, we should be able to greatly increase our bee success. If we can increase our success, then we can increase our product and finally have some honey for sale!

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