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The Bees Arrive – The Farm Gets Two New Hives And A Feisty Queen!

Spring is always one of the busiest times of the year for Mary and I – but the last few weeks have been near-crazy around the house and farm. In addition to getting the spring crops planted and the garden ready for the season – school events, travel for work, and a million other projects have combined to make for some interestingly long days.

One of our new bees already finding a little food

One of our new bees already finding a little food

With that said, it was no surprise in the crazy schedule that our bees – which were originally supposed to arrive last Friday – were delayed a few days and arrived to us instead on Easter Sunday!  So, in between all of the days activities – we found an hour to sneak out to the farm and install our two new hives.

This time around, with a little experience under our belts  – the actual installation process went smoothly.  We had built the two hives over the winter months, and installed them on a pallet platform we leveled off the previous week.  We decided to locate these two hives a little closer to the garden, and it took just about 15 minutes to install each set of 7500 or so bees into their respective hives.

The Process:

To install the bees – we simply opened the wood and screen box the bees were shipped in – removed the queen cage, and dumped the bees into the hive. To make it a little easier – we removed a few of the frames to allow room for the bees – but within a few minutes – we were able to set the frames back in and the bees began to settle into their new home.

Installing the bees into the hive

Installing the bees into the hive

The queen comes with the bees in a little wooden “cage” suspended from the top of the bee package. On one end of the cage is a wooden plug that once removed, reveals a hard sugary substance. The entire cage is hung in the new hive, and the worker bees will slowly eat the sugar and release the queen. The time it takes this process to occur allows the bees and the queen to become familiar with each other and the bees to accept her as their queen.

We then installed a mason jar feeder into the front entrance of each hive.  For the first few weeks or so – we will supplement the bees with a syrup solution made simply from one part water and one part sugar.  It will provide the new colony with food while the bees become familiar with the surroundings and begin to collect and bring back pollen to the hive.

One Good Queen – One Not So Good Queen:

Of course, with the crazy schedule – it just wouldn’t have been right if everything went off without a hitch. 🙂

The bees are shipped in a wooden crate like box with a can of syrup to keep them fed.  The little tab you see on can is what is holding the queen's cage suspended in the box

The bees are shipped in a wooden crate like box with a can of syrup to keep them fed. The little tab you see on can is what is holding the queen’s cage suspended in the box

Hive 1 went in perfectly, with the bees and their new active queen settling in to the new hive as planned.

But just as we were about to pat ourselves on the back for how smoothly things were going – we noticed that the queen in the second package was not moving at all in her little box. In fact, she was a goner.  A quick call to our supplier revealed that from time to time, a queen does die during the journey – and that we simply needed to replace her with a new one into the hive.

So, adding to an already crazy day – we made a trip back to our bee supplier to pick up a replacement queen for hive #2, returned to the boxes, and installed the new queen.

Checking On The Queens:

This past Wednesday, it was time to open up the hives and make sure that both queens were well on their way. Hive 1 looked great – with the queen out of her box and on her way to establishing her domain.  Hive 2 – not so much.  When we lifted the queen box out – she was still inside with her attendants – and again, all dead!

The bee hives are installed!

The bee hives are installed!

At this point, we knew something else was at play – and after a little investigation, discovered that our original box of shipped bees had been sent with an unknown additional queen in the mix of the thousands of worker bees.  Bees are crazy creatures – and they had accepted her as their leader – and had killed the first queen – and then of course, the second one we had installed for them as well.

So – with all that said – we now know that both of our hives have their queen – and perhaps much like the hives now – everything will start to settle down from a busy Spring! 🙂

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Happy Gardening!

Jim and Mary – Old World Garden Farms