Friday, September 28, 2012

We got bees!

For exactly 2 weeks now we've been anxiously monitoring the activity around our bee hive. Yes, almost a year after Olive and I first installed the swarm lure into our hive on the day after we moved to Bega, we finally have some bees. Not a wild swarm who were inspired to set up home in our hive on account of the lure, mind you. In the end, we decided to buy a package of bees - a queen and a heap of other colony members who come in a box. I wasn't going to wait around for another season and risk missing a swarm, and some friends of ours who had gotten bees from a local beekeeper last season were getting some more, so we just jumped right in!
Our bees hanging in their box, awaiting installation (and slaughter?) into the hive
The delivery was made to Pearl at the markets a fortnight ago. We carefully made sure that the box didn't get too hot, we were gentle with them, and then, at dusk, I shook them into the hive (now positioned in our full-of-spring-shoots deciduous orchard) and we left dishes of sugar-syrup (organic rapadura of course!) to feed the bees while they got acquainted with their new surroundings. It all seemed to go well - no stings - though it was difficult to get some of the bees into our top-bar hive: the box the bees came in is made to go into a conventional (Langstroth) beehive, so it's not sized or designed in any way to fit with a top bar hive. But I shoved it in anyway, and hoped for the best.

Annie rocking a characteristically dodgy beekeeper's get-up consisting of a couple of pairs of work pants (tucked into socks), a fleece and a not-pair of gloves
In the morning, though, things weren't looking too flash. Indeed, to my untrained eyes, it seemed like what we had was a whole box full of dead bees. I panicked, felt terrible, and spent most of the morning feeling like a mass murderer. What had we done wrong??
Mid morning, however, things were looking a bit better, and there seemed to be a good amount of bee activity around the front of the hive. I felt a little better, though there were still a lot of dead bees lying around the place.
As the days passed, things were looking better and better, with more and more bees flying in and out, some even carrying pollen on their legs! This was very exciting for me, and I started feeling that hey, why would they be collecting pollen if the colony was about to collapse on account of my inadvertent mass murdering of many of their comrades? Maybe they'll just make more bees and it will all be OK?
I'm very tempted to look into the hive to see what's going on, but my curiosity is being quelled by a desire to just leave them alone and hope they'll work something out, if something is indeed terribly wrong. Also, I'm painfully aware of the fact that, even if I looked into the hive, I wouldn't necessarily know how to recognise if things were "OK" or "disastrous". Not helping the situation is the fact that my beekeeping books and all my notes from the beekeeping course I did are buried somewhere in the shipping container!
Our Kenyan top bar hive, lovingly crafted by Mr Happy Earth, next to a baby fruit tree
I may have a peek over the weekend to see if they're drawing any comb, and also to check if the queen's been rescued from the cage she comes in. Yep - she comes in a cage. When you buy a box of bees like ours, you're not buying a colony who've been chummy for a while - you're buying a bunch of workers with a new queen who they've never met before, so when you shove them into a hive together, she needs to be protected for a few days in case the colony rejects her, in which case, she'd be killed. Pretty wild. So she comes in a little cage, which is plugged with some sugar, which the bees slowly eat in order to release her. Theory goes, while they're chowing on her cage plug, the bees get the hang of their new queen so they don't kill her. Here's hoping!

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow! How exciting to have bees. Long live the queen! LOL x