For The Love of Bees

You know it's spring if Alex is posting about bees - even though Wisconsin woke up to 1.5" of snow on the ground this morning!! WTH?

Here's what this morning looked like:

Photo credit: Muskrat John
Photo credit: Muskrat John

Seriously. It's April 15. I love Wisconsin but this must be some kind of cosmic joke.

Anyway, on to happier subjects... BEES!

As you all probably know, I started my first hive last year. If you're interested in reading (or re-reading) about my adventure, here are the posts: Home At Last (Part 1); Home At Last (Part 2). Also, this is a fun post about keeping the bees: Feeding Bees.

So, last year I didn't actually get  my bees into their hive until mid-June. This is super-late in the summer if you're a bee-keeper as it only gave them about 10 weeks to build up to a critical mass strong enough to survive a brutal Wisconsin winter. Add to that the fact that my bees "lost" their queen partway through the summer and started over with a new queen and I'll bet you can guess what happened... The hive died.

There may be nothing as sad as a hive full of dead bees. It was heartbreaking. Fortunately, I anticipated that this might happen and put in an order for a 2 lbs "package" of bees. This is, quite literally, a box of bees with the queen in a separate box. Like this:

So, I cleaned out the hive, watched a video on how to install a package, and went to pick them up.

Side story... my dogs went with me out to the farm to pick up the bees. They had a blast running around the grounds and smelling all the smells. They refused to go anywhere near the outbuilding where the packaged bees were - they know the sound of bees and they avoid them. :)  Then, I loaded the dogs in the car, brushed the bees off the outside of the box, and put the box into the way-back of my station wagon. The dogs could hear the buzzing and totally freaked out. They spent 10 minutes of the drive home in a panic, watching over their heads for flying stingers. Poor pumpkins.

My new bees are beautiful. They're golden-yellow, fat, and super-docile. They took to the hive right away - immediately cleaning, foraging, and just generally being bees. After a few days, I released the queen from her box and she disappeared into the hive. At some point in the next week or so, I'll take the boxes apart and try to find her - just to make sure she's doing her queenly duties.

I'm pretty sure that my bees are either Italian or Buckfast - two of the breed types of honey bees. These two types are yellow, like mine. The Carniolan bees are mostly black and much smaller. Here's a great article on the types of bees and their traits: Major Types of Honeybees.

Finally, here are a few pictures I took about a week after they were installed in their new home. I'll keep you all posted on how things are going this summer. I like to think that, because I got an earlier start and I'm blessed with such healthy bees, I might actually build up a hive that will survive next winter. Fingers crossed!

- Alex

Enjoying the sun

Pollen patty and sugar syrup - YUM

Enjoying a mid-day meal

Checking out the new person

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