Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Day One: The First Day of Beekeeping

Yesterday, I became a beekeeper in earnest. I've read books, talked to beekeepers, monitored email lists, and perused websites. But on April 29th it finally occurred: I picked up my bees and installed them in my two hives.

The day started normal enough, teaching my Political and Social Thought class at 8:50a.m. After class, I took a 45 minute drive down to Houston, Minnesota to pick up my two packages from B & B Honey Farm. It was a pretty uneventful drive except for the last mile or so. B & B is located on a narrow, winding, dirt road with trees and gullies on each side. I "white-knuckled" the last mile in the pick-up, just hoping I wouldn't run into another vehicle coming the other way.

I was the only customer at B & B's when I got there but they still seemed like they were scrambling. Houston had an inch or so of snow two days before. While the snow had melted, they must have been backed up filling their orders.

The man who waited on me was helpful and kind, giving me a "mini-lesson" in package installation and carrying the packages right to the pick-up. I panicked a bit when I discovered that the queen cages were simply plugged with corks-- no candy. I hadn't anticipated this eventuality and, while the bees seemed "enamored" with their queens, I was really concerned about directly releasing the queen into the hive.

I left B & B, not without having a near collision with another motorist on that dirt road. I could just imagine the accident report..."minor neck injuries and a thousand stings from the angry bees let loose in the cab."

When I got home, I placed the packages on the back porch, sprayed them with sugar water and waited for Monta to return from work to take some photos of the installation. In the meantime, I got all my tools, implements, syrups, etc. I had prepared and set up in "Beelandia".

I installed the first package in the top bar hive (Metpropolis). The feeder baggie and pollen paddie were already placed in the hive. I was unbelievably calm opening the package, extracting the queen cage, and then shaking the bees into the hive. I did have an adrenalin "high" working with this first package, though, which might have caused me to be a little too fast in my movements. One bee got caught in my hair and promptly stung me on the side of the head. I believe another got caught between my fingers and let me know that she was there with another sting. I calmly finished closing up "Metpropolis", took a deep breath, and assessed my wounds.

I am happy to report absolutely no allergic reactions to the stings. The stings burned for about 15 minutes with no swelling or long term pain.

I went through the same process, this time with the Langstroth hive, "Bee Glad for the Hum has no ending...". This time things went much smoother, I took it slower, and there were no stings at all.

After Monta went back to work, I spent an hour or so simply watching the bees behavior, as they began the process of adjusting to their new digs. I also began my adjustment to them as well. As if to prove Walter Brennan right (watch the movie "To Have or Have Not"), I found out that dead bees can truly sting, after I got on my hands and knees to observe the behavior at the entrance to "Bee Glad...". When I tried to observe the entrance of "Metpropolis" a little too close, I also discovered that guard bees can be pretty direct in their attacks. (A sting right above the eye!) In all, though, it was an exhilarating experience I will never forget. I look forward to many similar experiences.


beesontoast said...

Great job! Glad you didn't have any major problems and you ultimately enjoyed the experience. The first of many to come, I suspect.

Phil Chandler

Anonymous said...

Nice photo documentary! I love your head gear! Homemade?
biobees forum member.

Abelisto said...

Nope...I bought it at Gander Mountain... just camping gear not sold for beekeeping.

Gerry Gomez Pearlberg said...

Congrats! I loved this post. You've now officially entered beekeeper-dom, and there's no turning back. Enjoy!