2013 was our first year of beekeeping. Shortly after installing our 1st package of honeybees we quickly decided that we wanted/needed to start a second hive the following year. We learned a lot about the art of beekeeping our first year. But we also learned that honeybees are fascinating & fun! They were gentle, not scary. They were much more interested in going about their daily tasks than they were bothered by us snooping about their hive. We always treated them calmly & with respect and they in turn allowed us access into their fascinating world. What a thrill!
Our first hive thrived over the season and we were even able to harvest a small amount of honey at the end of summer. They went into Fall strong, though probably with too many varroa mites. In February 2014 they still seemed strong. But only a month later a long, cold & wet winter took its toll, the colony died.
Today we started over. We began our 2nd year of beekeeping by installing 3# packages of Italian Honeybees, about 20,000 bees in all, into our 2 modified Warre hives. It was a cool, rainy & blustery day, definitely not ideal. The previous day had been brilliant sun one minute and dark and pouring down rain the next. We took advantage of one of the brilliant moments and set-up a canopy over the hives so we could install the bees into their new homes with out any of us getting soaked. We have chosen to do foundationless frames so the bees need to build all of their own combs. I had salvaged some clean empty combs from the dead hive so every other frame I placed in the new hive boxes had wax comb to give them a head start.
To start the installation we opened up the hives and removed 4 of the 8 frames to make room for the bees. One at a time, each package was banged on the edge of the hive to drop the bees to the bottom of the box. We then removed the can of syrup and the queen cage from the package. The hole for the can was then covered to keep the workers from escaping. The cork was carefully removed from the queen cage and a small marshmallow plug was inserted to keep the queen contained a little longer until her workers could chew thru the plug and release her. The queen in her cage was placed on the bottom bar of one of the empty frames. The package of bees was then shaken into the hive. When most of the bees were in the hive box the nearly empty package was set at the entrance so any stragglers could find their way into the hive entrance. We then replaced the remainder of the frames over the ball of bees letting them settle into place. We then installed an in-hive syrup feeder surrounded by a second hive body above them. We will feed the syrup until the natural nectar flow is adequate enough and then remove the feeders from the hives. Finally the roof cover was placed on top. The bees were safely installed in both hives.
Before leaving them to get acquainted with their new hive, each other and their queen, we spent a few moments gazing at their beauty, drinking in their glorious smell and wishing them well. As I was walking away from the hives I glanced over and there was a new worker bee already checking out the unfurling leaves on the grape vines. The work ethic of the honeybee is to be admired.
Please click on the pictures below to follow the steps we took in installing the packages of bees.
Wishing you well in your Springtime pursuits.