Are you loving the pollen right now? Probably not, especially if you park outside for long. But the honeybees are carting it in. About 72,000 of them arrived at the farm on Sunday – 6 packages worth. While the weather wasn’t ideal, the show must go on. The heat generated by the bees warmed my car like a kiln, and smelled of a Lemon Pledge-style bee pheromone. Toasty & fragrant.
Package of honeybees arrive in these cool screen & wood boxes. (Spaghetti was brave enough to carry a package and pose for a photo but bowed out for the fun part.) In the cool weather, the bees were clustered together for warmth, making for an interesting inverted pyramid of bees. The bees are fed by a suspended can of sugar syrup until they reach their destination. Notice the can I’m removing at the top of the photo below.
I felt gleeful opening the packages, like Curious George opening the pigpen & watching the pigs all rush out. Bee release is a bit of melee. Once you open the box, there’s no going back! Everyone is in a hurry but not exactly sure where they are going. Glorious fun to watch!
While there are a ton of passengers, the packages contain worker bees only. These proletariat powerhouses are the ones who make it happen. (“It” being honey and pretty much everything else, except babies.) Enter the queens.
Each colony’s queen arrives in her own little cage with several attendants in tow. This one is a bit hard to see here but is marked on her thorax with a white dot. She is bound to her cage by a candy plug (the white chunk on the right) until the 1000s of hive workers chew through to release her. Then she’s free to spread more eggs than a runaway Easter Bunny. Queens are both the leader and slave of the colony. Without her, the colony cannot perpetuate, but the workers are able to replace her at will. Already having taken a mating flight, she will likely not leave the hive again in her life. She can live for several years but is usually replaced by the bees (or the beekeeper) within a season or two as her egg laying declines. An interesting balance of nature and a crazy job description.
After opening the packages, I set them into their new hive homes. Then started the rain – a shower of bee poop. 72,000 bees who have been cooped up and unwilling to dirty their temporary home. Forget “you should have thought of that before we left” criticism. They’ve each had their 6 legs crossed for a few days in transit. So while I shifted around some frames to make room, they christened me and the sparkling white hives with a rain of mustard colored bee poop. Nice.
To make them feel welcome and entice them to stay, I upgraded their tiny towers with some existing comb and frames of housewarming honey frames. Some of them refused to wait to have the goodies installed in their homes. They seemed quite pleased, as was I.
Our bee yard was a bit “hot” for the next day or so as everyone settled in and explored their new home. Paul was chased off by guard bees more than a few times for venturing too close. Nosey, ain’t ya?
We are excited to finally have our namesake bees at the farm! These are the first of several more colonies who will be relocating there this spring. We hope they will benefit from the new berry bushes and flowers we will plant soon. Cheers to a plentiful honey season!
I checked these new hives yesterday and was pleased to see that all 6 queens had been released successfully. Now the workers turn to the significant tasks of building comb, finding nectar, and hauling in the pollen. Maybe they could start with my car.