Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bee Season Opener

It has been a rough week for me. After a month of of scraping, cleaning, repairing and replacing equipment we finally staged the bee yards last week in anticipation of four new packages arriving on Monday. After 5 years of ordering bees from Kentucky we trusted the routine. The bees ship on Saturday and they arrive on Monday. This routine has repeated itself over and over.

I was particularly excited about the arrival this year as Monday was the first day of Passover. It felt sacred and special. Monday came and went without the arrival of the bees. I was disappointed but quickly regrouped with my beekeeping partners. They would come on Tuesday.

Tuesday came and went, no bees. After numerous conversations with the post office and our supplier I finally got the tracking number for the bees. In a way no one else is possibly capable of, I spent the better part of 6 hours Tuesday hitting the refresh button on the USPS tracking site hoping to get some news. Admittedly I went to a place of panic. I don't care to share the details, just trust me. I am prone to worry and I go to worst case scenarios easily. In my head the bees were all dead and no replacement bees would be had. I would be looking at a summer without bees, something I simply couldn't face. Before the end of the day I secured a top secret number to reach a very compassionate employee at the post office who had spent the better part of Tuesday trying to help me locate our bees. She offered to find a way to have me pick them up Tuesday evening at the airport but reminded me that it was tax day and going to the airport might be a nightmare.

With my secrete number in hand on Wednesday morning I called Leona at 6:45. The bees had arrived. I picked up Paula and off we went, unsure about what kind of shape they would be in. All four packages were in good condition. Two of them had a pile of dead bees on the bottom but nothing more than usual. I was a little dumbfounded but grateful.

It was a gloomy, cold and windy day. The race was on to get these girls in their homes before the wintry mix began. We headed to 10 Acre Woods, the farm of my brother-in-law and new beekeeper Charlie to situate two of the packages. Charlie has gone to great lengths to create a beautiful apiary area on the farm. I will share more about that in a later post.

The packages went in easily but the queen releases were another story. We seem prone to queen drama at Flight of The Turquoise Apiary. We began with Andrea's Drone Den. The queen release was impossible, she simply didn't want to leave the cage. Paula set the cage down in the pile of the bees and closed up the hive, hoping that she would just go out and we could remove the cage after managing the second package. It seemed like a reasonable idea. We closed up the hive and moved on to the second hive, Charlie's Crazy Comb. Again, the bees went in easily enough and Paula released the queen, more easily this time. We returned to the Andrea's Drone Den to retrieve the queen cage. The girls, having already readily accepted the queen due to the longer than normal journey had taken over the cage. It was impossible to tell if the queen had wandered out so I had to spend a great deal of time and effort shaking the queen cage and trying to get the workers off so I could see that she was gone. Meanwhile Paula discovered a queen on her glove. Holy hell. Where had she come from? Which queen was she? We all agreed it seemed most likely she was from Charlie's Crazy Comb.

I didn't get a good look at her but Paula thought she was injured. Paula put her in Charlie's Crazy Comb. If she is injured or sick the bees will kill her. They won't tolerate a less than perfect queen. So I have ordered two more queens, one for Charlie's Crazy Comb, assuming she needs to be replaced and another for Andrea's Drone Den, in the event that the queen on Paula's hand was some how from that hive. Oh the crazy queen drama. Hopefully the queens will arrive on Friday or Saturday and we can figure out our situation on Sunday or Monday. We are starting on foundation so it isn't going to be easy to trouble shoot. If we were on comb the queen would be easier to locate because she would be able to start laying immediately. Now she has to wait for the workers to build comb. Unfortunately it is going to be wicked cold for the next few days so the bees will probably cluster and not build much comb making it even harder for us.

The packages went in easily down in the Northfield Apiary and we have another package, maybe two more coming in a few weeks to complete that location.

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