Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Girls are Here!

The 17th of April dawned cold and windy.  The fire crackled merrily in the cookstove and the weather was much more reminiscent of winter than it was spring.  Although I had varnished and prepared my new English Garden hives for their future occupants, bees were the furthest thing from my mind. 

Coming up the driveway from afternoon tea with friends, I immediately knew something was amiss.  Maid Elizabeth and Master Hand Grenade were waiting outside the front door, with looks of concern on their faces.  The bees had been delivered in my absence, but the weather was not at all conducive to hiving them.  I had roughly 22,000 bees buzzing contentedly on my kitchen counter.

Two packages of bees

In the package
With the wind blowing about 25 miles an hour, we knew that we would not be transferring the bees to their hive in the front yard, as we had planned.  Instead, we sprayed them with sugar syrup and left them sleeping on the counter overnight.  Not having a lot of options, the children and I cleared an area in the playhouse and began preparing to transfer the bees to their hives.  After getting the hives ready, we suited up, grabbed the packages of bees and made our way through the high winds to the confines of the playhouse. 

Neither Maid Elizabeth or I had ever re-hived honey bees (put them in a hive straight from a package), so this was a new experience for us all.  About 30 minutes before re-hiving, we doused the girls with a heavy layer of sugar syrup, so they would be well-fed and content.  Once in the playhouse, we took the top and the cover off of the hives and left only one super on the bottom boards.  Once the hives were ready to accept bees, we began the process of opening the packages.  First, we removed the cardboard that covered the top opening.  Once the cardboard was removed, it revealed the top of a tin can (that had contained sugar syrup for their trip).  Lifting the can carefully, we slid the cardboard (scraping the bees off the bottom of the can) back over the opening and discarded the can.  Sliding the cardboard over, but still keeping the opening covered, we pried loose the hanger for the queen cage and extracted the cage (again, wiping off the bees) from the package.  Once the queen cage was freed, we pried out the cork and poked a hole through the bee candy so that the bees could easily eat the candy and set the queen at liberty.  After we had prepared the queen cage, we slid it between the two middle frames in the hive and used a staple gun to secure it to the top of a frame.  After the queen was secure, we removed the cardboard, tipped the package over the top of the hive (over the frames) and proceeded to dump piles upon piles of bees into (and onto) the hive.  We gently brushed the bees with our hands and the bee brush, encouraging them to make their way into the frames and slowly slid the cover over the frames (we stopped just short of the front to allow the bees time to get nestled into the hive).  After all of the bees were in the hive we slid the cover into position and put the top on the hive.  Two packages of bees successfully hived!

Removing the cardboard cover

Extracting the sugary syrup can

Prying the Queen Cage loose

Peering into the opened package

Pouring bees into a hive

Using the bee brush to encourage them into the frames

Sliding the cover over the frames

A week after we put the bees into the hive, we once again suited up.  This time, we checked to see if the queens had been successfully released and were busy about repopulating.  Wow!  We couldn't believe how busy the girls had been.  Both of the queens had been released and were very busy laying brood.  The workers had also been incredibly busy, building comb everywhere.  In fact, after seeing their handiwork, we realized that we should have checked on the queens after about three days.  Because the queen cages had allowed a bit of extra room between two of the frames, the bees had gotten busy and filled that area with burr comb (comb that is built free-form, not in a frame).  The burr comb was filled with brood.  In an effort not to lose any brood, Maid Elizabeth and I pulled two frames that the bees had not yet begun to work with, popped out the foundation and stapled kitchen string criss-cross along one side.  Then, we lay the comb against the string, fitted it in tightly and affixed more string criss-cross along the other side to secure the comb.  After it was secured, we slid the frames back into the hive.

A frame of bees

Bees on a burr comb
The bees spent about two weeks in the playhouse, building, building, building, however, the weather had warmed up sufficiently for them to move outside.  We moved the bees a couple of days ago and now our backyard is buzzing with life.  The bees are busy about their tasks, contently flying and pollinating and gathering nectar.  When they return to the hive, their pollen sacks are so full they are barely able to make their landing.  The hives buzz with a contented hum of activity - the girls are gathering and preparing in this time of plenty so that they will be well cared for during the dark days of winter.  Oh, to learn from the humble bee!


  1. how totally awesome! I want bees!

    dixie chick in LA

  2. My dad always had bees and enjoyed them. My question is - why do you put the super on the bottom? My dad had the regular hive part (taller) on the bottom and put supers on top of the taller hive part. When the super frames were full of honey, then he removed a super and placed on another super containing empty frames. The new super had frames of wax and the "girls" then filled them up.

  3. Enola how did you come by your bee-learning? Did you take a class, have someone show you, or just read about it and do it?
    Thank you

  4. how exciting the ways God has of teaching us, and providing for us, He is excellent in every way

  5. Enola,

    Thank you for sharing your story about your new bee's and placing them in their new hives.
    Talk about exciting and entertaining at the same time. Soon my friend, you'll have all kinds of home raised honey for your homestead.

  6. Love the information and photos! Thanks Enola and "Nevada".....Natokadn