What's The Buzz?
Our bees came today, and we got them installed into their new top bar hive. This looks pretty different from the tall, traditional Langstroth boxes you are probably familiar with (and maybe afraid of). This is a much simpler design--just an upside trapezoid with bars that line up across the top and a few holes for a front door:
The bees will eventually build honeycomb that hangs from each bar, and it will be the shape of the box:
This comb is from an established hive, but we added it to ours to give the bees a good start with a place to store nectar and lay eggs. It also provides them an example of how to build a nice, straight comb that will be easier for us to lift out of the hive for honey later.
This is a (way too big for me) bee suit that I am currently borrowing from Anita and Brian Deeley at Beverly Bees. We weren't able to sign up for a beekeeping class this winter, so we were super-psyched to find Beverly Bee's Adopt-a-Hive program online. Anita and Brian set us up with the handmade hive and brought the bees, smoker, and bar with comb to get us set up. The Adopt-a-Hive program is very cool, because Anita will come back once a month to check on the bees and help show us everything we need to know throughout the season. It's better than a bee class since it's really great, hands-on mentoring through the process.
Anita showed us how to set up a sugar water feeder to help feed the bees until they able to bring in their own nectar and pollen through foraging. She also showed us how to identify the queen (she's in the box that I'm holding in the photo above, but you can't see her because of the workers trying to get her out). You hang this little box from one of the bars and eventually the workers will chew through a candy plug in her cage and let her out to start laying eggs in the comb.
Once the queen's cage is hung, it's time to dump the rest of the bees into the hive. Anita gave the box a big whack to break up the cluster of bees, then she took off the lid and dumped them out into the hive. She did most of them, but Kirk and I each did some. (By the way, the reason I'm in all these photos is because Kirk manned the camera, bravely exposing a glove-free hand during this whole process. No stings today.)
Once the bees were in the hive, they went straight for the queen and the comb, which is a good sign. You can also see in the above photo that the back half of the hive (the part that has all the bars in place) is blocked off with a follower board to keep the space for the bees smaller until they need more room for comb.
We used a feather to brush the bees off the edges and gently put the rest of the bars in place. Then Kirk put the lid on, plus a few bricks to hold it down in the event of any of our famous wind gusts:
And that's it. Now we leave them alone for the next three days so they can get used to the queen and build some comb. They're also flying around figuring out the lay of the land. Anita will be back Friday to check up on them, and we'll see what there is to see then!