Lessons in Beekeeping: Learning the Hard Way

After an in Epsom Salt and lavender bath, the stinging has subsided.   I made several tactical errors in transferring our bees to the hive this afternoon.

Error #1: Not cinching the veil sufficiently around my neck.  I thought I secured it enough, but soon after the pictures below were snapped, the bees became agitated, and I learned otherwise.  Dozens of bees swarmed under my veil–once within, they couldn’t get out.! I’d rather not have a veil than to have dozens of bees trapped in there with me.   Youch!

Error #2: Some places sell bees with the queen in a separate corked compartment.  With the “separate queen” set up, an aspiring bee keeper dumps drones and workers into the new hive, removes the cork from the queen’s vial, and leaves a hunk of “candy” blocking her exit from her chamber.  Workers get to know the queen (and she them) as they eat through the candy over several days, then she’s ready to rule the hive. Ah, but ours wasn’t like this: We realized rather late in the procedure that our hive was already fully functioning with the queen well integrated in one of the box frames, laying eggs, and reigning supreme.   This arrangement gives the hive a head-start, but it also accounts for the unexpected aggression.  I wasn’t prepared for bees already fighting for queen and country!

Error #3: We’d watched videos of bees loose in the box, ready to be dumped into the new hive with new frames. This box already had frames, with bees busy, filling the honeycombs.  (The frames were hidden by a layer of buzzing workers, so I didn’t realize there were frames in with the bees until I tried to the “dump” method and unnecessarily riled the already angry little creatures.)  Once I realized there were frames, lifting them gently, one by one worked nicely.

Oh, and we switched directions from the last post; placing the hive inside the chicken run after all.  You can see a couple interested chickens spectating in a photo below.

The transfer was successful–I think–just prickly.  Done right, I might have gotten a sting or two through my layers of denim and leather, but due to multiple errors, I sustained 15-20 stings–almost exclusively on the face and neck.  I’m relieved that I took the first turn at this, and didn’t let one of the children do it–they’ll have opportunities, but not until we work out kinks in our procedures.

Spraying sugar solution on the bees, in hopes of calming them.

Spraying sugar solution on the bees, in hopes of calming them.

Ineptly transferring bees to their new home

Ineptly transferring bees to their new home

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3 thoughts on “Lessons in Beekeeping: Learning the Hard Way

  1. Ahh…yes, installing a nuc of bees is totally different than installing a package of bees. A nuc (which you have here) is a small established colony of bees with an established queen on frames of brood comb; whereas a package of bees is just bees (from several different colonies) that have been scooped into a wire cage and a small cage containing a new queen (not related to the bees in the cage). The “dump” method is used for packaged bees because they don’t have a queen or brood to protect. To transfer a nuc, you would remove the frames and transfer them to your hive (which should have frames removed to make room for the nuc frames). “Bee” sure to join a local bee club…usually the members are VERY knowledgeable and helpful. We started beekeeping a couple of years ago and joining the bee club was INVALUABLE! We have learned sooooo much through the members we have met there. :)

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