December 2004 part 2: Moving the Bees

Beekeeping begins.

It’s been some time that we’ve known about the bees. We have an old tin shed near the road most­ly got used for stor­age of things sel­dom used, a place alive with rats, spi­ders, sur­plus hard­ware and old tools. Vines have been try­ing to pry off the roof for many years and have by now most­ly suc­ceed­ed… yet it’s a stur­dy old shed with a con­crete foun­da­tion worth reha­bil­i­tat­ing. The bees liv­ing in the walls will just have to move.

Deep in the under­growth, the old tin shed.

I don’t remem­ber when we dis­cov­ered them, but we were very excit­ed to find the bees liv­ing here— what a bless­ing! The first bee man we had over to have a look was quite impressed by the size of the hive, he fig­ured we had two huge hives in there and was very eager to help us move them out. Yet it was some time and some false starts before we arranged to meet anoth­er bee man, Alan, whom we asked to help us move the hive.

Alan and I dis­cuss the work ahead.

It turns out we do have two hives! We decid­ed to get at one of the hives by pry­ing off the inte­ri­or pan­el­ing of the shed. On the day, he arrived ear­ly in the morn­ing with a box and frames for us to move the hive into.

Behind the pan­el was a large and most­ly new hive.

I had pur­chased some basic equip­ment to help him and to use when work­ing with the bees… I guess I’ve become a bee­keep­er, although I am the green­est of begin­ners. I felt at ease around the bees, although I did­n’t like it when one got under my veil.

Moving the brood comb into the frames.

So, the way this works is we go in and get the brood cells— the ones with incu­bat­ing bees inside them— and put them into a series of frames in the hive box. We try to find the queen bea­cause the hive won’t real­ly move with­out her. Despite some very detailed and thor­ough search­ing, we are unable to locate her. All we can do is try to get as much of the brood and as many of the bees as we can into the hive. Tomorrow, we will see what the bees have done… the hive box is placed right next to the old hive so the for­ag­ing bees can con­tin­ue to find it, and they will gath­er where the queen is.

Many thou­sands of bees are moved into the hive box. The box con­tains fromes hold­ing the brood, along with hon­ey comb to feed the bees and all the bees we can scoop up. Most of these are young, flight­less bees that tend the nest.

The next morn­ing, most of the bees are in the box, so Alan is pret­ty sure the queen is in there. When we open the box and pull out a frame to check on the bees— there she is! A bit larg­er and red­der than the oth­ers, she moves quick­ly around the frame, full entourage and all. Today is the day we har­vest the hon­ey, so we begin to cut up the beau­ti­ful yel­low combs, heavy with the cured nec­tar of mil­lions of flow­ers.

We strain the hon­ey from the wax. We end­ed up with over 5 quarts.

So, with Alan’s help and guid­ance, we will begin to build this hive up and should be able to col­lect hon­ey, beeswax and propo­lis as the hive builds up a sur­plus. A week after mov­ing the hive, there was evi­dence of exten­sive build­ing activ­i­ty in the hive box. It’s clear the bees have accept­ed their new home!

Here I am in my new bee suit, at the begin­ning of our bee­keep­ing here.

Next we will begin adding more space to the hive box. When I get up the nerve, I will move the oth­er hive myself…

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