The first package of bees and their queen arrived the first week of May 2017. We couldn't wait to get started! We had set up a spot for 2 hives just off the southwest corner of our first lavender field. There is a pond in the field adjoining ours, so there was a water source very close for the bees and the hives were just inside the treeline that borders the lavender field, so this would give them a little protection from the winds in the winter.
For those of you who have never ordered a package of bees, they come right through the mail. Our UPS driver dropped off our first package about 3:00 one afternoon, and told me that he had just crossed his fingers all day that the package would hold until he got to us! When they arrive, this is what you get:
There are about 7,000 bees per package. The queen is in her own little cage that looks like this:
We got our bees all settled in their new hive, and even though it drove us crazy not to peek in every day, we left them alone for about a week once the queen was introduced. The queen has to be kept in her small cage for a few days until the other bees get used to her pheromones and accept her, otherwise you take the chance of the bees not liking the queen and killing her.
After a week our bees seemed to be settling in well. They were coming and going, and gathering pollen. You can see that in this photo. The bee in the middle has his little pollen baskets full. You can see them near his rear end, full of bright yellow pollen.
The queen was active, moving around the hive, and we could see signs of larvae. Everything looked great, and we were prepared to get our second package and start that hive in about 3 weeks. There was so much to learn about the bees, everything about them was just so fascinating. When the hive was opened the first time, we saw them making "daisy chains" between the frames. This is one of the ways they measure everything out so they build correctly. You can see an example of this in the featured image. Later in the summer we saw a line of bees at the entrance, backed up to the opening. They sit there and fan their wings rapidly, helping to cool down the hive. They are just amazing.
We lost a queen in July in one of our hives, and the other hive was showing signs of swarming. Not wanting to lose our bees, we checked with other beekeepers through social media to see what we could do to avoid that happening. We learned that to prevent a swarm you can split a hive. We took frames from the hive that we were concerned with and transferred them to a new, empty hive. We were careful to see that there was at least one queen cell, which is a larger, peanut shaped cell that a queen bee is developing in, and some brood cells on the frames we transferred. This allowed for a new hive to be started with a new queen and brood, as well as giving the original hive the space it needed to keep developing. The bees created a new queen in each of these 2 hives, and both hives continued developing.
We are anxiously waiting to see if there will be any honey for us to take this year. We want to make sure we leave plenty for the bees to feed off of over the winter before we take anything for ourselves. We will have additional bee blogs later in the year when we are preparing the hives for winter and hopefully harvesting some honey.