The Bees are Here!

Betsy's Hive

Bee Day was Friday! I hadn’t been sure about the exact arrival date, but I learned on Friday morning that Nancy had just returned to Massachusetts with the bees (from Georgia). My friend Laury is also starting a hive, so we left work mid-afternoon and headed over to pick up our packages.

You may wonder, if you are starting a hive, how do you get the bees? They come in little wooden crate. The package contains a queen, some food, and three pounds of bees, that’s about 10,000 bees. Nancy, the beekeeper providing us with bees, had about 200 of these packages in her back storeroom at the Beekeepers’ Warehouse. The first thing Laury and I did was to check out this sight. It was amazing how quiet the room was. There was a very faint hum, but it was unexpectedly soothing, rather than creepy.

Next, we reviewed how to install the bees with Nancy. Just the idea of transfering the queen and then dumping 10,000 bees into the hive is intimidating, to say the least. Practice builds confidence. Nancy has empty equipment in her store, so we did some dry runs.

Then, we picked out our bees, and we were ready to head home. Friday evening was cold, with a frost warning, so she recommended we keep the bees in the house for the night and settle them in their new homes on Saturday morning.

Nancy, Laury, and Betsy with our bees

Laury and I had some discussion about whether to put the bees in the trunk or in the footwells behind the front seats. We were feeling comfortable, so we took them in the car with us. At home, I gave the bees some water and made them comfortable in the basement. Apparently, Laury’s spent the night on the dining room table. I think Bella would have been a little too curious for that at my house.

Saturday morning, the big day! I like to be prepared, so when I woke up, I watched a video of someone installing bees. Then, Howard helped me set up the hive itself, which I had built and painted, but hadn’t yet set in place. (I added the hive stand at the last minute, so unfortunately, it’s unpainted.) I got all the expected equipment at the ready, and when Laury came over, I brought the bees out from the basement and we got started. Laury helped tie me into the veil and hat, and I donned dishwashing gloves. Howard was designated the official photographer and caller of 911.

Prying the cover off the package


First, we pried open the wooden box and removed the queen in her case. She’s marked with a blue dot. She has some attendants, her actual daughters, in the case with her. She’s trapped in the box with a piece of candy. The bees with eat the candy over the next few days, and she will be released. In the meantime, the bees are adapting to her pheromones so they know they belong together. I poked a hole in the candy to make it easier for the bees to break through.

The queen is the one marked with a blue dot

I attached the queen’s case to one of the frames with a big rubber band.

Next, we removed the can of food from the box and covered the hole back up while preparing for the dump. I thumped the box a few times on the ground to shake the bees to the bottom and then, in a scary moment, started pouring the bees into the hive. It took about a minute, a few extra thumps, and then they were in. Some of them started flying out and around, so I was glad to be wearing the veil for protection. I don’t think they would have stung me, but the barrier gave me more confidence.

I had removed some frames from the hive to make room for the bees, so before closing it up, I had to replace the frames into the hive.

The last step was to place the feeder on top, enclose it with an empty hive body, and cover it all with the weatherproof lid.

Feeder on top of Laury's hive

An hour later, we repeated the same process at Laury’s house. Cheers and hugs all around, our girls are home.

Laury and her hive

It has been fascinating to watch the hive come alive over the weekend. There is was a busy hum all day, then, at dusk, all the bees went inside and it beomes very quiet. I found myself spending time just sitting on the lawn and gazing, mesmerized, at the hive. It’s soothing rather than nerve-wracking. I’m also amazed how I was immediately comfortable with bees crawling on me. I even coaxed a few (like the ones that ended up inside the veil when I left it on the table) onto my finger to relocate them closer to the hive.

For the next few days, I will leave them alone, other than checking that the feeder is filled. On Thursday, I will open the hive for the first time to be sure the queen has been released.

Now, I’m officially a beekeeper, and I’ve very excited about watching and helping their activities through the seasons.

Note: The drop case B above was created by Jessica Hische of Daily Drop Cap. The letter is copyrighted by Jessica under the Creative Commons license.

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Posted on 29 April 2012, in Bees and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. That’s so exciting! I’d love to have a hive, but one of my neighbours is allergic, so it’s a no go. I’m looking forward to reading more about your beekeeping adventures.

  2. wow was very excited to wake up this morning and read about the arrival of the bees. Looks amazing… welcome to bee keeping. as for me like cooking i will watch from afar!! I will look forward to watching your adventure. xxoo

  3. How exciting, Betsy! I think that is so neat that you are already comfortable with them. It’s extraordinary how loud the hum can get – we have a tree in between our house and the neighbors and when it is in flower the bees stay there and you can hear their loud hum all day long, but it is funny how they just get so quiet at night. But then the frogs take over and croak all night long…love it though.

  4. Wow – this is very exciting. I can’t wait to read future posts about your bee-keeping adventures! Thank you for sharing. (I am glad that Howard’s 911 calling skills weren’t needed)

  5. Great news! I hope I can stop by sometime and check them out!

  6. Love the play by play details of the process. It is so intriguing and you have nerves of steel as you coax them along, although as you say, they seem so mild mannered. Can’t wait to see them. Any species where the queen has her own attendants is pretty awesome! So how much honey do 10,000 bees make?

  7. How cool and very exciting! I’m looking forward to reading about all your adventures in bee keeping! Good luck!

  8. thekitchenlioness

    Hats off to you and your friend – I think it is absolutely fantastic that you were able to put up a hive and I am a little bit jealous too…Wahnsinn!

  9. Exciting! I’m not sure I could handle the pouring of the bees into the hive – I have a bit of a bee phobia.

  10. That is so cool! You are braver than me, but having your own hive is brilliant.

  11. Wonderful post, I went crawling back through your old posts hoping to find something about the bees. I wish you the best of luck with your new venture and look forward to hearing how it goes.

  12. This is so freaking cool, Betsy! It made me start wondering how many things in life can be so (seemingly) dangerous/adrenaline producing/requiring at one moment…AND simultaneously soothing (the hum you mentioned) another. Inspiring.

  1. Pingback: The Queen Is Free « A Plateful of Happiness

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