We lost three colonies of bees over the winter, so on Saturday we picked up “packages” of bees that were trucked up from Georgia. We are bringing the count up to 5 colonies this year, to qualify for a Michigan program to support sustainable farming practices. Hopefully this program will help with some of the expenses because replacing bees every year is getting pricey. We always split our colonies into additional smaller ones during the summer in hopes that enough of them will make it through the winter to keep going the next year. This was successful in 2013, but this last winter was brutal and it wasn’t enough to keep up the population.
I thought I’d show some pictures of what it takes to install a new colony of bees into a hive. Doing this five times over generated a crazy swarm of disoriented bees trying to figure out what was going on and who these white-draped humans were. We had to take the bee brush and shoo them all off our clothes and hats before driving back to the barn so we did not accidentally squish little stinger-barbed insects into our clothes.
Step 1) Pry the can of sugar syrup out of the top of the package, leaving a the box open and pull out the little cage containing the queen and her entourage of handmaidens.
Step 3) insert the queen cage into the box and brush everyone into place.
Step 4) Add a top feeder and fill it with sugar syrup to give them a good head start while they are getting familiar with their new home. The front door was blocked up with weeds to encourage them to stay home together for a while and keep the robbers out.
Now, there are 5 colonies safely installed into their homes, (1 of which is a veteran from last year), and we are off and running. Today, Joe will go back and remove the cork plugs that are keeping the queens inside their cages and they can begin eating the sugar “candy” plugs away and crawl out into their new world. They will all get familiar with each other’s scent so that they will recognize who belongs together and who is a next-door neighbor. They don’t want to get their front doors confused because the neighbors can be quite inhospitable to strangers.