Installing the New Bees

Our new honeybees arrived this week.

We picked them up Monday evening, having made an appointment for pick-up and advised to arrive with protective gear—not to protect us from the bees, but to protect humans from each other. So, with our corona masks in place and our hands in thin vinyl gloves, we exited the truck. A solitary human stood about twenty feet away and told us to select two boxes from the many that were set up in the yard. We grabbed our two boxes, placed them into the truck (friendly human had disappeared), and drove home.

Safely back home, we took the bees to the bee yard. Since it was now about 8:00 p.m. and dark, we lay the boxes in their spots, checked to make sure the electric fence was turned on, and left them for the night.

Early in the morning Mr. BeeMan visited the bees to unplug the boxes so the bees could come and go. He also took the cleaned and freshly painted hives to the yard and put them in place. We had a narrow window between sunrise and morning rain to install the bees into the hives.

The boxes of bees that we bought are nucs, that is, the nucleus of a hive. Each nuc contains five frames with a laying queen, brood, honey, and lots of worker bees. Those frames are placed into the brood box. Then we add five empty frames to complete the box. The hive has room to grow.

Five frames from the nuc go into the brood box. This frame has capped honey on it.

As we transfer the bees to the brood box, we take a good look. We would love to see the queen, but she is often protected and hidden. In place of seeing the queen, we look for evidence of a queen—brood. In the frames we find honey, capped brood, and uncapped brood. Uncapped brood was most recently laid, so that is a good sign that there is (or very recently was) a laying queen. In subsequent hive inspections we will continue to look for the queen and fresh brood.

You can see the bee larva in the uncapped cells. You can also see that I need a better camera if I’m going to try macro shots like this!

After inserting the frames, Mr. BeeMan closes up the hives. We get this done just as the first drops of rain begin to fall. The bees are tucked in to their new home.

Finally, the lid goes on.

The next day, in a break from the rain, I visited the bees and watched as they circled the hives in orienting flights. Somehow, this sets their internal GPS so they know how to find their way home. It wasn’t long before we began seeing our girls around. They arrived just in time to pollinate our blueberries!