If you have been following us we have had some bad luck in keeping bees alive in our unpredictable climate. We started the first year with two hives. One died off and one thrived. The second year we purchased two more hives but a couple days later we had a late snow storm that took out one of the hives and the second one eventually died not being strong enough to overcome the damage from the storm. The thriving hive gave us lots of fantastic honey but then swarmed and left after an early snow storm. We put out swarm bait in clean new swarm traps but they never came back. So no bees left! The harsh environment makes keeping bees a challenge, but we aren’t going to give up.
This year we are stacking the odds in our favor by increasing the number of hives to four. Since we are buying so many bees this time we decided to forego the Nukes we’ve purchased in the past. Nukes are considered more established than just a box of bees because they have frames the bees already set up, but they are much more expensive. Not only did boxes save us money but since we haven’t had good luck with the bees we received in Nukes it couldn’t hurt to try something different.
Bees are only delivered once a year to retailers so we are told what day we are going to pick them up. Delivery day is interesting because everyone picks up their bees at the same time and everyone has a different level of experience. Some people arrive in protective gear and some just grab their bee boxes with bare hands. In the end, nobody got stung. Keep in mind that the boxes are a wire cloth so it’s not unusual for bees to get out. The good thing is they like to stay with their hive mates so they will hang close to the box. You always have a few bees flying freely in your car when you take them home. Some people wear their entire bee suit all the way home!
Now it may seem a little rough but the way to get bees out of a box and into their new hive is to pop the top off and shake them out! When you watch the video it looks a little mean but it’s really the way it’s done. And we are a little nicer by tapping the boxes on it’s edge or corner to keep from crushing bees. We try to save every last bee.
The queen is actually in it’s own tiny box that you uncork and replace with a marshmallow, letting the queen chew her way out. You want to give the queen and bees a little time to get to know each other before she gets out. The queen was just introduced when they boxed them up for sale. If they don’t accept the queen they could kill her. Just another risk you have when buying a box rather than a Nuke.
This year we decided to pick a different area to set up the hives it’s surrounded by trees and not as deep in the valley where the winds can get brutal. The installs went well and we are crossing our fingers! Let’s see how they do this year.
When I take videos of the bees I have to take off at least one glove. The bees are everywhere during the install and this time one landed in my hand and did not look very happy. I won’t spoil the surprise but it did scare me a little!
Watch the bee install on the farm’s YouTube Channel: