May 3, 2015

That day the queen flew away

Yesterday, I loaded up my car and drove north. I stopped in Greenville, WI to pick up my three, 3 pound packages of bees and their queens. About 5 minutes after getting them,  I realized I was carrying about 45,000 bees with me. But it was the three loose ones that worried me most. Thankfully, they just flew around the back window the whole time, and there were no incidents.

Once I got to Coleman, I started by setting up the three hives in their positions. I even used my phone's level to make sure they were straight this time. Once everything was set up, and some more weed block was put down in front of the hives, it was time to install the bees.

I pulled the 4th frame out to leave room for the queens. Then I sprayed the packages with sugar water to subdue them a bit. (It was in the 70s, so there was no worry about chilling them.) Then I pried the sugar syrup can (which was totally empty already) out of the box, and slid the queen cage out. These cages came with corks in the bottoms, so pulled the cork and replaced it with a marshmallow. I hung the queen with the marshmallow facing down, and then grabbed the box of bees. I turned the box over, and shook them on top of the queen. Once I got as many out as possible, I put the box in front of the hive, put the feeder on top, filled it with sugar water, and put on the cover.

And then I moved on to the next one. Spray the sugar, pry the can out, grab the queen, take the cork out, and... watch her fly away. I just stood there in disbelief, having heard of this woe before, but not believing it could actually happen if you were paying attention. So I started to figure out what to do - do I dump the bees in and quick get a queen this week, or do I dump them in to the next hive, so there would be 6# of bees in one hive. All while praying to St. Abigail, patron saint of bees.

I reached for the third box and began to install it. And that's when I saw the blue-dotted queen, Abigail, if you will, fly back to the box of her bees. I tried to get her back into the queen cage, but she is a wily one. And since I didn't want to crush her after she'd so nicely come back to me, I flicked her into the hive, quickly dumped her box of bees on top of her, and closed it up. I used a front feeder instead of a top feeder because I wasn't about to open that hive again.

Thankfully, the third hive went like clockwork. I left the empty-ish boxes they came in by the hives, because there were a few stubborn girls unwilling to leave. They'll be totally empty by the time I'm back next week to make sure the (two) queens are released and laying.

So there you have it. Beatrice, Abigail, and Caroline. Rulers of their new kingdoms.

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