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Saturday, April 14, 2012

The New Buzz on The Farm

This year, for many reasons, we decided to jump on in and add a couple beehives to the farm. We not only hope to get honey eventually, but we're also looking forward to the immediate and long-term reward of better pollination in our veggie gardens.

A couple months ago, we ordered and built our hives from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, a NC based source that comes highly recommended by many beekeepers. Then, last weekend, we drove to pick up our two boxes of bees that were brought in from Georgia by a local bee seller the night before (photo above). Each box contained 3,000 bees and a queen.

Cliff disassembled our two beehives in preparation of adding our new bees.

Once the two hives were taken apart and ready, Cliff took the two boxes of bees out to the new bee yard.

He carefully pried off the lid of one box to expose the top of a feeder can of sugar water that has been feeding the bees while in transit. The queen is in her own little mini-box inside of the bee box, which is attached to the top so we can pull her out safely.

Cliff pries off the tab that is holding the queen's box.

And then he lifts both the queen box and the feeder can out while quickly covering the resulting hole with a small piece of wood.

Cliff holds up the small queen box to show her inside. She has a yellow dot on her back. Enclosed with her are a few bees to help feed her since she is unable to do so on her own. The right side of the queen box is full of "candy" that the bees will eat away until they expose and free the queen over the next several days. This helps the bees get accustomed to the queen slowly and lessen the chances of them attacking and killing her.

The queen box is secured to one of the frames in the hive. This will allow easy access for the bees to eat the candy holding her in and free her into the hive in a few days.

The frames are slid together to one side to make room for the entire bee box to fit inside the hive.

Cliff slides the entire bee box, full of 3,000 bees, into the hive.

After carefully opening the bee box, he then adds another "super" (hive box) on top. This is where he will place a sugar water feeder to continue feeding the bees until they are established well enough to feed themselves.

The sugar water is in a jar that has several small pin holes in the lid. The jar is turned upside down over top of a hole in the bottom of the box. The bees can then feed on the sugar water from the box below.

For the first 24 hours, the exit holes on the hives are covered so that the bees are trapped inside. This allows the bees to settle down and get used to their new home. 

On day 2, we uncovered the small exit holes to allow the bees to slowly come out and explore. As they came out of the hive, they flew in a circling pattern above the hive that got wider and wider (like a tornado) so that they could get oriented with their new surroundings. Once they scoped it all out, they started right to work exploring the area.

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