The first "bee day" arrived on Monday, April 18th, at Dadant & Sons in Chatham, Virginia. Actually the first shipment of bees ended up being a week late, but that wasn't a problem for me since I had some things to get ready anyway. So Monday came, and with receipt in hand, I headed north for 44.5 miles to Dadant to pick up my new bees. Once I arrived, the staff handed me a really healthy looking 3-pound package of golden yellow honeybees. A loud, buzzing box of bees! Mine was just one of around 550 packages that arrived in Chatham from an apiary in Georgia. Knowing that they were stressed from the long ride through four states and they were probably thirsty, I rushed them to my house back across the North Carolina line to get them to their permanent home.
To help them settle down, I kept the package in my garage overnight, and I occasionally misted the package with water from a spray bottle to keep the ladies refreshed. And I have to admit that it was hard to sleep Monday night because I was excited to finally get my new bees in the home. So Tuesday finally came and it was beautiful! It was the perfect day to install my new package at their final destination. And although I have a brand new hive still in the box, I decided to recycle the yellow hive which held my first ever colony of bees.
Like all packages, the queen came in her own cage complete with attendants. Unlike my other queens, ths one wasn't marked, but she was easy to spot among all her daughters. After popping off the cork that protects the fluffy, white candy, I took a small nail and punctured the candy to make it easier for the bees to access. And while I was getting everything ready, a passing bee dropped by to meet her new neighbors. There you see her as she pays a visit.
Since there was no wax to embed the cage in, I snugly wedged it between the tops of two frames. The screened side of the cage is facing down (which allows the bees to feed the queen and her attendants too) and it is slightly pointed downward. That's so the queen can simply walk out when she's released. I've also been told to never point the candy end completely down (vertically) because if the attendants should die in the cage, they may jam the hole and the queen will not be able to get out. I have used this same method before on two other occasions and it works just fine.
After the queen was put into place, I gave the bees a good spritzing with sugar syrup, then poured them over the queen and into the empty hive. The bees began making a higher pitched humming, and what bees didn't end up in the hive, soon became a cloud over the hive. Although I've seen it before, it was amazing to watch the bees as they started a slow, steady march in between the frames in the hive. It didn't take long before all the bees you see in the picture started covering the frames.
Although I planned to use my Boardman feeder anyway, I also decided to use the can of sugar syrup that came with the bee package. After all, it seemed almost full so why waste it? So I grabbed up a shallow super to hold the can and I placed it to the side of the hive. That's so the bees could easily access it and not pile up around or near the queen who is closer to the middle of the hive. Plus I don't want to disturb the bees who are eating their way to free their queen. The Boardman feeder is on the opposite side and on the front of the hive.
Take a look at the girls as the aclimate themselves in their new home. It didn't take long before I noticed the girls fanning their scent to the outside to guide any strays to their location. And not long after that, I noticed a few as they flew from the hive, made their lazy back and forth motions in front of it, then up and round and round to orient themselves to the area. Then a few hours later, I noticed bubbles as they occasionally rose to the top of the quart jar full of sugar syrup. It seemed that the bees had already started working to get their new abode ready.
Two days later, it seems the bees are doing fine. I went down and stood nearby and watched them fly to and from their home during the afternoon sun. While its nowhere as busy as the other two hives (which have swarm cells in them as of now..more on that later) - I know that its just a matter of time before the old yellow hive, which fell silent this past winter, will soon resonate with the sounds of a lively box of bustling bees, the sweet sound that eminates from a happy hive. Needless to say, there's nothing quite like it.
Note to my fellow beekeepers: Just a reminder to ALWAYS make sure that you're dealing with a reputable apiary when you buy package bees from out of state. Without a doubt, I knew when I ordered a package through Dadant and Sons that I would end up with a top quality package. That's why I didn't hesitate in the least to order one through them and I'm very satisfied. But that wasn't the case with my first ever package of bees which I ordered from a beekeeper in Georgia several years ago. Without going into a lot of details, the website for this so-called apiary looked very professional and this beekeeper's previous online ratings were very good. But after I got "stung" by the guy when most of my bees arrived dead, then he refused to answer my phone calls and emails, I found out he was wasn't anywhere close to being a professional businessman. In addition to my hard earned money, he took a lot of other people's hard earned money. I wasn't the only person he refused to respond to. He also refused to respond to all the others that bought bees from him which ended up dead on their doorsteps. When he did respond, he said he would "make it right" -- but he never did. Digging further, I found out that the Sheriff's Office in his home county knew him well and a ranking officer told me that he's a regular in their civil process service division. Needless to say, all of his "customers" got screwed. So please, take my advice. Make sure that you check the reputation of an out-of-state apiary or beekeeper before you do business with them. There are a lot of great people who are dedicated to customer satisfaction, and then there are those out to make a fast buck. Always know what you're buying and who you're buying from. Whatever you do, do your research and don't become a victim.