If you’re new to beekeeping like we were this year, one thing you will quickly learn is that there are as many ways to do beekeeping as there are beekeepers! When it comes to hiving bees, there isn’t just one way to do it. I guess that’s a good thing since it gives you some freedom to figure out the best methods that work for you. But for newbie beekeepers, it can be overwhelming. We read about one way to hive bees, only to have my husband’s beekeeping class instructor tell him a different way to do it. Then a seasoned beekeeper told my husband yet another way to do it when we were at Bee Day at Fort Missoula.
So what did we do? Ultimately my husband took the advice of his beekeeping instructor and modified it a bit. So now we have yet another way to hive your bees! One of the more common ways to hive honey bees is to spray the bees down with a sugar water mixture while they’re in the screened in wood box they came in. Then you give the wood box a couple hefty whacks and shake the bees into the bottom of your bee box. Doesn’t sound like a very pleasant welcome does it?
My husband opted for a more gentle approach. First he pried the can of sugar water out. He had a piece of cardboard on hand and slid that over the opening as he pulled the can out. Then he slid the metal clip of the queen cage over to the opening and removed her while trying to limit the number of bees escaping from the box.
Each package of bees came with their own queen marked with a green dot, we’re guessing it was paint.
When the queen bees are placed in the little queen cage for transport, there is a small piece of “candy” put in there for her to eat. The box is then corked shut. By the time our bees arrived, the queen had eaten all her “candy”. This showed us that our bees had been together long enough for the bees to accept the queen. Therefore we could immediately release her in the hive and not worry about keeping her in the little box any longer. To release the queen, my husband waited until she was crawling away from the corked end of the box. Then he popped open the cork and tacked her little box to one of the frames in our bee box.
My husband’s beekeeping instructor suggested that the next step is to place your wood box filled with bees on top of the frames with the open hole facing down. You would then place a super, your inner cover and your telescoping lid on top and let the bees make their way out of the box and onto the frames at their own pace.
My husband watched a video where someone put the inner cover on top of the brood box (lower box with frames). The person then held a piece of cardboard over the opening to the wood box of bees, flipped it over and placed it on top of the hole opening in the inner cover. Then the person slid the piece of cardboard out and the bees were able to crawl down into the frames below.
Well, watching a video is one thing. Doing it that exact same way is a whole different story! My husband’s intent was to try hiving the bees with the method he saw in the video. The problem was that some of the bees managed to escape the screened in box before he had a chance to flip it over. Therefore had he placed the screened in box over the hole in the inner cover, there would have been bees trapped in the upper section unable to reach the brood box below.
So what did my husband do? He improvised! He propped the screened in bee box up against the inside wall of the super. This allowed all the honeybees to crawl down towards the queen in the brood box below. This whole process lasted probably 10-15 minutes. Little A and I sat a safe distance away and watched the whole thing with binoculars since we haven’t been able to find a bee suit small enough to fit a toddler!
Since the bees haven’t started making any honey yet that they can eat, we have to supplement them with homemade sugar syrup. The recipe is quite simple: 1 cup water plus 1 cup white sugar heated to create a syrup. There are a variety of feeder systems available to use. Some people use a mason jar, but we knew we might not remember to go refill it at least once a day. Instead we have 1 gallon tanks that sit in the bottom brood box where one of the frames would fit. Before we hived our bees, we filled the tanks with the homemade sugar syrup.
My husband checked the bees a few hours after they were introduced to the hives. He saw that the queens had left their cages so he removed them from the frames. Amazingly the honeybees immediately got to work and started making comb. The bees had left the screened in boxes after a few hours so they were removed along with the super.
Over two days, the honey bees drank quite a bit of the sugar water syrup so my husband had to refill the tanks. He will continue to monitor the level of the syrup and once it looks like they stop drinking it, he’ll remove the tanks. Supposedly this could be another couple weeks.
We are thrilled to finally have honeybees on our property! It is perfect timing since our apricot trees just blossomed and the trees are buzzing with honey bees. We live close to an expansive alfalfa field so as soon as that starts to blossom, our honeybees will really be feasting and making delicious honey!