Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Installing the bees, with a little drama

The bees showed up today.

Howard Kerr, faithful to his word, traveled to southern Georgia over the weekend and brought back thousands of bees to Blount County. Two boxes, themselves containing several thousand bees, were mine.

Getting the bees into the hive is a multi-step process that I have read about in several sources. Howard showed me how to do it this afternoon, describing each part of the process as he went about his work in his massive beeyard. He couldn't have done it better.

Unfortunately, he didn't have a very good student. Thus, Howard is not responsible for what happened.

Sally and I traveled down to the farm after supper. Sally served as chief beefood mixer and star photographer. She took some excellent pictures, including the one at the right, until she was attacked by a few irritated bees. She retreated with a couple of stings to show for her trouble.

Still, all was going well reasonably well from my point of view, and I thought I was finished when I realized that I had probably opened the wrong end of the queen box. I opened the hives back up, and sure enough, I had done so.

When this happens, the bees -- who have not accepted the queen as yet -- are likely to kill her outright. I couldn't tell what had happened, so I shut the hive up, cursed as loudly as the bees would let me, and got over to Howard's place as quickly as I could -- ready, eager even, to confess my sins and receive some absolution.

Howard, much amused but trying not to show it, made me feel better by saying that sometimes the bees would not kill the queen in these circumstances. I should simply leave the hive alone for a couple days and see what happens. If the queens were dead, Howard said, he could supply me with a couple of others.

So, while the day wasn't a complete disaster, it wasn't because I hadn't tried.

Still, I do have bees and the asterisk I put next to my name at the beginning of this blog is gone. I'm at the bottom of the class, but I'm a beekeeper.

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