Friday, May 8, 2009


Want prompt delivery from your postman? Order bees. For some reason the view of thousands of bees held at bay by a thin metal screen tends to makes people a little nervous. Or maybe it isn't the enclosed bees but the loose ones crawling around on the outside of the wire mesh frame that their worried about. Whatever it is, you can be sure to receive a phone call the minute the postal worker receives the package. "You can come right away and pick up your bees. Just knock and we'll meet you at the back door.", they helpfully offer.

For at least twelve years we've had hives and off and on. We've ordered Buckfast bees from Texas or Italian bees from California and they have been shipped through the postal service. But this year, we tried a new apiary. A fellow bee keeper highly recommended them and said the apiaries owner made several trip to Wyoming each spring with a horse trailer full of boxes of bees for customers. We decided to give them a try.

Normally, you buy bees by the pound and you have a couple different choices of weights but with this apiary there's only one choice and from the size of the cluster of bees I'd estimate it at four pounds. A queen came with each four pounds of bees.

In each box was a can with tiny holes in it from which the bees can extract sugar water to fortify them for the journey.The packages arrived at nine pm Friday night. The air was crisp and the forecast was for near freezing temperatures so instead of placing them in the back of the pickup, they went in the back seat. At home, I put them in the coolest room in the basement which was away from the coal /wood stove that was providing warmth for the baby chicks and garden plants that awaited warmer weather from under a grow light. The room had no door and thus received some heat. In the morning the bees would be slightly lethargic when I dump them into their hives. Not a bad thing when your vigorously shaking a box full of them.

The next morning, I took out the tin can exposing the bees and carefully slipped the small box that held the queen and an attendant onto the lid of the next hive. Clinging all around her frame are bees which pass the sugar water to her through the screen. Since she and the workers are not from the same hive, if I were to released her, there would be many who have not yet been introduced. Not know their own queen is no longer with them they would kill her thinking she was an impostor. Hence she is protected while all her subjects are introduced. This takes approximately three days.

After I remove a few frames from the hive box, I shake the bees from the traveling container down into the hive. Then I set it on the ground near by knowing the few that are remaining inside will crawl in the hive at least by nightfall. I gently moving aside the bees, and place the queen's container inside, then replace the lid. Since there has been drought in this country for years, the old frames have little honey in them so I head to the house to mix up some bee food in the form of sugar and honey water.

In a few days I'll show you the next steps in this process and the bees final journey to the Durham Buffalo Ranch where they will roam with the Buffalo on the Wyoming plains.

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