Thursday, June 4, 2009

2 Bee or Not 2 Bee

Dad and I drove out to Guelph to pick up two nucs on Thursday, Bee Day.

The nucleus hives, termed "nucs" by beekeepers consist of a box, usually made of waxed cardboard or sometimes of wood. The small box is about half the size of a full hive and contains 4 frames of bees. The top part of the box will have small holes or screening for ventilation.

The nuc consists of: One frame of honey, food for the bees. Another will be capped brood just waiting to hatch. The third will be a mix of brood and food and the last frame is mostly empty, but already made into honeycomb by the bees and just waiting to be filled with food and babies. The last frame also gives a place for the bees to go since they're packed in pretty closely.

That's the make up of a nucleus colony. And of course it has a queen, usually already introduced so there's no need to deal with queen cages and queen acceptance.
Dad was surprised how heavy the boxes were. We were warned to be careful with pressing on the cardboard sides as it could crush the bees inside, but we also found they didn't like us carrying the box with our hands on the bottom. If we held onto the well-taped lid the bees were much quieter.

I took the good advice from the seller and instead of installing the two nucs into my hives as soon as we got home, what we did is place the nuc boxes where the hives would be located. Then we went home and had supper.

We came back at dusk and what we did then was slit the taped opening at the bottom of the box. This way the bees could leave the hive. By opening the box at dusk the bees would have some time to orient themselves gradually to the area first.
We were told that if you get home and just release the bees, they can storm out of the nuc box and fly off and get lost because they don't know where they are. So if you want to reduce the number of lost bees, wait until the next day to hive the nuc.

We smoked the bees a little first. When we we opened the exit at dusk just a few bees came out but most just explored the porch area and didn't stray too far. I taped the opening down with duct tape just to get us through until morning.
Codie, my nephew (who had previously declared himself afraid of bees) was an enthusiastic helper.
My sister was there too as well as my brother's son Ben, who had just arrived from Australia the day before.

So everyone got to see the bees. In fact, they got closer to thousands of bees than they ever thought they would in their whole life!
And the bees performed well. As soon as the door was open the caretaker bees got to work carrying out a few dead bodies and debris, dropping it outside the door.
Everyone was really impressed to see the bees in action doing their tasks. Then I overheard Codie instructing Ben on how the bees make a queen. I had just told Codie that info a few hours prior. Word travels fast among beekeepers!

I noticed one hive was more active than the other but both hives had a healthy hum and I could see living bees moving around when I looked through the screening.

So, I put the outer hive cover on top to cover the screening in case it rained and we bid the bees good night.

The next day at mid morning we'd be back and we would take the frames from the nuc boxes and install them in the hives.

It was a good day. A good day indeed :)
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