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Installation Day

May 12, 2013

The day had finally arrived.  Our nucs were ready to install!  As a refresher, I spent the prior night watching YouTube videos on how to install bee nucs.  Gotta love YouTube!

Nucs and Packages

Perhaps I should have explained in my prior post about what a nuc actually is.  You see, new beekeepers can choose to start their hives with a nucleus hive or with a package.  A nucleus hive is a mini-hive that includes a wax covered box (which acts as the hive body) and five established frames with the bees and the queens all ready to go.  All I do is transfer those frames into my larger hives, then add three new frames to fill my 8-frame hive.  Nucs are the easiest way to start a brand new hive, and because the colony is already established, you get a quick head start.

Packages are screened boxes that contain about 3000 bees, a separate box containing the queen and several attendant bees, and a can of sugar syrup.  The package is opened by pulling out the can of syrup and the queen box.  Then the bees are literally dumped into an empty hive.  Bees don’t like this much, which makes this method a bit risky.  Plus the queen has to be gradually introduced and accepted by the worker bees.  But packages are considerably cheaper and can be purchased in the mail.  I understand postal worker just love having bees in their facility.  Packages are best to use if you have drawn out frames just need bees.

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Nucleus Hive (Nuc) Ready to Install

Let the Installation Begin!

So I went into Sunday morning feeling excited to jump in and start interacting with the bees.  I had even created a checklist of action items in preparation for the big event…

  • Make 2 gallons 1:1 simple syrup made the night before
  • Fill feeder buckets and hammer down tight so they’re ready to go
  • Learn to light the smoker
  • Pull tools out of box:
    • Hive tool
    • Brush
    • Smoker (lessons via YouTube)

My hubster had been waiting to light the smoker with his stash of wood chips from the workshop.  So while he worked on that, I marched the tools and feeder buckets up to the apiary.  We set up a video camera and I dressed in full gear, completely covered from the top of my hat all the way down to my pink muck boots.

I moved with relaxed and fluid motions.  Gently and slowly I removed each frame, inspected for the queens, then transferred them to the center of the hive in the exact same position from which they’d been pulled from the nuc.  Then brand new frames were added to the outside slots.

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Removing Frames from the Nuc

The hubster took photos from afar.  He could see the flying activity that surrounded me and he nervously began coaching me, thinking I was unaware of my surroundings.  I quickly reminded him that just because I couldn’t SEE the activity didn’t mean I couldn’t HEAR the activity.  I was very aware.  But when you’re covered head to toe in canvas, leather and muck boots, it’s hard not to feel like you have the upper hand.

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Adding Established Frames to the New Hive

I didn’t find the queen in Green Hive 1 (GH1), but I did find one in Yellow Hive 2 (YH2).  I was pretty certain both were where they were supposed to be.  A few puffs of smoke calmed the girls down and coaxed them back into the hive.  Feeders were placed and I closed everything up.

They were pretty cool about the move and they certainly adapted quickly to their new space.   I was thrilled that the deed was done and that it was a success…and (guess what?) it’s on YouTube.

See Bee Install Movie on YouTube!

Welcome to Boo Bee Honey – How it All Began

As a new beekeeper, the two questions I hear most are

1) when will you get honey? and
2) how did you get into that?

They say you don’t get honey until your second year. Spend your first year growing your colony and keeping the bees alive – THEN worry about honey! We’re from Maryland, just 30 minutes north of Washington DC. Not a great honey state, I’m told, because our flowering season is short. However, I have spoken to a few new beekeepers who said they got anywhere from 35 to-100 pounds of honey their first year. I’ve also been told that any honey harvested first year will be sugar water honey – not the best quality.

At this point, I have no expectations and the information is overwhelming, and often conflicting. Honey is secondary, and right now I’m drinking in the bee activity. In fact, it’s their activity that drew me in 2 years ago. I remember watching a set of hives while on a hop farm. There’s something so rural and relaxing about bees and their hives. We stood and watched them go in and out of the boxes, minding their own beeswax. So I approached our local beekeeping association at the county fair and expressed my interest and concern about time commitment. They assured me that bees are low maintenance and actually prefer to be left alone.

That was it. I signed up for their class and haven’t looked back. In most cases, my ability to retain information is ridiculously bad, but I absorbed those bee lectures like a sponge. This confirmed what my husband has always said – I pay attention to things I’m interested in. I soon ordered two nucleus hives (nucs) and all of my hive equipment from a beekeeping supplier located just 20 minutes away from our house. Kismet you say? I like to think so.

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