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May 18th 2015
I received an anxious call from the Fishtown post office. "Ma'am, you have a package here. I think it's alive. We haven't put it on the truck yet but you should get it right away." I immediately knew what it was - my two boxes filled with three pounds of Italian bees had arrived - slightly ahead of schedule. I rushed to the post office and tried to explain to the post master that I didn't have a package slip but I'm sure the postal workers in the back know the package I'm there for. He was a little irked by my impatient attitude but as soon as he saw the package he understood. "Thank you so much for what you're doing!" I promised, if I ever got honey, I would bring them some.
May 20th, 2015
I had to wait a few days to put my bees in their new home - mainly because it wasn't quite finished and the garden was undergoing some major construction (thanks to the Rain Check program!). Finally things quieted down and I finished the final touches on my top bar hives and it was time. The instructions, as I read them, for installing bees read:
- Pry apart boxes of thousands of bees without pissing them off.
- Take off top and reach hand into box to pull out the container holding the queen.
- Gently put the queen’s container in the hive.
- Strike the box still containing thousands of bees sharply on the ground and quickly dump it into the hive.
It was completely terrifying and I had jitters. I really didn't want to fall off my roof with a swarm of bees around me. But it turned out easier than expected.
May 30th, 2015
It's amazing what these little ladies can do with just a week! Top bar hives give bees the added challenge of always having to produce new comb, which requires a lot of nectar. Still, they manage.
This week also brought on the first hard lesson. In installing the queen in one hive, I inadvertently released her from her container too soon. With no magic pheromones drawing them to the hive, the bees absconded. I'll never see them again. But, I'm left with the other hive to care for.
The queen is the key to the whole hive. She's the life and breath. Without her, the new hive dies. I'm always grateful and excited when I see her sporting that bright blue spot.
June 15th, 2015
I’m still amazed at how much work these bees have done! They aren’t called busy for nothing. I was initially worried that they would wreak havoc on my Fishtown neighborhood but I have yet to even see them in my garden. It’s actually getting to be a bit insulting – what’s wrong with my garden that you choose to fly miles away? And certainly, pollinating my tomato plants is a fair price for making a home for you all to live in!
July 6th, 2015
Every time I open the hive I learn something new. How sticky is propolis, the gluey substance bees use to seal cracks? Very sticky. But for every new finding, I’m only left with several new questions. Why do they cling to each other? How do they know what to do? Are they doing ok?
July 2nd, 2015
I look forward to every hive check. But, when it isn't time to crack open the bars I just sit on the roof quietly watching them.
They’re just bees but if you spend enough time watching them, they start to seem less like one element of a super-organism and more like sassy neighbors, sitting on the stoop, awaiting the neighborhood gossip.
July 6th, 2015
By late July I figured that the bees would have a bunch of honey and would have filled the hive. Of course, this is my first time keeping bees so what was I to know. Every questions posed comes back with several, often contradicting, answers. Should there be more bees? Should I feed them? Are they infected with something? Should I treat them?
I’ve decided that they’ve made it this far, hopefully they’ll continue to thrive – but maybe I’ll give them a little sugar water just for good measure.
July 30th, 2015
Today I watched a new bee hatch out of her cell. It was amazing! Like watching a birth but not as fluid filled. I have a new hope that the hive will be ok.
And with the bloom of the sunflowers I've been finding more of my ladies around the garden, early in the morning.
August 24th, 2015
I’ve been finding more and more dying bees on the roof and in the garden. Apparently it’s normal for their numbers to decrease when winter approaches, but it seems awfully early. I like to collect them and give them a little sugar water just in case they just needed an extra boost.
September 26th, 2015
The fears have shown to be true. I’ve spotted a few bees with shriveled wings – a disease brought on by a heavy verroa mite infestation. I guess I just never noticed how many of the little mites were taking over. I’ll try a late treatment but the answers I’ve gotten from the forums are pretty bleak. Even if the treatment works, the hive’s population may be too low to keep it alive through the winter – even with the extra food I’ll provide.
November 9th, 2015
A few weeks ago I was watching a healthy young worker emerge from her cell and immediately disappear amongst her sisters on the comb humming with productivity. This week it was a chilling sight. The hive was pretty empty – as far as beehives go. And the few cells where new life should be emerging just held corpses – some dying as they were emerging. Still born.
January 14th, 2015
Rest in peace my fine ladies.
I opened the hive on a warm 60 degree day. I didn’t even need to get onto the roof to know they were gone. At sixty degrees and sunny – even in January they should have been out. Cracking open their tomb it was like looking into the hull of a shipwreck or the bodies frozen by ash in Pompeii. They were all there, frozen in their last positions.
I sat on the roof and cried. I had failed them. I miss them.
**Want more Bee Diaries? Follow me on instagram at coolgoonpro for more stories from two new hives.