As members of the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association, we can participate in the annual bee run to Georgia. Someone from the organization makes this round-trip twice in April—a less stressful way for the bees to get to their new homes in New England.
Cold weather in Georgia reduced the number of available bees, so this past Saturday we were only able to pick up one of the two 3 lb. packages we’d ordered. However, we were happy to have them, and eager to install them in the hive Cherisse had cleaned up earlier in the week. All going well, we’ll get the second package with the other colony in two weeks.
Around 12,000 bees arrived in a wire cage the size of a shoebox. Inside that box was a much smaller wire cage that contained the queen and a few “nurse bees” that attended her. A candy plug and piece of cork kept the queen and her attendants separate from the rest of the colony until we pried out the cork and hung the queen cage in a space we’d made by removing one of the frames. If they accept her, the bees eat through the candy and release her. This allows for a more gradual introduction of the queen, and reduces the likelihood that she’ll be rejected.
Once we had the queen cage hanging from the frame, we shook all of the bees into the hive, gave them a jar of sugar water for food, and covered them up.
Yesterday (two days later) we checked on the queen. This timing is critical because if she isn’t released in 48 hours, we would need to intervene. To our great relief, the bees had eaten through the candy plug. We didn’t look for the queen—it was enough to know she was out and the less we disturb them in the beginning the more easily they’ll settle in. In a few days we’ll see if she has begun laying eggs; if so, we’re off to a good start. (If we don’t see brood we will look for the queen. Most likely we won’t find her, and we’ll need to get a replacement queen immediately.)
I’ve enjoyed watching activity in the hive entrance once again. From a distance you can just see a shimmer, like heat bouncing off hot pavement, as the bees hover waiting their turn to enter the hive. Right now they will only find pollen on their foraging trips, but soon flowers will bloom and they can collect nectar as well. Once again, Cherisse and I are beekeepers.