Whew! I can't believe we've made it! From late March until the first week of May it has been nonstop bee tasks. Building hives. Placing hives. Ordering bees. Installing bees. Feeding bees. Managing bees. Catching bees. My family is quite thankful that the brunt of the chaos is subsiding and now we can (hopefully) enjoy the mundane tasks that remain. Hah!
On Monday, April 6th I installed 10 packages of bees (5 Italian and 5 Carniolan) at three different locations in Milwaukie/Oak Grove, Oregon. Exhausting. We arose early to begin preparations, including: 10 quarts of syrup, 10 feeder jars, 100 top bars popsicled and waxed, marshmallows procured, syrup placed in spraybottle and a multitude of other items I put off until the last minute/realization.
At around 1:00PM we hopped in the truck and met the cameraman from the Oregonian at Ruhl Bee Supply to document the process of purchasing and installing bees throughout our neighborhood.
For any of you who haven't had the opportunity to be in the presence of 10,000,000 bees (1000 packages), I must urge you to do so before it's too late. Simply watching the reaction of spouses, children and others who are less-inclined toward bees crawing on their faces is worth it.
Here's are some photos of the package pick-up:
Our cameraman was a trooper, indeed. He looked dazed as he walked into the room full of bees, and slowly crept out of the warehouse and took photos from afar.
After picking up the packages we headed home to install the first three packages into one Warre hive and two top bars. I did the Warre first without a veil and was promptly stung in the ear. Since then I've been wearing a veil when installing packages!
Here are some photos of the first three installations:
Here they are today:
After that we headed to Eleanore's (one of my hive hosts) house to install 4 packages into top bar hives. She has a beautiful property that looks as if it was created for top bar hives!
Lastly we went to Charlie's to install the remaining 3 packages and everything went swimmingly. Sadly, a couple weeks later I was forced to move them due to his neighbor's fear of honey bees stinging his children's bare feet as they prance through the clover. Thankfully, I am confident they have a better home here in this incredible orchard only a mile from our home!
The day after the first 10 packages were installed we were getting our rotting willow tree cut down. Early that morning I showed the arborists the top bar hive windows and they were enamored. A few hours later I received a call that there was a beehive in our tree approximately 15 feet off the ground. Sure enough, I got home and saw bees happily buzzing in and out as if nothing had happened to their humble abode:
The plan in the next month or so is to have the arborist return and cut down the portion with the bees and set it gently in our yard. We'll leave them alone and allow them to use it as a "bee gum."
10 days after installing the first packages I received my first swarm call and promptly responded to a home near Reed College. Here's the evidence:
A few weeks later during the last week of April I met Cedar Glen Bees in Jantzen Beach, Oregon to pick up the first five packages of bees (Minnesota Hygienics) of the ten I ordered from them. Despite the rain and cold weather, my packages were still alive!
The next day I installed 3 of them at Sokol Blosser Winery and 2 of them at Cameron Winery in Dundee, Oregon. Sadly, 1 of the Sokol Blosser hives absconded -- my only package to abscond of the season! I'm quite pleased with the 95% success rate.
A few days later I drove up to Seattle and met a nice gentleman driving down from Northern Washington with my final 5 packages of Buckfast bees. We met on Pike street (the main drag) in an alley. Really. I must say, rounding the corner of Pike street carrying 50,000 bees, only to watch dozens of bystanders diving into the street, screaming in terror is one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.
Of the final five packages, 2 were installed at Cameron winery (bringing the total there to 4) and 3 were installed at Lachini Vineyards.
A couple weeks ago I received a call from my neighbor that my willow tree hive was swarming. Sure enough, I got home to find a decent swarm irritatingly clumped at the base of a tree at the edge of our yard:
After 30-40 minutes of kicking and brushing I finally got the queen into the box, packed them up and took them to Zenger Farm.
It has been tiring, trying, frustrating, exciting and ultimately a wonderful learning experience. I look forward to the next swarm, the next sting and the next day!