Unfortunately the night before we picked our package of bees up, there was a big freeze and the bees were left unprotected in the back of the suppliers truck. About 1/3 of our bees were already dead when we picked them up. The supplier did not offer to discount our package- which was our first red flag. Unfortunately, package bees are very weak already- as they’re unprotected, without any “home” or honey stores and already stressed being with a bunch of new bees and new queen.
We took a 2.5 hour drive home with bees escaping the box here and there throughout the journey. When we arrived home, we decided to quickly install the bees into their new hive as it was late afternoon. We took a much less stress filled approach to installing them by leaving the open bee package in the hive body itself and allowing the bees to move out of the box at their leisure. Unfortunately their syrup can that was in their package was bone dry, and who knows for how long.. so that definitely could have attributed to our bees suffering so much initially. We were able to check on the queen and she was in the cage. She was slowly moving, but there. We removed the cork that kept her inside, and quickly placed a tiny bit of Marshmallow in the entrance to keep her inside for another hour or so.
The bees were left untouched for a couple of days with 2 quarts of 1:1 sugar syrup installed into an internal feeder. When we opened the hive to remove the package box we had allowed the bees to leave themselves- another bunch of the bees were in there, dead. All clinging to each other. Those poor bees didn’t have a chance. They were likely dead when we picked them up- and they just looked alive like the rest of the bunch clinging to the queen box. We didn’t touch the hanging queen cage when we opened the hive for the first time to take out the box as that had a cluster of bees around it still. It was quickly closed up and will remain untouched now for about 5 days when we go in to check on the syrup and fill them up. With half of our 3lb package of bees already dead the day we picked them up, they would have a lot of building to do with a such a small amount of bees.. and that’s if the queen survived the cold in the suppliers truck as well. We’re trying to keep up hope! It would be difficult for the hive to thrive with the numbers they have- but still possible if they snap back. If the queen died, however, they really have no chance.
We’ve done everything that we can to help these guys thrive if they’re going to get over that big freeze in the suppliers truck. You live and learn. In 4-5 days, we’ll have a better idea of whether the hive will survive or not. Here’s to hoping!
We finished installing a removable bottom board, built the roof, and installed #8 mesh on the bottom of the hive. Our next goal is to cut the top bars to fit the hive and then coat a strip on the bottom of the board with beeswax so that the bees have something to work off of.
Hinges will probably be next. Some people build them with hinges, some people just lift the entire roof off and set it to the side. Because the kids will be working with the bees too, the hinges will make it easier for them to get into the hive. No need to lift the heavy roof off- just lift it up! We primed and painted the entire exterior- including the roof for a little extra protection under the tin. We left the interior bare, as the bees don’t need to be chewing on paint. 🙂
The part that we’re most concerned about right now is getting the entrance placement right. That will probably be the last thing we do before we put the bees in the hive. You’ll see different types of entrances on every hive you see. We think we’re going for a non-traditional entrance, but we’re doing a bit more research before we decide whether we’ll be doing this or not. It’s a bit more work than just picking a side and drilling some holes in the sides of the hive. We have wasps to contend with, local hives that may rob ours- and critters of all sizes that will try and eat the bees, honey or both. We want to be sure we are doing everything we can to make our hive defensible, but also comfortable for the bees. That first year is extremely critical for new hives. If we can build it in a way that will help our bees thrive this summer and successfully overwinter- we’ll be in great shape for collecting a bit of honey AND comb next year.
Our bees have been ordered so it’s time to get on the beehive build!
This is one of our goals to being a bit more self sufficient- bees will provide us with wax for candles and bodycare products, a little honey for our teas- and pollination for our gardens. Needless to say, we’re over the moon with excitement!
First we started out with 2 inch thick pine boards. We went this route, as we figured the thicker the body, the better chance the bees have to survive our winters here in North Idaho. While milder than Minnesota- they certainly can get long, especially if you’re living up in the mountains. We painted the body with a latex based primer and latex exterior paint. We chose a drab green instead of bright white because we want the hive to be camouflaged as hive theft has become a bigger concern as of late.
We’ll be putting hardware cloth along the bottom, and build a track to allow a bottom board to be placed down there as well for the fall and winter months.
The top will be built as soon as we have the topbars themselves placed into the hive for correct measures. We plan on doing a peaked roof for water shed as we can get a lot of rain where we’re currently at. We’ll put some tin on the top to keep it nice and dry.
The bees were ordered for April pickup- so we have plenty of time yet to get ready- we’re just a bit excited.
We’re looking forward to putting this hive to use this year- and will write up regular progress updates it’s first year. We do not expect to take any honey the first year as they’ll need it for overwintering, but we’ll have plenty to document!