7 May 2017 – Sunny and highs in the upper 70’s

Yesterday, Dave and I adopted 15,000 new pets. BEES!! We got up early and were on the road to Rapid City before 6AM to pick up the nuc (or nucleus) of bees.

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Boxes of Bees
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Not many left! Shoulda got up earlier!

I ordered the bees in March and they were delivered with hundreds of other boxes of bees to a field. Dave and I drove there, met up with the “bee-dealer” and he crossed our name off the list and told us to grab a box and go. The bees come in a box that weighs about 3 lbs. with four frames inside loaded with bees. They are a colony without a home, and they should have an active laying queen. All we had to do was put them in the back of the truck, drive the 1.5 hours up the mountain to the Holler, and install them in their new hive.

You might think driving around with a box of 15K bees in the back of your truck could quickly turn into a dynamic situation, but the girls didn’t bother us and they didn’t try to escape. In fact, when I picked up the box you could only hear a slight humming from the activity inside and only a few bees came out to see what was happening. I handed the box to Dave and he bungee-corded it securely in the bed of the truck and we drove home.

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Anyone hear a buzzing noise?
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Bees on the commute home

Back at the Holler, it was time to rehome the bees. We were instructed to wait until it was at least 60 degrees because colder temperatures could damage the brood. (Brood is the eggs and developing baby bees.) It was beautiful yesterday, so we went right to work. I donned the bee suit, Dave lit up the smoker for me. The smoke is used to calm the bees; it actually masks the alarm pheromones they release when they think their hive is under attack. The smoke allows beekeepers to inspect the hive and the bees without getting the bees all worked up and agitated. Supposedly……

The installation of the bees was pretty exciting. First off, they advise you make sure it is a nice day and not too windy. This is South Dakota, however, and it was pretty breezy by 10AM. I quickly learned that the smoker was ineffective in the wind as the smoke just drifted away and did not reach the target intended, which in this case was four frames of ticked off bees!

The gentle hum from inside the box of bees rapidly became a much louder and more intense buzzing once the top of the nuc box was removed and the bees were exposed to the sunlight, the blowing wind, and me in a bee suit! Dave watched from what he thought was a safe distance as I pried out the frames of bees and placed them in the same order in the hive. They were quite angry and buzzing all around me but I was sealed up under the bee suit and I felt pretty secure.

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Moving the frames from the nuc to the hive
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Frames full of brood and bees
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Go home, Bees!

Then Dave shouted, “I’m Stung!!” A perturbed bee found the side of his face a suitable target and she got him. He said it didn’t hurt too much and he was actually quite pleased to discover how mild it was compared to other stinging insects. Dave actually won this one because honeybees die after stinging. We are now down to 14,999.

A bit more about the bees.  They are Italian Honeybees.  The Italians are supposedly more docile than other breeds and should be fairly cold-weather hardy.  We thought the Italians might like it here because we drink wine and listen to Dean Martin.  Our other choices were a Minnesota Hybrid, and we don’t really care for Al Franken or hybrids so that was off the table.  We could have also ordered Russian bees.  The Russians are very cold-weather adaptable, but supposedly more aggressive than the other breeds and not great for beginners.  Also, as Dave pointed out, they are more likely to hack into your email, so no Russian bees for us!

I completed installing the bees and sealed up the hive. ­­­­­­ The bees, however, were quite angry and followed me around for some time, preventing me from shedding the bee suit. So I walked around Hoten Holler for awhile looking like an astronaut.  Dave suggested I do the moonwalk…..good one, Dave.

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The Bee Suit

Eventually the bees relented and we were able to get back to normal ranch chores. We hope the girls are happy in their new home. We put fresh water out for them and I planted wild flowers in front of their hive, as there were already some beautiful purple flowers blooming there.

I hope they can find enough to eat and make some good Hoten Holler Honey! More importantly, I hope we can be good keepers of the bees and help them survive. There is only a 65% success rate for bee survival due to viruses, mites, and unknown reasons. Life ain’t easy for the honeybees so we are going to do the best we can and with a little luck, our colony will make it here. We are supposed to check on them in 7 days to ensure the queen is laying eggs and everything is still okay.

We spent the rest of the day staining the deck and putting siding on the chicken coop. The bees were exploring their new environment and would come by and buzz at us, checking us out, looking for pollen or water and just getting an eye on their new landscape. We visually inspected the hive from a distance several times during the day and they had calmed down significantly and were going in and out of the entrance doing their bee thing.IMG_3261

Well, that is the latest from the Holler. Happy B-Day everyone!