I've never had bees. We eat a lot of honey and no sugar so it made sense to me to get bees, plus it's good for the garden. And, they are very interesting. All that buzzing and busy-ness! About a month ago we received our first bees. They came in two small screened boxes. The book said to spray them with sugar water and they will calm down and you can just "dump" them into the hives, put in the "queen cage", put sugar water in the top feeder, put on the lid and there you are. In theory the workers will make friends with the queen, she will eventually get out of the queen cage and get on with bee life in the hive. But, when I checked on them a few days later, they were gone. Flew the coop. So, I talked it over with some bee folks, adjusted my protocol and ordered some more bees. This time I got "nucs". Nucs are different in that it's a small colony already started on frames and the queen is already friends with her workers and they are on big happy family. All you have to do is remove the frames from the box and install them in your hive. Sounds simple.
When I picked the bee nucs, they were "leaking" bees. In other words the bees were getting out various holes in the boxes. So, I wrapped them in tulle (It's what I have on hand in abundance.) and loaded them in the car for the hour drive to the farm. It was alternately pouring and sprinkling rain but the bees had to be installed. So, I geared up: cap, tulle, white coat, white gloves. OK I don't have traditional bee gear yet and yes, it does look a little strange. The trick is keeping the tulle tucked into the coat and the sleeves gathered tightly around the wrist to prevent fly-ins. Gary (my husband) made disparaging remarks about the tulle, so naturally, karma caught up to him-more about that later. I didn't fire up my smoker because, well, my first bees were so calm I was lulled into a false sense of security.
Several of the excapees were flying around inside the tulle; I untied it (remember, I used tulle to wrap the boxes and am also using it as a bee veil around my head--we looked like a wedding gone wrong) and Gary, with no protective gear, (can't imagine why he didn't wear tulle) pried open the lid. When I removed it, OH MY GOSH. It wasn't at all like my first bees in their little box just waiting for their new home. These bees were EVERYWHERE, busy making comb and they were happy to stay where they were...they didn't want a new home! They completely covered the tops of the frames and were beginning to fly around. I sprayed my sugar water, swallowed a couple of times, gathered my courage and moved a few out of the way so I could grab hold of the first frame. OK, that wasn't too bad..now for another and then last one. The bees are flying everywhere and I'm hoping the queen is on one of the frames. I put on the inner cover, Gary helped me get the two quarts of sugar water adjusted, I popped on the lid...all is well.
Alright then, this won't be(e) too bad; I went to the second hive. This one sounded different. Louder. More buzzing. Lots more buzzing. I untied the tulle, Gary pried off the lid and I removed it. There was a mass of honey-making machines and they didn't want to be bothered. Almost immediately they took to the air totally ignoring my attempts to calm them with sugar water. I had little time to worry about poor Gary with no protection or about our dog, Cassie, who insisted on being right under my feet. I knew I had to get those frames into the hive but honestly, the bees were so thick on them there was no place to put my fingers. So, I just bit the bullet and weasled my fingers right in among them. My heart was pounding, there were so many flying in my face I couldn't see very well. They were all over my hands; my wrist "guards" had failed miserably and I could feel them crawling on my arm. Then they started stinging my hand and I felt my glove "vibrating" from the ones who were trying to sting but couldn't quite get through to my skin. I wanted to run and jump in the pond; I had visions of Winnie The Pooh swatting bees. But, I put the frames into the hive one by one and Gary and I hurriedly put in the sugar water and I slapped the lid on.
I lost all track of Gary and Cassie and immediately went toward ZuZu (our little ATV). I tried to sweep them off my hands but they kept on stinging through the cloth and by now they were caught in the knit fabric of the gloves. As I walked away from the hive I tried to get my veil off but the tulle was twisted and still tucked into my jacket. I couldn't tell if the bees were inside it or out, but they were buzzing all around me. I jerked off my gloves and finally wrangled out of the tulle. About this time Gary said he'd been stung. I looked over and he had his glasses off..it had crawled up under them and stung him right on the eyelash line. Gary jumped into the atv, I grabbed Cassie and we got in then I quickly rolled up the window. The bees were bashing themselves against the glass in a last attempt to show us who's in charge. Gary gunned it and we barreled down the mountain. I heard buzzing and thought they were in my hair; after a few moments of searching I found them in Cassie's hair, stinging away.
When we got to the farmhouse I realized I had lost my glasses when I yanked off the veil, but I could still see that the stinger was still in Gary's eyelid. I'm sure it pumped out every bit of venom before I pulled it out. My stings all disappeard within 30 minutes but Gary's is still swollen and red this morning. We drove back up the mountain for my glasses and the bees had calmed somewhat. There is still a bunch of bees in that 2nd nuc box and I hope they find their way into the hive; we can't check on them until tomorrow. They say the hive takes on the personality of the queen...that 2nd box must have a type A queen!
I'll keep you posted on our bee progress! Today I'll be searching the internet for true bee gear.