worker bees swarming over the empty queen's cage
Smoker and Queen's cage
After a picture perfect week, we had a wild storm that dumped three inches of rain in a few hours. I love good storms, the kind that wakes you up and makes you start to count between lightning flashes. The air was thick with ozone and charged with energy. The next morning, I found the dock had detached from it's mooring and had floated across the pond to be stranded on the opposite shore. That kind of rain brings everything out of their winter's sleep. The pond's overflow sounded like a jet engine-a huge amount of water!
On Wednesday, I waited until Noon to release the two new Queens from their individual cages and release them in the hives. I waited until then because that's when the most bees are out foraging for nectar and pollen and not IN the hive. I dressed in protective gear,got my hive tool and smoker ready and put on my veil. This was the first time I had gotten inside the hive since the new bees had been "installed". Now, you can wear gloves, but I don't know how you would really be able to be very dexterous with thick gloves on! I filled the smoker with dry grass and fresh Thyme...an experiment for mite control. Many mitacides are formulated with pure thyme oil, so I figured that using thyme to smoke essentially is fumigating the bees as well as calming them, the reason you smoke them in the first place.Smoking makes bees gorge on honey and settle them down.
After I gently smoked the entrance, I lifted the top of the hive, removed the feeder...(you need to feed bees at the start, so they can get settled in and build fresh comb.) Then gently moved the center frames apart to remove the Queen's cage. She had been in residence for four days, being fed by the worker bees, and spreading her hormones throughout the hive. After this time, she will be accepted by the newly created hive. A package of bees is made up of bees from different hives, so they need to be "retrained" by the young Queen's scent.
After gently removing her cage, I dealt with the feeling of thirty or forty worker bees crawling all over the cage and my hands. I could not stop shaking! so silly, it's just a little overwhelming to have them all over your bare hands! I used a small nail to unplug the cage, carefully replacing the cage for a few minuets so she can leave on her own accord. It all happened so fast, I think she flew up for a second, then went down into the masses. The second Queen went a little more smoothly, thank God! I put the empty cages on the landing of the hives just in case the queens where still on them. The workers swarm all over it, and it's hard to see what's what. This Wednesday,I'll pull out some frames and make sure there are eggs being laid, and a new generation will be on it's way in twenty on days from that first egg laying.