Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Welcome to the neighborhood

Getting the bees into their new home was a lot less ceremonious than I thought. Whenever we've gotten a new pet, a kitten or puppy, say, there is much fussing and putting out of treats. Coaxing, cajoling, all of that. I think getting the bees out of their box was the first biggest mental shift I had to make- these are not pets. No matter how fond of them I've already become, they're bugs.

We smoked them a little, using cool, white smoke from dry pine needles. Dr. Drone explained that this signals to the bees that it is time to eat some honey, which makes them calm and docile. I guess in a natural setting the smoke source would be a forest fire, and the bees need to have ready energy to make a long flight away from a burning habitat if need be.

The smoke made them hum even louder as they fanned their wings and settled down to munch. Dr. Drone pried out the can of food, and rescued the queen cage before it fell into the box.

And then - get this - he just DUMPED THE BEES INTO THE HIVE! It was crazy. Just shook the box a little upside down and most of the three pounds of bees just tumbled into the top of their deep. Tapped it once or twice maybe. And that was pretty much it. We positioned the queen, still in her cage, between two frames, where the workers could get close, but she couldn't escape. This is apparently necessary so that she doesn't decide to look for nicer digs and take her family with her. If we leave her in the cage for a few days everyone can get settled, hang up their posters in their rooms, and pull off the ugly wallpaper in the den. Once they've made it a little more their own, the queen will start laying and then we'll know they're here for keeps.

We set them up with a giant jar of bee food to get them started, plus the honey already in the frames. I'm nervous they might be gone next time we visit, and so excited too- welcome to the neighborhood bees. Please don't relocate too soon.

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