Installed a wild swarm of bees in my first hive (March 2017 beekeeping log)

March 21 – What an auspicious day! The weather was sunny and in the mid-80s. My fencing-style bee veil arrived in the mail.

But the most amazing thing to happen? I. FINALLY. GOT. MY. FIRST. BEES! As my husband and I were settling in for the evening, a friend called. He had a wild swarm that needed a new home – did I want it? Absolutely!

Because the bees did not have brood or honey to protect, they were very mellow – to the point we did not wear any protective gear when we moved the box of bees (with a partial cluster on the outside) from his truck to the Happy Day Hive. Our first task was to move the queen – housed in a little metal cage – into our kitchen. We needed to mark her and if she got free we could catch her more easily inside the house. We used a bee muff to safely move her from the cage to the plunger cylinder used to hold her still while I marked her back with a red dot – so very helpful for my new beekeeper eyes when I want to check on her. but she’s surrounded by hundreds of bees.

Next we placed her cage between a frame of comb and another of honey and the bees started doing their waggle dance and marching down into the hive.

adding wild bee swarm to hive
The bees started marching down into the Happy Day Hive after we marked and placed the queen in a metal cage between two frames – one with comb and one with honey.

March 22 – Another warm and sunny day. We watched the bees do orientation flights in front of Happy Day Hive. They also went inside the Candyland Hive (bated with Swamp Commander) to check it out. I think every bee flying today flew around the new wax-coated frames stored in the garage.

March 23 – released the queen from her cage.

March 24

March 25 – Worked in the Coastal Empire Beekeeping Association (CEBA) bee yard at Oatland Island Wildlife Center. While we were preparing to get started, we heard bees buzzing louder and louder overhead and realized that bees from one of the CEBA hives had swarmed. They buzzed about 20 feet above us and then moved on. Bah!

During our visit, we applied varroa mite treatment gel, combined a strong nuc and a lame nuc into one hive.

Varroa mite gel treatment
CEBA president Greg Stewart spreading the varroa mite treatment gel on a card on the frames of a Coastal Empire Beekeepers Association hive at Oatland Island Wildlife Center.

Happy Day hive went through about a pint of sugar water.

March 26 – Day in the mid to high 70s. Checked the Happy Day hive about 6 p.m. Forgot to smoke (but I was wearing a veil, jacket and gloves), and the bees rushed my hands when I reached inside the top empty top box to get the empty feeders. I took this as a good sign they have adopted the hive. Indeed they have filled half a frame with comb. They had drunk the two pint jars of sugar water in the last day. Need to get bigger jars.

March 27 – Mid-day on a sunny, warm (mid-to-high 70s) day, my fellow beekeeper Dan and I did some trial-error testing of size and number of holes in the lids of new quart-sized Ball jars as new sugar-water feeders. With a gallon of food available to them, hopefully I can leave them alone for a few days. The weather has been awesome and they look like they have ramped up their bee-making, which requires more food. They won’t drink the sugar water unless they can’t find a food source, so I will keep feeding until they stop drinking.

Glad I wore protective clothing today and used the smoker. It was the first time I used it and tried out the knit organic cotton. It was burning well, but went out in the middle of the hive check and had to relight. The bees are much more defensive now that they have something to defend. It got quite loud when I started moving the frames. The center frames (with the most bee activity) were not flush against each other so the bees had started to add burr comb. They also started to build a peninsula of comb at the bottom of the medium frame we added to the hive when we installed the swarm. One new frame was half-covered with comb. Saw the queen – that pink paint dot sure helps pick her out.

She tried to sting me and got her stinger stuck in my glove.

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March 28 – Remember to take the empty jars that had sugar in them away from the hives. Yesterday’s jars attracted ants, and I killed about four of them at the hive entrance. Also, caved in and ordered the Sherriff Honey Rustler jacket with attached veil – like the one I used in Iceland. Can’t say enough good things about the zipper attachment of the veil and ability to flip it back like a hoodie when not in use.

March 29 – Really pleasing weather in the high 70s. Found four dead bees in front of hive. Could be natural death from old age, death from 7 p.m. mosquito spray or death by defense (raccoon?) Close inspection of one showed it had no stinger.

In about 24 hours bees drank about 1.5 pints from sugar-water from feeders closest to the frames where they are most active. Saw bees with massive pollen bags on their back legs. Queen is obviously bigger than she was when released (she’s being wellfed). We looked for signs that she was laying. Found about 10 cells – roughly in a row/not clustered together) that were dark at the bottom and had teeny tiny white things at the bottom that could have been curled larva. Hopeful, but not sure. Saw a few bees head down in cells with their fuzzy butts poking out – tending larva?

About Kristine K. Stevens

Book Cover200Kristine is the author of "If Your Dream Doesn't Scare You, It Isn't Big Enough: A Solo Journey Around the World." This nonfiction book tells the story of how she sold her house, quit her job and traveled around the world.

Kirkus Book Review: "... Stevens makes a friendly, relatable narrator ... plenty of colorful stories to make this an enjoyable, inspiring read... An often sweet memoir about finding oneself in many different places."


Next travel book to spotlight Iceland

25817249396_f6c787ef9f_z Kristine broke free from a desk job once again, and this time ended up volunteering in the far corners of Iceland!

Details about the release of this book will be posted on Facebook.