~by Tammy Taylor~
Last week we talked about the beekeeping preparation steps that were necessary before we ever obtained our first bees. There was lots to do: Educate ourselves on best beekeeping practices, join a local beekeeper’s association, decide where our hives will be located, prepare the location for the hives, obtain the beekeeping protective clothing and the bee hive expansion boxes and frames. RancherMan even built an elevated stand for the hives, and we used heavy-duty cattle panels to section off the hive pen from the cattle pen. All of these details are listed on last week’s Preparation Post, so if you haven’t read it be sure to check it out. But now that we’re all ready, let’s get those bees!
Deciding On How Many Bees To Get
It’s strongly recommended by the beekeeper’s association that you start with two hives by either purchasing a nuc (nucleus hive, or mini hive with a queen & some workers) or even two fully established hives. Having two hives allows you a comparison point when you’re watching the health of the hive and allows you to see when one hive is strongly outperforming the other – perhaps you need to inspect the under-performing hive more closely to see what’s up. We could have purchased a nuc more inexpensively but we decided to purchase two established hives from a local beekeeper.
So mid-morning of the day we were to obtain our hives RancherMan met with the beekeeper and inspected the hives, each hive contained about 20,000 bees. WOW! He also brought her the bottom board and the top from the hives we’d already separately purchased – she’ll place the hive boxes we’re purchasing from her atop our own bottom board and place the top we brought to her to cap off the hive box. After the initial inspection of the hives that morning, we’ll return to her location in the evening to actually pick up our two hives. She will prepare the hives for transport by screening off the entrance once the bees have all returned to the hive for the night to pen them in – once all that is done, the hives will be ready for us to pick up!
Picking Up Our 2 Established Hives
When we came back that evening to pick up the hives we brought along a couple of tie-down straps long enough to go around each hive – we’d hate for the top to go flying off on the way home! We strapped the three pieces together – our bottom board, her hive box with bees, and our hive top – and we loaded the two hive boxes into the back our our truck and drove home (about 30 miles away). Once home RancherMan backed the truck to the location we’d prepared for the bees and put on his bee suit, veil and protective gloves. He set the hive boxes on the raised stand he’d built for them, and removed the screen that had been holding the bees inside the hive. Even with the jostling of moving the hives to a new location there was very little activity when he removed the screen.
Observing New-Hive Activity
When a hive is moved to a new location it’s recommended to move them 3 miles or more so they aren’t confused about which hive is theirs. Moving them that far forces them to kind of reset their internal GPS system and start over in being able to hone into their own hive. So when we set them up at our location (which was obviously over 3 miles away), for the first 24 hours or so the bees just come out of the hive and flew around as they set their internal GPS to their new location. But after a couple of days the activity of both hives increased with the bees coming and going in a buzzzz of activity as they sat about their work. RancherMan visually checks the activity at the hives each day by standing outside the bee pen we’ve sectioned off for the hives. He watches the bee’s activity at the hive, but he doesn’t disturb the bees nor their hives during these daily visual inspections. He’s using this visual inspection to compare activities of each hive. Do they both look to be active? Are many bees coming & going from both hives? Any stark differences between the two hives’ activities?
So far, so good. Stay tuned for the next installment of our “Beginning Beekeeping Series” when RancherMan actually inspects the inside of each hive!
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BEGINNING BEEKEEPING SERIES:
Obtaining Your Bees