I picked up the ladies last night. They rode home in the back of the truck in their NUC; which stands for nucleus hive. Once in the garage, I dutifully opened the small round vent as Jodi had advised, to give them some air for the night. 1,2,5,6 bees came crawling out buzzing. That wasn’t supposed to happen!
Later, before turning out my light I checked email. Jodi had written that she was worried they might be too warm in the garage and suggested I move them out to where the hive would be situated. “Um, not at this hour.” My nightmare was more along the lines of opening the door to the garage in the morning and seeing a swarm coming my way.
There was no swarm, so I assembled my tools and set about getting ready to transfer the NUC to the hive. The NUC is an oblong wooden box with five frames inside. It is an established colony complete with comb on the frames, workers and drones and of course their queen. This colony has just come back from a pollination project in an orchard. They are well established though probably slightly confused at the moment. It is said that every time you open the hive, you set the bees back in production is set back at least one day. It disturbs their keen sense of organization and the pheromones the queen is releasing to tell everyone what to do.
First order was to get the smoker going and fill my feeder with sugar syrup. Then all but the feeder and one of my new empty frames were removed from my deep hive body. With everything ready, I released the tie-down straps and slowly peeled off the cover of the NUC.
Bees swarmed to the open top and began flying lazily around. I took a deep breath, blew it out away from the bees and lightly pumped my smoker over them. Bees are meticulous; they hate bad breath, body odor, leather and being breathed on. Smoke in small quantities calms them and masks the alarms they give off when feeling threatened.
The first frame came out sticky and heavy with comb. There were fewer bees here, maybe hundreds but not thousands. Each consecutive frame was easier as the NUC began to empty. I carefully placed the NUC frames in my hive; gently sliding them close together while doing my best of avoid squashing any bees. This was the perfect time to search for the queen but I knew Jodi had only recently created the NUCs and was sure she was still there and healthy. When all the NUC frames were installed, I placed to of my new, empty frames nearest one wall and slid on the inside cover. The bees will continue to build out the frames they came with and then move on to the new ones.
The last step was to knock the NUC against the inside cover to dislodge any remaining bees. There was some gluey stuff stuck inside the NUC so not all the bees exited as planned. I set it beside the opening to the new hive and within 30 minutes they had all climbed out to see where everyone else had gone. Being careful not to crush any bees, I slipped the outer cover over the top and stood back to admire my work.
Within minutes, workers were emerging to check out their new surroundings. Luckily, two Rhododendrons were in the final phase of blooming nearby. Their bright colors and sweet smells welcomed my new ladies.
The key this summer is for the hive to stay healthy and build up enough reserves of honey to feed themselves through the winter. Hey, there’s a new concept! A pet that feeds itself!!