This weekend it had been two weeks since we made the “walk-away” split. The hive in the orchard contained my newly minted queen. When I checked the trees, they were laden with tiny apples just forming. The hive was bursting with activity from dawn to dusk.
The queen-less hive at my home seemed busy but it was time to take a good look. We tried to video my inspection but the late day sun wasn’t creating enough contrast. The first hive body was laden with fresh honey. I was covered with bees as I worked my way down to the second hive body. There I found three queen cells, open, empty and occupied by workers cleaning them. This is a good sign. I would have dug deeper but the wind picked up and the hum from the worker bees warned we they were getting irritated by my intrusion. I felt satisfied that they have hatched out at least one queen. I saw signs of brood and eggs, telling me she may have already made her maiden flight to be fertilized.
I awoke early and headed down to retrieve the orchard hive on Sunday. Using a fern frond, I brushed the sleepy heads that were just coming out to greet the day, back into the hive and turned the wheel to close up the hive. They rode comfortably in the bed of the truck three miles back to my house where I had situated a large stump under an oak tree. The entrance to the hive is facing southeast, to bring the first warmth of day to their doorstep.
Initially, my concern was the amount of sun. I wanted them to be warmed in the early hours, then have enough shade to keep the hive from over-heating. Throughout the day, the trees gave just enough protection and the breezes from across the valley kept the air moving.
Tonight at dusk I went out again to place the five frame super on top of the small hive. These bees came from here, but have been on their own for two weeks with no human interaction. They were clustered on the “stoop” fanning the hive and kibitzing like a cluster of old italian women on wash day. I was dressed from the shop, loose linen slacks, sandals and a white cotton T-shirt. I may have been fool-hardy. No protection. The smoker fired up on a full tank of pine cones and calmed the ladies. I slowly and deliberately took the top off, removed the inner cover and placed their new box on the hive. Several buzzed about my face; I slowly drew breath through my nose and exhaled to the side, so as not to insult them. The world calmed and a few landed and tickled my bare arms. When they were bungied back together on the stump, I puffed the smoker around myself to deter any hitchhikers and slowly left them to decorate the new wing of their castle.