When I put a bee suit on I look calm and composed. But my insides are squirming and it feels like my stomach is flipping over like a steak hot on the griddle, sizzling and simmering painfully with each somersault. My first memory of stinging winged insects is stepping on a rock, that turned out to be a hive while backpacking in the Sierras with my family. I was stung all over, but I remember vividly my swollen lip that kept me from chewing the already unappetizing dehydrated backcountry food for the rest of the trip. As I grew older I became more familiar with the different types of stinging insects that came alive every summer in California. So familiar that my Little League baseball coach coined my nickname Sting, more for my record number of swollen arms and feet that season, than base hits or RBI’s. Even as an adult I found myself submerged in the safety of a swimming pool, stealing gulps of air and anxiously waiting for an angry pack of hornets to disperse on my last vacation to Mexico. It should have been common sense not to dig up the coconut tree those irritable hornets called home. So I was expecting the worst when 4 new hives arrived for the Garden and I (being the official beekeeper of the UP Garden) was put in charge of leading a group of apprentices through their first (and my first) hive installation.
Luckily, Andy (CASFS’s resident craftsmaster/tractor guru/maintenance magician/beekeep extraordinaire) gave a brief class on installing new hives at the Farm about 20 min before we installed our bees in the Garden. I had the amazing help of Christopher, Gia, Linnea, and Luke. Together we installed 4 Queens, each with 3lbs. of worker bees for a total of about 40,000 bees!
Above, Luke empties 10,000 worker bees into a new deep box with the queen already hanging in a marshmallow cage that they will eat through over the next week to free her.
Above, Linnea pouring bees and placing new frames. Below, Gia inserting a queen in between frames and Linnea mid-pour.
As the afternoon wore on the bees settled into their new homes and I escaped uncharacteristically unscathed. Tomorrow we will check to see if the hives stayed put and next week James Cook will come and help us open all the hives and get ready for summer.
Resistance is fertile,
2013 CASFS 2nd Year Apprentice