Saturday, April 24, 2010

Amateur Bee Rodeo

Drove two pounds of Carnolian package bees home from Sunny Farms in Sequim today.  But of course, it was cold and wet -- it always is when I have to travel or carry something fragile, like art or insects -- with occasional spring-time flashes of sun.  By the time I got home, the bees in the box were chilled, but I couldn't bring them in the house because there were stragglers clinging to the outside of the wire box.  

At the next short sun-break, I whipped open the hives and poured 'em into the hive.  That I forgot and left two of the wax frames out and had to open the whole thing again was just first-timer jitters.  Oh, I didn't tell you I was working these bees without veil or gloves?  That's how I was taught, over 30 years ago, at Ohio State University. I won't work veil-free once the bees are established, but I needed to be able to see and manipulate everything without confusion during this ticklish operation.

The bees were so cold they were balling up and wouldn't pour out of the box.  It took several tries, and by then some of them were beginning to warm up and defend their new home.  They got me in the left wrist and elbow -- but it hardly hurt.  I guess all that working with nettles for soup and greens the last couple of years has made me more immune to stings.  

They're finally hived up humming for the evening; I hope the queen is all right.  I lost about 30-40 bees, but out of 10,000 that ain't bad. When I re-queen with the more aggressive and hardy Olympic Grey this summer, I will burqa up for those babes. And if I ever have to package again, and it's cold, I'll have to make the hard decision to brush off the stragglers in a spare wooden box and take the rest of the girls into the house to stay warm until the weather clears.  They're like the cells of a brain, not individuals.  But if you've ever let a small cold bee crawl up on your finger and carried her to safety, it's hard to think of her that way.

I must get this from mom.  When camping, she paid no attention to yellow-jackets, except to give them their own little pile of food and lids of soda away from the cooking area, or to dip them out of the stew.  She called them "Mountain Kittens."

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