Monday, May 16, 2016

A Monster With Two Heads

It's almost 10AM and I just finished the morning chores. I know, that's late. But last night I hosted a Game Night with some new and old friends (we played a farm favorite, Lords of Waterdeep) and guests were still tallying up points at 10PM. It wasn't till around midnight till I fell asleep, so I didn't get out and about until 8AM. Slow start for this time of year and this particular life.

Getting started means letting the dogs out to romp and pee, letting the kids out to do the same (by the by, the kids are now named Jack White and Jack Black. I call them the Jacks) and going about the morning chores of feeding pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits,  geese,  turkeys, chickens and one loud horse. By the time the coffee was drank and the last of the stainless steel milking pails were set aside to dry, it was 9:30. Now the kids are asleep in a borrowed plastic dog crate on clean bedding. The dogs are asleep after full bellies of kibble. The cats are asleep from their dawn rounds of critter killing and delivering their murder victims to the front door looking worse than an avian Elizabeth Short.

Some of this homesteading stuff I have down. I feel really confident about my gardens, my goats, and now my sheep. I feel savvy around my horse (not all horses, mind you, but mine). I know dogs better than any other living species, including humans. And so far the cats haven't mutated to their desired dream size to kill me in my sleep.

Other things I don't have down, and the lessons come hard. Bees are one of those lessons. I am writing you with over 16,  itching, hurting, stings on my thighs, hands, and butt.

This past Saturday I installed the nuc of bees I had pre-ordered with some friends. A few of us went in on the hive, planning to share the honey for mead in the coming years. It was exciting getting up and driving to Betterbee to grab the hive, just after dawn. I had music blaring, and was listening to Coleman Hell with the windows down. I felt good. I had chores done, coffee injected, and was greeting the sunrise with aviator sunglasses and the mild high you get from going out to get new livestock. I consider bees tiny livestock.

Now, If you don't get there early you could be in line for hours. So many people come to pick up honeybees at that location, and I am grateful it is literally the next town over. So I was loaded up and on the way home by 7AM. Music playing, friends chatted with, life was good.

A nuc is different than a package of bees. A package is a box of several thousand bees with some feeding syrup and a queen in a small, sealed, box. They are not a true colony yet, and there is no honey or brood to protect. You buy these and literally dump them into their hive and that's that. I have done it a dozen times between my own hives and friends - and so I was feeling overly confident about this nuc sitting in the back of my red pickup. I would do the same, right? No problem. Open it, put the five frames into the hive, and that would be that. But it wasn't.

A Nucleus Hive is a mini-bee hive. You are paying more for it because it is already established and producing a village work force. So these are bees that have been separated from an existing hive complete with brood, honey, and a laying queen. This means you are not dumping desperate refugees into a Habitat for Beemanity Hive. You are committing a the insect equation of human trafficking. This village was kidnapped, separated from family, shoved in a windowless-white-van of a box and now is seeing sunlight for the first time at a brand new location. They are pissed. They have something to protect. One does not simply "dump them into" a hive.

Well, and idiot does. Enter me.

I had on my bee jacket, veil, and gloves. But I also had on skinny jeans and no smoker. This meant that my lower body had tight clothes with little protection. I had no smoke to confuse the bees. I just opened the box and started moving frames. The first few stings came fast. Then I realized I couldn't stop, I HAD to finish moving the hive. Frame by frame I lifted them out of the van and into the their new digs - the whole time being stung. Had I suited up, smoked, and done things right I would have been fine. But I assumed it would be like every other time I installed bees. It wasn't. Thank the Gods I am not allergic.

The next few nights were cold, I noticed dead bees around the hive but the bulk of them seemed fine. I fed them some simple syrup to help get them through, and I sincerely hope they make it. My luck wasn't good here with weather either. It's not going to be the sunny, bright, week last week was. It was snowing here this morning. Little taunting flakes all over the black backs of my dogs and gathering around the hive. It has since stopped but it made me wince. They might have gotten me good, but I don't want them to freeze.


Blogger Unknown said...

Once and future homesteader here. One of the things I love about your blog is that you don't just tell us the pretty stories, you tell us about mistakes and mishaps, too. Personally, I don't think I could handle bees. Honey is something I'll have to barter for.

May 18, 2016 at 7:49 AM  
Blogger admin said...

Good to know!

May 19, 2016 at 8:49 PM  
Blogger Eowyn said...

Thanks for feeling your awesome self as always. How exciting, bees!!! Spikenard Farm is a lovely web resource full of inspiration for happy bees. Lookin forward to your future mead-filled posts.

June 13, 2016 at 8:14 AM  

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