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Bee Adventures - Part 1

Mis à jour : juil. 17

The newbie beekeeper. A dream come true. I've always liked insects, except spiders. Too creepy. I even like frogs and garden snakes. The perfect subjects for macro photography. Details of all the different creatures are fascinating to me.


So here is a glimspe of my adventure with bees, my lifelong attraction for these wonderful little beings.


June 8, 2020

It's been a long 8 month wait since I ordered my nuclei. The small colony of bees, their queen and 4 frames they have started to build brood on. I have been reading about bees all winter, watching beehive inspection videos, blogs about beekeeping, reading even more... There is so much to learn, and apprently, always something to learn about bees and their behaviour.


Even years of experience doesn't make you a professionnal. These are living beings; Always be humble and gentle.


My pick-up appointment was for 6:30 pm. The Mieillerie de L'Estrie in Sherbrooke, Quebec was where I took my first beekeeping class. We were supposed to be 6 participants that day, but somehow no one else showed up, so I was treated to a private class. Pretty cool to have an instructor all for yourself.


One of the owners, a smiling and very professional dude, was all ears to my questions and needs. For someone who inspects 100 hives in a day, his personality has to be calm and patient. He seemed to share my excitement and enthousiam, (new parent!) just like the numerous customers who passed before me. He helped me choose the right equipement for my needs, no pushing for anything I don't need just yet. But beekeeping is expensive. My total invoice was a little short 500$. Hive screened bottom, a ventilated top, inside feeder, gloves, top insulation just in case, 6 empty frames, the smoker, roof, varroa trap, unassembled super, full base for fall / winter. And bees.

So I leave with a 18" x 8" top screened carboard box filled with buzzing bees. And their queen.

Needless to say, it was a very strange feeling putting them in my car.


My drive home was gentle in the curves. During my hour long drive, I mentally go through the motions of what I've learned so far, so that their intergration is smooth and incident-free.


When I got home, I immediately put them down near their hive. The heat coming from the nuclei box is impressive. I let them settle down a bit while I have a bite to eat; it's almost 7:30 pm. I'm a little stressed because I have to put them in their hive before sunset, or they might get lost.


Richard and I assembled the super, put everything on the stand Richard built especially for them. A hive should be a a height of about 12 inches from the ground. Keeps the rodents away a little, skunks and other small predators, as well as the humidity.


Because it's only the first week of June and still pretty cold here in the eastern townships of Quebec, it was suggested that I feed the bees sugar syrup, so they have food even if there's no nectar or pollen for them. The recipe is 1:1. Yes dear friends. It is syrup. One for one of any measure. 4 cups of sugar for 4 cups of water. White granuted sugar only. Absolutely nothing else. Other sugars, molasses, cane, brown, honey, whatever, can have bacteria which can harm bees.


Richard got he smoker going with pine needles, leaves and small branches. Heavy, dense white smoke is required to keep the bees calm and avoid them from signaling danger pheromones. I put on my veil, suit, gloves, and armed with a knife to cut through the tape that held the box closed, off I went to see my new friends.


They had not enjoyed the car ride. They were still humming loudly, impatient to get out and for fresh air. It was almost dark by now, so I needed to be quick, although my heart was beating in my ears. Of course, my knife wasn't as sharp as it needed to be, so I had the impression I was jerking at the sides.


I sprayed the inside of the new pine hive with syrup, then sprayed the bees a little, to get them busy washing a licking themselves while I did my work of removing the frames from the nuc to my hive. 2 empty frames first, the 4 from the nuc, which were pretty heavy in my newbie opinion, then 3 empty frames, then the feeder. Total 10 spaces.


I gently shook the remaining bees from the box to the top of the hive and the entrance. Some were dead or very weak at the bottom, which made my heart sink a little. Normal though for such a long ride home in the heat in a cramped space...


I put on the ventilated top, then the roof, and left my new bees for the night.


Sleep tight ! A new environment awaits when you wake up! (Do bees sleep?)


According to BBC.com : "Busy bees have to sleep, too. Similar to our circadian rhythm,honey bees sleep between five and eight hours a day. And, in the case of foragerbees, this occurs in day-night cycles, with more rest at night when darkness prevents their excursions for pollen and nectar".


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