Sunday, April 18, 2010

A New Beekeeper

Today I am a beekeeper. Actually, I kept bees for the 1st time yesterday. That's when I drove to New Columbia, PA, about 2 hours southwest of me here in upstate NY and picked up 2 packages of bees. A 'package' consists of 3 pounds of bees and a queen. They come in a little screened in box all clumped together around a can of simple syrup suspended from the top of the box. There are small holes in the can which allow the bees access to the life-sustaining syrup until they are installed in their new homes -- in this case, 2 brand new garden hives in my backyard.

When I put the bees in the backseat of my car and started the drive home I was surprised at this awareness that came over me. There were living creatures traveling with me. These bees were in my care. It was a strange feeling.

When we arrived home, it was time to install the bees. Bob, an experienced beekeeper from Kirkwood was there to assist me. We opened the first package and removed the queen cage (the queen is in a separate box inside the main box.) Bob examined the queen cage and gave me the bad news. "This queen is dead." It doesn't happen often, a package with a dead queen, but it happens. We closed the package up and moved to the next package. This queen was alive and well and we installed the bees in their new home. The other package with the dead queen we took back to the house. It's in a cool, dark place in my basement and I've sprayed it down with some sugar syrup a couple times. I left a message with the bee supplier and will contact them again on Monday to make sure they expedite getting a new queen to me.

It's been cold since yesterday. I wonder which colony has it worse -- the one in their new home in the backyard or the one in the warmer spot in my basement? Time will tell. But when I awoke this morning, I was thinking about and caring for my bees. I guess that truly makes me a beekeeper.

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