This morning we welcomed 10,000 or so new members to our family. At 6 am the phone rang. It was the local post office informing us that our bees had arrived. They seemed rather eager for us to get there as soon as possible to remove them from the post office.
My husband had set up the hive last weekend in preparation for their arrival. After reading several books about beekeeping, he'd decided that he didn't really need any protective equipment other than the bee hood (bees will attempt to crawl into your nose and ears). Plus we'd seen a really good movie called Ulee's Gold, starring Peter Fonda as a beekeeper. Peter Fonda walked freely amongst the bees ( which were probably computer generated) sans gloves or any other protective gear. My husband was going to be the Bee Whisperer.
The bees arrived in the wooden and mesh cage pictured above. Several were loose and clinging to the cage, so the person at the post office happily gave us the plastic USPS tote that the cage was in and sent us on our way.
Our next door neighbors had bees for several years, so they had all of the gear. When it came time to put the bees in the hive, I suggested to hubby that he go next door to borrow additional safety gear. "No, I don't need that stuff. It's all about remaining calm. They won't sting you if you stay calm". Ooookay. For protective gear, he opted for a fishing raincoat and the bee hood.
The queen bee is in a separate little box. The box is corked, and after you remove the cork she is still kept in there with a piece of sugar "candy". Within several days, the worker bees will eat the candy, releasing the queen. Hopefully by then they will have decided that they like her, and will take care of her. If not... we have to get a new queen. After she is placed in the hive, it's time to install the rest of the bees.
When it comes time to release the bees into the hive, you basically kind of bang the cage until they come out and go into the hive. Turns out bees don't really like being banged around. The Bee Whisperer ending up running and getting stung once. I was 40 feet away, and one bee ended up stuck in my hair, which involved running and flailing.
In the end, the bees were safely transferred to their new home. Our neighbors kindly brought over their unused bee equipment, including a full safety suit which will be used from now on, or until we learn the art of remaining zen calm with bees crawling on us.