Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Baptism by Fire

Mission: To pick up and transport 10,000 honeybees from Sebastopol to Novato and install them into their hive box.  I felt up to the task, confident from the classes I had taken and books I had read, all which I believed had prepared me for this process.  I got the bees home and placed them in a shady, cool spot to calm them down;  I was going to wait until around dusk to move them in because with the sun setting, they would know that they needed to settle down in the hive for the night. 
Look how happy I was, little did I know I was about to agitate 10,000 bees.

The plastic bag on the side of the hive box was all of the tools that I needed to install the bees: rubber band to attach the queen's cage to the side of a tray, a screw to unscrew the cork that contained the queen, and a marshmallow to plug the hole to the queen's cage.
The time had come to move the box down to the hive box site and start the installation process.  The very nice bee man up at Bee Kind had told me over and over that I wouldn't need to suit up in my bee suit, as the bees were not aggressive due to the fact that they didn't have a home to defend.  So, as I walked the bees down, I forewent putting on my suit.  Looking back now, I think that was mostly my ego, boy did I learn a quick lesson. 
All is going well so far, as I am about to remove the can of syrup and release the queen's cage.  After doing that, the plan was to attach her to the side of one of the tray's with a rubber band.
When I took the can of syrup out, I opened up the hole and many of the bees started crawling out.  When I tried to slide out the queen's cage, I couldn't get it out and the bees quickly moved over to my hand.  I instinctually pulled my hand away and made just enough bees nervous that they started flying all around me.  At this point, Taylor stepped in at a different angle and was able to remove the queen, getting stung a couple times on his hand during the process.  He used the screw and unscrewed the cork and replaced that cork with the marshmallow, still containing the queen.  We did this because after the queen is place in the box along with the 10,000 other honeybees, they will eat the marshmallow away and free her in anywhere between 8-16 hours. 
Notice at this point, my hair is now up and the expression on my face reads, "Now I mean business!"
So there I was, having been stung on the chest and having three or four bees stuck in my hair, fully panicing.  Oh yeah, didn't I mention, for some strange reason, I left my hair down during the beginning of this, again, another lesson learned.
It was at this point that I had also been stung on the top of head and Taylor suggested that maybe I go get my bee suit on.  I took his advice.
Now I was ready to go!
I proceeded, with much more confidence, to take out the can of syrup, place the box of bees in the empty space in the hive box, and cover the whole thing up.  I then took my trusty hive tool, and banged out some bigger holes in the syrup can for the bees to eat it up faster.
Banging out more holes for the bees to eat up the syrup easier.

And there you have it, bee installation at it's....well, not easiest, but it's done, and they're all in there!
After it was over, I was so relieved to have gotten through it with only about five or six stings.  Taylor and I went upstairs after this and watched the Giants play, all the while, feeling a bit strange from the combination of bee venom, endorphins and adrenaline all pumping through our system.  After everything subsided, I felt exhausted, but much more confident, as I have to do this all over again on Easter Sunday.  Needless to say, I will be wearing my bee suit this time.

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