Saturday, May 14, 2022

The Bees Arrived!

 Hi everyone. Happy weekend to you.

This past Thursday my 2 boxes of bees arrived. Let me describe that adventure for you today. FYI, this is a longish post.

Sadly my original hive didn't make it through last winter, but I'm still not exactly sure why. The best I can figure out is that it was either too cold and my hive just didn't have enough bees to maintain hive heat (to withstand that cold), or it might have been  because the hive had been weakened by a bee disease and therefore couldn't make it through the  trials of winter survival. There was still plenty of food in the hive, and my top moisture box and pad were dry.  When I opened up the hive most of the bees were clustered together in the middle, almost as though they were flash frozen in place. We did have more than the usual very cold days this winter. I'm still trying to figure out what killed them though so hopefully I can have better luck in the future, and it is  still sad  to even think about all those poor bees.

I hadn't given up on bees though. I had already ordered one box of  bees for a second hive before I knew whether my bees survived the winter. After realizing I had lost my bees, I ordered a second box. I'm not planning on having a bee farm, but I am interested in a couple of hobby hives.

Of course, nothing is ever straightforward. Wednesday night I had a message on my phone that my package was damaged and that my bees were being scooped up and returned to their package in the Manchester, NH post office facility they had to go through before being shipped to my town. This didn't sound good.

Then on Thursday I had a 7 AM phone call from my local post office. I expected this, but as the woman explained, there was some damage to the box and not all of the bees were contained. I took a drive over to assess.  My 2 boxes of bees (they were connected to make 1 package) had bees on the inside and bees on the outside. The seal at the top of the boxes hadn't been damaged, but obviously some of the screening around the boxes had been torn so some bees had gotten out.

This is the top of my boxes.  On the far left you see some of the board that was holding the 2 boxes together. On both of these boxes you see the small board that looks like a mini shingle and that covers the entrance into the boxes. These boards were securely stapled in. On one of these boards you can see the big red "this side up" sticker across it.  And if you look carefully, you  can see some bees outside of the box. 

In this above photo that I took once I got home, you can see how many bees were actually outside of one of the containers. You can tell the box is still sealed if you look at the top of the photo and see that the board is still attached over the entrance.

The lady at the post office wasn't very happy with the way the bees had been delivered from Manchester. Basically there was a screen thrown over the box, much like you might throw a towel over something. At night, the bees on the outside were clinging to the box with their particular queen, but since the day was beginning and sun was coming up, the bees would be going out in search of pollen because that's what bees do.

I didn't bring any equipment with me, so I went home to get my suit, smoker and tools. Luckily the PO is only about 2 miles from my house. Plus I needed a minute to figure out what to do because I didn't want bees flying around my car as I drove them home. I was likely to get stung, and maybe even get in an accident which as you can guess, would not be good for many reasons.

I had the idea that if I got a large piece of screen and could find my husband's staple gun (which luckily was an easy find as he'd been using it in the spare bedroom project), I could first smoke the bees, then wrap the shipment completely in some screen and staple it all closed.

And that worked.  The lady and another postal employee in the room with me were quite impressed. I must say I was pretty impressed I came up with that idea also because for a while I wasn't sure what to do.
The first photo in this post is how I wrapped my bees. I took that photo in the back of my car.

I also kept thinking about my poor bees. I didn't know, and still don't know, how many actually escaped and didn't find their way back to the outside of the box. According to the women at my local PO, Manchester had called in a bee keeper to help out with this situation. I can imagine what it was like there with bees flying about.

Once I got my bees home, I used more smoke to calm them (it covers their attack pheromone response)  and then installed them in the hive. I couldn't take as many photos as I would have as I was the only one home (besides Mr. Pete who wasn't coming any place near me nor the bees/ Maddie was at doggie daycare that day), but let me show you some of those  photos to explain the process of installing bees.

In this photo above you can see their shipping box. I have taken off that small mini-shingle of wood that allows bees to be put in or taken out. There is a circular hole in the top of the shipping box  (under the mini-shingle) that contained a tin can that had some bee food (sugar water) in it. I  had to remove the can so the bees remaining in the shipping box could get out.  You can see that circular hole where the can was as there's some bees around it.

The queen and a couple of drones were in  a tiny little box that was sealed. (No photos, sorry.) That little box gets put into the hive, and they should be able to eat their way out of it within a few  days. I need to go back into the hive early next week to check that the queen did get out. If not, I need to pull out the candy plug and let them out.

To install the bees into the hive, I basically shook them out of the box. It takes a few shakes.

Once most of them are out, I put on my food box (I am feeding them sugar water for awhile so they don't starve) on top of that hive frame box, and then I put on the top of the hive. The purple hive is finished, the yellow hive in the forefront still needs the food box and top added.

I left the hive shipping boxes right in front of the entrances of the hives so any remaining bees that didn't fall out can get out and join their queen and the rest of the ladies inside the hive itself.

At first, it was bee pandemonium. There were bees flying everywhere. They were on my suit, in the air, on the hive, in the hive. Above the hives a black tornado shaped structure of bees formed. Poor Pete was desperate to go into the house, and it was hours before he'd go back outside again. And  they made a lot of noise. It was a fairly loud humming buzz. I wish I had a recording because it was a great sound.

As the day progressed, the bees were settling in. In this above photo you can see the 2 wooden top boards I removed to let the bees out, and you can also see the cans that fit into the entrance hole of the shipping container.  You’ll find them on the ground between the hives. And you see lots of bees too. There are a lot of them sitting on top of the yellow hive.

By evening, they didn't care about their shipping boxes, so I removed those. And life at the hives was a lot quieter on the outside. 

In front of the hives in the bottom of this final  photo you can see my latest garden project. I'm trying to put in some flowering plants but keep it looking a little more natural. I call it my bee garden. Everything I transferred or put in last summer and fall seems to be coming back.  Now I need to fill in some blank spaces.

And the electric fence around the bees is for keeping out skunks and bears.

It ended up being a good day because I was pleased I figured out a workable solution to the damaged packaging. I also got the bees installed. Even though I'd only had bees for one year, I must admit it seemed awfully quiet with empty hives. And with all that bee handling, I didn't get  stung either. Hurrah!

Now let's hope the bees have a great pollen/honey summer ahead. 
Thanks for reading through this long post, and enjoy your weekend.


kathyinozarks said...

wow what an experience and you figured out what to do. we had something similiar happen to our bees in shipment but not as many had gotten out. I am hoping you called the company where you bought your bees to let them know what happened.
I have never seen painted bee hives before. good luck with your bees this year hugs

CJ Kennedy said...

Wow, that was some bee adventure. You must have been upset as the bees to get the call from the post office. Good that you were able to figure out how to get the bees back to the shipping container and then get the bees installed in their hives. There's a local guy, Chad, well, he's really from Charlton and he owns the Charlton Bee Company. Maybe you could touch base with him about problems the original colony had wintering over. No problems today with the weather. I hope you and the bees have a fabulous day.

The Happy Whisk said...

I love the purple and yellow together. This season I am big into purple and yellow together. Did a small chair that. They just pope together. Very cool on the bees, too!

Anne (cornucopia) said...

I read the entire post. Recently I was actually wondering how your bees did over the Winter. I'm sorry to hear they didn't make it. And how awful that your new shipment was damaged, so some bees got out. I felt bad for poor Pete, too. I don't blame him for wanting to get back inside the house, and then not wanting to go back outside again. I was going to ask about bears, but you had the explanation for that, too. (Now I'm wondering what the Colonists did. I don't recall whether or not I had mentioned I had visited a Colonial house in the area, and they mentioned that back then, they had bee hives in their flower garden, on one side of it.)

I'm not liking this very muggy, Summer weather we're having. I wish we could have a Spring where the temperatures gradually go up. We went from 50s for the highs, to 70s. :-(

Angie's Recipes said...

What a comeback! I am so thrilled for you, Erika.

Divers and Sundry said...

Excitement! I'm impressed by your ability to adapt to this situation. I'm distressed by the shipping process, though. Either the shipper or the post office has some explaining to do. And if it's the post office your bee supplier will surely want to know what a mess they made of it. Poor bees :(

sirkkis said...

How wonderful that the bees got homes with you. Hope all goes well and you'll get sweet honey.
Happy Sunday xx
P.S. Finland's and Sweden's Nato applications will be sent next week!

Iris Flavia said...

On Monday 9th I thought of you :-)
My Einstein-calendar taught me that bees once worked for military, did you know that?
From 1895 on French soldiers notes codes on thin and hence light cigarette paper and put them on the bees - well, it was for only 5 km, but, hey, they helped!

Sorry about yours. Must´ve been a very sad sight.
And the next.. ough.

Wow, that is some adventure and I hope the lost bees somehow found their new home!

Shake it, Baby ;-)

Will you brew beer, too? Here "our" local brewers have their wheat grown near a bee´s guy and combined it. Yum!

And.... Hurrah! is THE word!
Send some over, please, I still have some strawberry-plants that need a bee! (Some small strawberries are already there, so some bee-cousins did their work here).
Happy Sunday to you all (how many bees are there?)

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Agreed this was a longish post, Erika, and while bee hives and raising bees is not for me (I am with Mr Pete on this one) this was na interesting post about quite a dilemma. What an experience for those bees as well. Glad your solution worked and hope the bee/honey season will be a good one for you and the newly re-homed bees. Too bad about the loss of last year's hives. Perhaps a fellow blogger who is into the same interest will have an answer to prevent a recurrence.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Back again, Erika. The blogger I was thinking about is Linda and she also blogs about bee keeping on her blog from

Lowcarb team member said...

That was quite an adventure!
Lovely photographs and an interesting read.
I do like the colours purple and yellow :)

All the best Jan

The Padre said...

YES!! I Am So Pleased With This Whole Post - My Heart Sank - I Was Happy - So Worried - Every Twist And Turn - And Then ,Success - Right On - Good On The Postal Workers - Go Team Human

Best Honey Ever,

Aimeslee Winans said...

Oh Mylanta! First off, that place you ordered the bees from needs a good chewing out! Second of all, I sure hope the Manchester P.O. doesn't have a voodoo doll named after you now, or that the bee keeper they called in doesn't send you a bill (but if he's an old retired codger it probly made his day). I'm sorry, but those folks do not make enough money to have to deal with that, dog bites either. Yes, you saved the day and a bad situation so kudos to you, but you were also very very lucky! I also think you are a tad crazy, LOLOL. My biology teacher mom was happy with a fish tank, thank goodness!!! Have a good week. All's well that end's well, xoxo

R's Rue said...

Yay. So happy for you.

craftytrog said...

Those poor bees! I'm glad you finally got them installed in their new homes Erika. You did well not to be stung.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I was thrilled to learn you saved the day with the bees. Smart thinking on your part, and not getting stung was even better. Sorry to read the previous year's bees died Might be nice to know why, but even better to know you saved these bees from the postal mishap.

pearshapedcrafting said...

Oh my goodness Erika! That must have been quite a scare for the Post office staff - well done for knowing exactly what to do! Here's to lots of honey this year! Hugs, Chrisx

Serena Lewis said...

So sorry to hear that your previous hive didn't make it through winter.

I would have been so worried to hear the package was damaged and they were scooping up bees. YIKES! OH MY — that was a lot of bees outside of the container. What a great idea to staple the larger screen in place for transporting them home. It was so interesting to read the process of settling them into their new home. I hope they'll be happy.

My daughter is hoping to set up an Aussie native bee hive at some point over the coming year. With all the introduced bee species, our native bees need all the help they can get to survive. Michelle recently attended a workshop on bee-keeping.

Thanks for sharing this. Enjoy the rest of your week. x