We have bees!

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This is what a "package" of bees looks like
This is what a “package” of bees looks like

(This is the 5th in a series of posts about Bringing honey bees to Lewisham House.)

When we set up a Warré hive on our roof, we were hoping to capture a roving swarm of bees. This would’ve been the most “natural” way to start a hive, but it wasn’t to be. (Sydney has been incredibly dry this summer, so that’s perhaps been the problem.)

So we put in an order for a “package of bees” from Hornsby Beekeeping Supplies. Last Friday we received a call to say they had come in, and we drove to Hornsby on Saturday morning to pick them up.

A “package” of bees is an interesting concept for a novice! As you can see above, it’s a box about the size of a briefcase, with sides of flyscreen. There are approximately 5,000-6,000 bees in the box (!).

They’re not visible in the picture above, but there’s also:

  • a small plastic cage containing the queen bee
  • a large tin in the top of the box, containing sugar syrup for the bees to eat

My new beekeeping buddies were away on holidays, so I watched a bunch of YouTube videos to work out what to do 🙂

The process is fairly simple:

  • make some space in the hive by temporarily removing some frames
  • take out the can of sugar syrup
  • take out the queen bee
  • pour the bees into the hive (yes, I mean pour!)
  • put the queen into the hive
  • put the frames back in
  • put the lid on

The following video gives a pretty reasonable idea of what’s involved (although thankfully we don’t need to worry about the electric fence to keep the bears out in Lewisham!):

I waited until late in the day, and then followed the steps to put the bees into the hive. I put on most of my protective gear, but left my gloves off. 15 minutes later, job done, no bee stings!

The bees are very docile, mainly because they don’t yet have any territory to protect. They were flying and crawling everywhere, but didn’t want to attack me.

What happens now? The queen bee is kept in her cage by a plug of sugar. The bees eat through the plug and release her in about three days, and by then they should’ve bonded. Then they start setting up the hive, and creating the honeycomb.

All very exciting! We can’t wait for our first honey, hopefully at the end of this season 🙂

Close-up of the "package" of bees. That's a lot of bees!
Close-up of the “package” of bees. That’s a lot of bees!

4 thoughts on “We have bees!

    […] We have bees! […]

    mylatinnotebook said:
    January 25, 2013 at 12:47 am

    That electric fence doesn’t look like it would be much of a deterrence to a bear! Still, as you say, if it leads with its nose…. Great post!

    First check on our honey bees « Lewisham House said:
    January 26, 2013 at 11:46 am

    […] « We have bees! […]

    Amelie said:
    March 11, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Hi. Was just coming back to tell you that there is a hive of bees between Marrickville and Dulwich Hill stations – closer to dulwich hill – on the bankstown line heading to bankstown. But it looks like you found some! I guess it is also more complicated to take a natural hive as well.

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