Day three: a new queen

Day three opened with lovely weather. Cool, sunny, perfect. We headed over to Garden Supply to retrieve our new queen.

Our first “costly” mistake – need a new queen

We rushed home to install her in the apparently queenless hive. The hive was all out of sorts, with bees all over the place, buzzing loudly and generally seeming unhappy.

This just ain’t right

First, we checked our new queen. She had a few nurse bees and seemed very perky. Then, we took a few breaths and made sure to find the CANDY END this time. We even removed the cork from that end in the kitchen, before suiting up.

This time, with the correct cork removed, we placed the queen cage on the middle frame, securing it with a rubber band. Then, we quickly closed everything up and breathed a sigh of relief. Requeening a hive – check. Now, will it work?

Day two: The learning process begins…

Bees doing their thing – going in and out of the hive

We awoke with a buzz of excitement, realizing that approximately six pounds of bees were, hopefully, in our brand new bee-yard.

Knowing we had made a few mistakes (see last post), we weren’t really sure what to expect this first day.

Heading out to the hives, the plan was to retrieve the package from the hive with the “dropped queen” and see what was happening. We hoped to find her on a frame, doing her queen thing.

Before we could get into the hive, our first major mistake reared its head. Remember how I said don’t use a top cover with a Miller feeder? Here’s what happens if you do:

Lots of drowned bees!

Too late, we realized just how the Miller feeder is supposed to work. The screened area at the top of the picture functions like a pool ladder and a swim rope – it keeps bees from floating away and gives them a chance to climb out of the sugar syrup. Our poor bees drowned by the hundreds.

After scooping as many as we could, we moved on to looking for our queen. Into the hive now, we were surprised to see that the cage was still full of bees. No way we could find our queen. We decided to shake the package (the “leave the box in there for 24 hours method just didn’t work for either hive!).

Still searching for the queen, we removed the now useless queen cage, pulled the comb away from the package, and started putting everything back together. That’s when we saw our queen – clinging to the discarded comb and looking very sickly.

We put her back in, but with the bees all over the outside of the hive and buzzing like crazy, we figured the queen was not going to make it. So, we used the excellent Wake County Beekeepers Association FaceBook group to see where we could get a queen. For $38, we were able to reserve a queen at Garden Supply –

And that was enough for the second day.

Adventures in Bee-Keeping!

Our first day

Our adventure began on a misty Thursday morning, April 25 to be exact After driving out to Hillsborough to get our two 3lb. packages from Bailey Bee Supply (, we anxiously (don’t be anxious, more on that later) opened the packages to do our installation.

Opening a package of bees! Three pounds for $135. That’s more than the very best steak…

Now, back to that “anxious” part! The excitement of it all caused us to make a few mistakes. Maybe you, the reader, can avoid making these same errors:

  • Mistake One: I pulled on the yellow tape sticking up near the feed can, thinking it was there to help remove the can. Doh!! It holds the queen cage, which promptly fell into a 3lb ball-o-bees.
  • Mistake Two: On the second package, we avoided pulling the tape, but again, excitement got the best of us. We removed the cork from the non-candied end of the queen cage. Doh! She climbed out and fell into the hive body.
  • Mistake Three: We decided to use Miller top feeders. We figured you just put them on and go! But, we installed the top cover on them. That’s a big no-no. Bees can get into the open part of the feeder and drown. More later.
  • Bonus Mistake: Not so much a mistake, as a lesson in options – we decided to leave the packages in the hives overnight, thinking that the bees would be so excited about their new home that they’d vacate the package quickly. Not. More on that later.

And so, that ended our first day as beekeepers. A couple of mistakes – each of which turned into a lesson. Some lessons cost money, some cost time, and in our case, one lesson cost both. Tune in next time.