The poor spring has meant that the package of bees I ordered was delayed but the last couple of days have been warm and dry and I was not surprised to received the great news that my bees were at last ready for collection. So on this glorious day in June we set off to pick up our bees from B.S. HoneyBees in Gloucestershire and on the way back my young daughter Sarah bravely agreed to share the back of the car with the bees!
So now I am the proud owner of approximately 12000 bees (3ib package) and a buckfast queen and the adventure begins. Because the bees were only packaged 24hrs before there is a danger that the queen will not yet have been fully accepted by the workers. Normally this is not a problem because standard practice is to hang the queen in her cage between two frames in the brood box, whilst the workers get on building comb, settling in and getting used to the queen who eventually gets released when the workers eat through the candy stopper on her cage. But as I am going completely foundationless from the get-go, this is not an ideal option because this technique often causes the bees to not properly align their comb ( in a foundationless setup ) and can cause everything to get into a mess. I will therefore be doing a direct introduction of the queen when the package is installed (gulp!), for this to succeed – the queen must have already been accepted by the workers.
Advice on queen acceptance times varies from anything between 24hrs to a week and there appears to be no clear consensus so I am going to delay installation a couple of days and keep my fingers crossed that three days will be sufficient for the queen to be fully accepted. Which means of course I must keep the bees happy in their shipping box for a while longer. As I write the bees are in a cool outbuilding, under a cardboard box. I was able to refill the syrup container and for now they seem relatively content.
So now I have to sit on my hands and worry that i am doing the “right” thing! Its only when you start getting real that you discover all the dilemas and self-doubts that you were previously oblivious to! It all seemed so simple when it was just theory! I guess my confidence was not helped when I picked up the bees today and mentioned that I would be doing a direct release – the guy looked at me sideways and said “are you sure you really want to do that?” Well I guess I’m not as sure as I was after that! but I’m going for it anyway!