Red Bucket Farm is an urban farm on a quarter acre property in an average residential neighborhood. We are located in Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5. We focus on chickens, bees, orchard fruit, and raised garden beds for fruits and veggies. We hope to reduce our footprint on the planet by growing some of our food, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and gardening with sustainable practices. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bee Packages Arrive

The phone call came at 7:45 this morning informing me that my packages of live bees were at the postal annex ready for me to pick up. The voice on the other end sounded calm and somewhat bored. I wondered if this was a common occurance.

We ate breakfast quickly and drove over, somewhat nervous about what awaited. When the postal worker came to the counter to help us, I introduced myself.

"I'm the Bee Lady," I said simply.

"Oh, thank God," she exclaimed loudly, and immediately turned to the back room without checking my identification. I think she would have given those boxes to anybody who wanted them.
The two boxes of bees were held together with lath strips forming one package. The bees inside were huddled around their cans of sugar syrup and presumably the queen cage, which we haven't been able to see. They moved slowly, too cold to generate very much buzzing. The bees will cluster together to stay warm---about ninety degrees inside the hive. There were only a few dozen dead bees at the bottom of the box, which is normal, and one lonely bee hanging on to the outside of the box. Poor thing has been clinging for hundreds of miles.

We set the packages down on the sidewalk outside and sprayed them with sugar syrup, which initiates a grooming response. Then we placed them in the trunk of the car and brought them home.

Unfortunately, it's forty degrees and raining today, which is really lousy weather for bees. It needs to be at least 45 degrees for the bees to take flight. Tomorrow's weather is predicted to be warm and sunny, so we decided to store the bees in the basement for a day. (Our garage is too cold.)

Our indoor cats are fascinated by the bees, so we're monitoring that closely. I'm not worried about the safety of the cats; it's the bees I'm concerned about.

The bees have warmed up a little in the basement, which is about 58 degrees. They're making a pleasant humming sound, and the cluster is constantly moving to stay warm and rotate all the bees to the warmth in the center. The single bee on the outside of the package is still hanging on and moving around, and I don't think she'll leave the group. We'll spray them with sugar water to help feed them.

We expected this might be slightly scary business, but so far it's interesting and not at all frightening. Stay tuned for tomorrow's installation in the hives.

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