I got a bleary call from a post office employee at 6:45 this morning, telling me my new bees had arrived (now that’s the kind of wake up call I don’t mind!).
I went and fetched them while Sofía was in preschool. It’s a strange, almost fey thing to be handed a heavy wooden box, faintly vibrating, loud with bee chatter, warm and unmistakeably alive, over the same post office counter that I visit weekly for mundane things like stamps and pendant mailings. A mixing of two worlds.
I hadn’t expected Sofía to be at all interested, but she was over-the-moon excited as soon as she found out. She talked and talked about them the whole time we did our errands, and could not stop talking about them while we waited for Lilu to finish her lunch and nursey before her nap. I was amazed at how much Sofía remembered about what had happened to our old bees (”those nasty little beetles that ate our bees”) and she was so excited to get new ones (”they make us honey and warm soft wax that we chew up and spit out and eat all the honey”). It warms my heart to see that some of these memories are sinking in.
She was so enthusiastic and interested that I – somewhat nervously – decided to allow her to participate.
First she helped me build the new bee stand. While our old hives were balanced individually on milk crates and makeshift stacks of bricks, this is a sturdier affair made of 2×6 lumber and strong cinderblocks, long enough for three hives if I should ever get up to that number again (if these ones survive).
Then I suited her up – two sets of clothing, a hoodie sweater, rubber gloves, galoshes, and a good bee veil. Plus a stern talking to about listening very carefully and following directions.
She promised and promised and promised. She was as excited as when we’re going to a fair. Who knew she was so interested in bees?
We took out the queen and inspected her. Sofía kept calling her the “king”, but remembered from two years ago that she would be the one with the dot of paint on her back.
That white box on top is not a super, it’s a top feeder. These bees were late to begin with and then delayed another few weeks. They have now entirely missed the yearly nectar flow, so I will be feeding them all summer. They also have a pollen patty inside. No honey from these guys this year! That’s ok. I’ll be delighted as long as they survive.
I don’t think just moving them across the property will protect them from small hive beetle (an adult can fly 5 miles) so I’ve prepared for the onslaught as best I can. I put only 6 frames in for now, so the bees have less territory to defend until their population expands to fill the space. The beetle oil traps (to catch falling larvae and adults) are already in place. I’ve put a rectangular plastic container underneath the front entrance, which I will fill with diatomaceous earth to kill any larvae that do make it through the oil. I can’t protect against the ravages of the overwintered adult beetles, but I hope I can at least stop future generations. I hope.
Eventually I dumped the bees in while Sofía stood and laughed and laughed. Her favorite part was when the bees landed on her, and she held her arms out in the hopes of enticing more – “Look, Mommy, they’re tasting me!”
I had no idea she was such a stud. She’s only four!
She was absolutely fascinated by the bees. She observed every little thing, and when I suggested we go inside she said she just wanted to stay out and watch the bees some more. She pointed out how two were “fighting”, how two were licking each other, how some dragged out a dead bee and dropped it over the side. She even noticed – with no prompting! – how some bees came out and started fanning (”why are they all wiggling their butts in the air?”). I explained that it was to show that the queen was inside, and that pretty soon all the bees that were flying around would know where to land and go inside. She was very impressed when the air gradually cleared and everyone started making their way into their new home.
I actually had to drag her away after about half an hour, when she was getting a little spastic and forgetting to move slowly. I was so proud of her.
Inside, we made our first ever milkshakes to celebrate her first bee installation.
She put in banana, cinnamon, chocolate, and vanilla. It actually wasn’t bad!
I think someone deserves her very own tiny little bee suit!