May 3, 2015
I was nervous, stomach all in knots. For encouragement, I opened The Beekeeper’s Bible to the page on foulbrood. European foulbrood is caused by Melissococcus plutonius, a non-spore forming bacterium, which starves the larva to death by competing for food. Since the bacterium doesn’t have spores it isn’t as infectious as the American foulbrood (if infected with AFB the hives have to be burned, also AFB is fatal to the hive). EFB is not detrimental to an otherwise healthy and clean hive. It can be treated (and cured) with Terramycin. In other words, a colony has hope of recovering from EFB. Mom also researched the disease and found that it exists in the environment so it is very likely at some point I’d be dealing with the disease anyway. If not EFB it would be another disease or parasite and EFB is easier to get rid of than parasites. While I had the book open, I also looked up installing/purchasing nucs (nucleus, a small/started colony often used in queen rearing, the term refers to the essentials, bees, brood, food, a queen are there for it to grow into a full colony), giving me more confidence in my decision to buy nucs instead of packages this year.
Mom and I left home to pick up the bees around 2:00 pm. It seemed like a long drive to Rushford with my stomach in knots, as we dropped down into the quaint town, I felt a little car sick (which is unusual for me). We drove to the east of town were all the nucs and new beekeepers gathered. There were clusters of nucs here and there, five frames and full nine frame boxes. Bees were flying about. People stood in a circle around the experienced beekeeper, all with varying degrees of protection and bee knowledge. (I wish I had brought my camera to capture the scene.) I shouldn’t go into detail about the clueless woman who was surprised bees were buzzing about and who was talking instead of listening and then asked the beekeeper to go through some instructions again, nor the guys who were swatting at the bees and then complained it really hurt when the bees stung.
The beekeeper looked about the way I thought he would, somewhere between sixty and seventy years old, lean and well built. He was humble and honest when he spoke. He has been keeping bees for many years and still doesn’t know it all. Even with a bee suit, he guessed he is stung hundreds of times in a year, he is often careless while working with the bees. The beekeeper talked about EFB and told (demonstrated) how to treat the hives. He also talked about his bees he was selling (we were welcome to decline in buying them if we didn’t want to mess with EFB). He had a couple types of Italian bees, MN hygienic (which would come the following week) and Russians. Russian bees! And we could pick the race we wanted! After he was done talking, he took us to see the nucs then told us to pick ours, pay for them and load them up. (The talk seemed longer than what it actually was given the temperature of eighty degrees Fahrenheit, with long sleeves, gloves and a veil).
Of course, I picked Russian bees for they are said to be more cold hardy, and less susceptible to disease and parasites. I thought it would be a few more years yet before I could get a hold of Russian bees so I was thrilled, a wonderful gift from God!
Since I ordered five full nine frame nucs, they came in an actual hive box. To load them into the van (the beekeeper thought we were brave or foolish to take them home in a van), I laid down five boards the size of the boxes, and crawled in, he handed each box to me and I set them in place. Mom and I wore our veils on the return trip. Several bees clustered on the windows by mom. A couple were on my window, I observed them grooming each other which was so fascinating to watch (I’d hadn’t seen the behavior before). Another bee walked around on my leg, I gently scooped her up and placed her back on the window. None of the loose bees even attempted to sting us on the way home. My heart was racing the whole time. (I am not ashamed to admit I have a little fear of the bees, a healthy respect for them. I actually find them a bit intimidating. Which is why I often feel overwhelmed by the whole thing.)
When we got home we just drove right out to the bee yard. I opened my door slowly, mom slid out on my side because of the bees still hanging out on her window. Carefully, I opened the hatch back. Since they were already in hive boxes, I didn’t have to install the bees, rather I just had to place the boxes on to the hive stands. As soon as I lifted a box it was loud with buzzing, the bees were angry to be moved yet again. Some of the boxes were extremely heavy, a couple I could barely lift out of the van. Mom crawled in and pulled them close to the edge, a couple times she had to help me lift. While I was placing the third box on its stand a bee stung me through the shirt on my shoulder. The pain was excruciatingly painful, like a stab, burn, and pinch all in one. Mom and I left the bee yard for another layer of clothing. Mom pulled the stinger out. Then with thicker clothes on (which the bees just bounced off) we went back to place the rest of them on the stands. The bees were extremely angry at this point. I didn’t get the hives set on the stands perfectly, nor did I switch out the temporary covers with the inner covers, though I placed on the telescoping outer covers. I didn’t bother opening them up to treat them either since they were so angry. A few followed us back to the house, we waited a couple minutes before taking the veils off. We moved the van away from the bee yard and kept the doors open for awhile. My adrenal glands were working over time. My shoulder and upper arm turned red and hot, my whole arm ached. I was amazed to only be stung once though!
May 4, 2015
I wasn’t able to fall asleep until 2:00 am, my thoughts buzzed with bees and the fact I still had to medicate them. My shoulder hurt too. And of course I awoke before 6:30 am. The bees had calmed down anyway. Jason and I used smoke this time. He smoked them while I opened them up, sprinkled the antibiotic on the brood frames, then put the inner and outer covers on. Jason helped me adjust how the boxes were sitting on the stands so there were no gaps and the entrance reducers were in the right place. We also treated his hives. My bees already had full pollen baskets too.