My first spring visit to the beeyard confirmed our winter guesses. One of our hives is thriving and buzzing and strong with all the activity of spring bees right now. The second hive, I am sorry to say, did not survive the winter. In hindsight, it was weak right from the beginning, that one. I never took honey from it, hoping they had made enough for themselves for the winter. Judging by what I found this spring, it looks as though they didn't.
Last year's bees were overwintered Maine nucs, which would have been the ideal set up to do again, but the lateness of the season, and the increase in new beekeepers (hooray!) combined to make that option not possible for me at this point in the year. So...package bees it was!
Thankfully, my discovery of the dead hive conveniently coincided with the very weekend that the owner of our favorite neighborhood bee store was arriving home to Maine, having traveled from the south with no less than one million bees loaded onto his trailer. Wait, did you read that? One million bees! A neighborhood bee store! Yes, yes! Wonderful, indeed is The Honey Exchange in Portland, Maine. Full of lovely apiary gifts and treats, beekeeping supplies, and a most helpful sharing of knowledge. They are patient enough in there to tolerate with such grace - and even seem to smile - when the whole big lot of us Soule clan pours inside their doors. The kids attention is equally spread out between the fabulous indoor observation hive, and the honey samples. Good, good stuff. (Thank you, Phil and Meghan!)
With the lure of The Honey Exchange and the honey tasting (oh, okay...and maybe a trip to the baseball card shop too), Calvin was the brave soul who made the journey with me, sitting on the ride home with this little box full of ten thousand bees buzzing next to him. Last night Steve and I spent our precious sleeping-children hours cleaning frames, repairing foundation, mixing syrup for the newbees, calling beekeeping friends, checking the books and reminding ourselves just what to do.
This morning thankfully brought the break in the weather we had been hoping for. We were a little nervous, I must confess, as last year's nuc installation was such a gentle and easy transition, and package bees are, well, different. Not native. A little bit, uh, excited. But it couldn't have been simpler. We utilized the good ole fashioned "thump and dump" method (so well illustrated by Maine beekeeper - and my former instructor - Erin MacGregor-Forbes, in this video. She inspires me with her casual and gentle way with those honeybees).
All went well! Newbees are tucked into their home, happy to be out of that big box, I must believe.
Welcome, welcome, little bees!