Hiving the Bees

On Saturday morning we had a lovely surprise: a call from the post office to inform us that our bees had arrived! We jumped in the car and headed right over--I couldn't wait to bring them home and show them their garden and the lovely houses we had prepared for them.

It's best to hive them in the cool of early evening, but by seven o'clock a rumbly batch of thunderstorms had moved in. We literally installed them in moments snatched between downpours. And notice my brave bee charmer, sans gloves or veil!

The first step is to remove the queen's cage. She's surrounded by her loyal subjects, all trying desperately to get her out, but it's not until you remove the tiny cork at the end of her cage that the bees are able to eat through the fondant plug and release her. Our job is merely to nestle the cage between two empty frames in the hive: the bees do the rest.

We each took a package to hive, and while Philip's went in with perfect calmness and decorum (I told you he was a bee charmer), mine got rather feisty. Perhaps it was the whole unceremoniousness of the thing--Philip reminded me how little I'd like being shaken and dumped into a new house of my own. Or maybe it's just that wild Tudor blood in Queen Bess' hive rearing its head...

Yes, I name my bees. Or, at least, I name my queens. Even I admit to being stumped by the naming of tens of thousands of bees. But the monarch in the hive pictured is Good Queen Bess. And the queen of the other hive is Mary Mac--she is named for my grandmother's sister, the oldest of five indomitable women, and she was, in every sense of the word, 'the queen bee' of the family. Here I'm pouring sugar syrup into the hive top feeder to sustain the bees and to give them a good start while they are setting up their colony.

The Kingdoms of Queen Mary Mac and Queen Bess, Respectively

Last night we went in for our first inspection, to remove the empty queen cages and to make sure that everyone was thriving. Philip smoked them slightly--not enough to make them think there was a forest fire encroaching, but sufficiently to calm them so that we could lift the frames without getting anybody too riled up.

What joy to find that not only had both hives been successfully queened, those busy girls had already drawn out many of the frames with beeswax and were preparing for a healthy brood of new bees! You can see the marks of their industry in the great world by the bright yellow streakings of pollen in the comb.

This little girl landed on Philip's hood and didn't have any desire to leave. Isn't she beautiful? Her name is Hermione.

13 Responses to “Hiving the Bees”

  1. mary kathryn says:

    We’ve just started beekeeping too, here in NC! About a month ago, my husband moved an old, neglected stack of hive boxes from a farm, to our backyard. Soon we’ll receive 2 new queens in the mail, and he will attempt to divide the present hive into 3. He’s built a new hive — an English Garden style. He’s really enjoying it! Your bees look lovely — enjoy 🙂 (Oh — and we did get some raw honey from the hive. Oh. My. It was amazing. I’d never tasted anything like it — a field of flowers concentrated in a jar!)

  2. Gretchen says:

    Oh how beautiful. I love it. Almost makes me forget how much it hurts when they sting. My great grandfather was a bee keeper, and my little brother Caleb is following in his footsteps. We have black and white pictures of Great Grandpa covered in bees!

  3. Laura Boggs says:

    Lanier, I never thought I’d say this to anyone, but I’m praying for your bees.

  4. Jodi Lenz says:

    Dear Lanier,

    Mike and I want you to know that we’re not jealous, no, not one little bit. Really, we’re not.

    We’re not!

  5. Julie from Maine says:

    I LOVE that you named some of your bees!!

  6. Michele says:

    I must admit to not being overly fond of bees (they’ve always scared me) but this post was *fascinating*! Thank you for sharing it and I look forward to learning more about your bees. (o:

  7. Elisabeth says:

    You have bees! I was just writing (fifteen minutes ago?) to a friend and telling her how much I like bees and honey – and the idea of having my own bees. (One of my uncle used to keep bees, so maybe it’s in my blood!) Your bee hives make me think of apple trees and cherry trees in blossom and long grass and wild flowers. Mmm … ! How long do you think it will be before you’re eating your own honey on toast? Every mouthful, I’m sure, will be exquisite!

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      It will probably be next year before we get to enjoy the honey ourselves…it all depends on how strong our colonies get over the summer and how much they have stored up for their own winter supply. I’d love a mouthful this autumn but I’m not pinning my hopes on it. 😉 They are both such busy, thriving hives, however, they just might surprise us!!
      My great-grandmother kept bees…so maybe it’s in my blood, as well!

  8. Lisa says:

    This looks like so much fun! Your home seems like a happy, enchanted place.

  9. Jenny says:

    This is really quite interesting. All your posts are, but this one was quite unique. I shared it with my 5 year old. He says he’d like something like that, too.

  10. Sara says:

    Beekeeping seems such a romantic art….guess I’m too influenced by Elizabeth Goudge and others…do you tell the bees what is going on in your household so they don’t pick up and fly away? How wonderful, though, to be able to keep your own bees and enjoy the honey and all else that goes with this activity.

  11. Kelly says:

    This is fascinating! I think it would be very interesting to have some bees and harvest our own honey.

    I love your blog and I don’t get to visit nearly as often as I would like.

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