This blog details the night I brought our first hives back to the property and commenced my journey from theoretical learning to hands-on beekeeping.
It’s 8pm and dark on a warm October evening. I’m sitting in my car with a trailer full of bees and the realization that I am now a beekeeper hits me. I’m excited and nervous. I’ve spent the last hour and a half transferring six nucs into my langstroth hives and taking possession of a modified foam box of bees for my top bar hive. A nuc consists of five frames of bees and a queen. With care and hard work these 5 frames will turn into fully fledged colonies capable of surviving their first winter. The foam box has the same five frames and a queen. These will be transferred into my top bar hive when I get home.
I look at the trailer and think “The hives are secure – but the wooden hive I’m not certain about.” I have five EPS (high density foam) hives and one wooden one. The wooden box sits flush on top of the hive’s base and the angled lid sits flush on top of the box. The hive strap doesn’t sit flush on top of the hive and I have to tighten it along the angled roofline. I gaffer taped the three pieces together but I still fear the hive may slide and separate on the journey home. The beekeeper I bought my nucs from helped me pack foam lids around the wooden hive to give it additional protection.
I take the first 10 minutes nice and slow, dodging a mob of approximately 40 kangaroos that bounce across the gravel road. They aren’t big by kangaroo standards – only about two feet tall – but I’m concerned that any sudden braking on my part will jolt the hives and risks the safety of my new bees. I stop once I’m on bitumen road and check the trailer, tightening the tie-downs and making sure the hives are okay. All is good. The 45-minute drive home takes an hour thanks to nervousness brought on by transporting my precious cargo.
I return home, get out of my car and immediately know something went wrong. I can hear bees buzzing outside of the hives. A quick inspection and I can see the wooden hive has moved about 3cm off the base and there are a bees loose in the trailer… I drive into the backyard, don my bee suit and assess the damage. The EPS hives have survived the journey unscathed. I slide the wooden hive back into position to seal it. I have no idea how many bees escaped or how many are left and I hope the queen hasn’t been lost. It’s dark and I can’t risk opening the hive. I have no choice but to position the hive and hope for the best.
The important lesson: if you are going to collect your new bees make sure you test run the transportation method of your hives to make sure everything is secure during the journey. If you are collecting a single nuc and are transporting them in your car you definitely do not want bees escaping from the hive and buzzing around inside the car as are trying to drive! I wish I had thought about this before I picked up my bees.
I move all the hives from the trailer into their new homes. I place the modified foam box of bees directly under my top bar hive entrance, facing the entrance of the box in the same direction as my top bar entrance. (The theory behind this is that in a few days I can shake the bees into my top bar hive. The bees that are out foraging will return to where the foam box was, realise their hive is missing, look around and notice the other bees at the top bar entrance, potentially smell the pheromones of their queen, think their inbuilt GPS sensors are slightly off and enter the top bar hive assuming it is their hive.)
I open the entrances for the hives (a very important to remember) and call it a night. For all my book reading, YouTube watching and bee class notes I felt I learnt so much more in one night of doing it on my own. I look forward to continuing my bee education.
A month later and all hives are thriving, though the colony in the wooden hive is definitely not as strong as the others.
Thanks for reading, enjoy your journey!
8 Frame Honey