Karen Bees (Or, I need to speak to your manager)

After removing bees from my Shadow’s house, I was under strict instructions to do what I could to make sure that the bees survived the transplant. (If you haven’t read that entry, you should).

Transplanting bees is not always easy. A whole bunch of factors come into play with re-homing bees, and they can be fickle about their new space. New home a little too small? They take off. New home a little too large? They take off. Comb a little too sticky? They move on. It is a little like trying to please a grumpy cross between Karen and Goldilocks. Somewhere between ‘Let me speak to your manager’ and ‘this porridge is too cold’.

I have my work cut out (literally) for me.

The day after the removal, I went out early to look for any activity. Do I need to make modification? Leave them alone? Hey, girls, how you doin’?

The bees are pretty quiet – but that is no surprise. Bees like to sleep in sometimes, and get very fired up in the heat of the day. Even so, I am surprised at how little activity there is. So I take a peek under the lid.

Normally, this is the point in my narrative where I get reminded how important it is to cover my face when dealing with bees. This time, fortunately, a few bees appeared, but did not attack. They seemed a little sad. And there were FAR fewer than I had expected. But there were some, so maybe they’d be OK. I had used a wheelbarrow to move all of the stuff into place, and had not put it back to its home in the backyard, so I started to move it….

And froze.

Let’s not move that barrow.

The girls had relocated temporarily, and were just waiting for the queen to be ready to take off. And they were hiding under the wheelbarrow.

Suddenly, I have a huge number of tasks to complete. See, I am out of boxes, and the ONE box I have available, these Karen Bees have decided is not good enough. There is nowhere else to put these ladies. I have put bees in every single box on the homestead.

But I have one swarm that I had captured from the roof of Duff Green still housed in its nuc box (half a box, used either for capturing swarms or for splitting a hive into two hives). My plan was to take my last bottom board, and giving those Duff Green girls some more space by putting them in a full box. My plan was to build a migratory lid for it sometime this week. Now, with a swarm movement pending, my plan goes out the window, and it has to happen.

Right. Now.

I run over and grab some frames, run over and grab a box, run over and grab the bottom board, and found a piece of plywood to use as a lid (Kathe had shooed me away from her framed photographs). I shoved the frames from the nuc into the box, shake the bees off the frames, and presto! I have an empty nuc to put the swarm into. Now…. I gotta find some frames to put in the nuc.

NC State image. The parts of a Langstroth hive. Used without even a hint of permission.

I ran over to my bee porch to grab more frames, and….

Crap. I don’t have any frames, except the ones I have stashed in the freezer.

I wondered how long it takes to defrost drawn frames (Kathe shoos me away from the microwave), and I looked again at the swarm of bees, ready to take flight. I gotta do something.

Right. Now.

I grab the best looking frames out of the freezer and lay them out in the sun. Our summer heat is making that a good prospect, with temperatures in the high 90s, and they should work.

After a nervous half hour (look at the bees, look at the frame, look back at the bees…), the frames are at room temperature, and I put them in the nuc, and go over to where the bees are, miraculously, still there.

Five different ways I tried to slide the box underneath, and then suddenly used the two-part Marine Corps salute (shrug, hit forehead) and I lifted the handles of the wheelbarrow. The box slid right underneath, and the bees parted to let the edge of the box occupy their space.

A few bees explore the box, but more stay balled up. then a few more check out the offering. But I need to get moving, so I reach underneath and shake the ball of bees into the box.

Massive explosion as the bees all react to the sudden change, and everyone is flying around and falling into the box and….

“Oh. Hey guys – this is what we were looking for!”

I watch in absolute fascination as the bees on the front of the box lift up their hind ends into the air and begin fanning, sending out the pheromone signal from the queen – who is somewhere inside the hive – that it is all OK. It is safe to come home. I had read about it… but never seen it.

And just like that, the bees that fell in the grass start walking in waves straight towards the entrance to the box. The bees in the air stop and switch direction. The sound of the hum changes.

They go from flight mode directly into rearranging furniture mode. They are home, and are unpacking boxes.

I won’t let that opportunity pass again without capturing video, but it was pure majick. For the next half hour, the girls kept marching in until the entire box was filled with happy girls, ready to start work. Ready to lay, forage, and raise the new family of Karen Goldilocks.

My nuc, filled with contented Karens.

Published by Company Bee

Novice beekeeper trying to help out.

One thought on “Karen Bees (Or, I need to speak to your manager)

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