Later in the Spring it's time to set the beehives out and add new colonies. We buy packages of bees in cages, bring them home, then drop them into their new hives.This is a tricky job because the bees get a bit cranky when they're moved. First we place the queen in the hive. All bees in the colony work for the queen and follow her wherever she goes. Then we sprinkle the bees with a little sugar water. This doesn't hurt the bees. It just coats their wings a bit so they don't fly around so much. They'll eat the sugar water later and use it to start making honey comb. Then we pour the cage of bees over the brood box of the hive so they can surround the queen. Place the cover on the top and the hive is ready!
The main reason we have bee hives here at Meuer is to pollinate the strawberry fields. But with so many other flowers, basswood and alfalfa fields here as well, the bees stay here all summer long and find plenty of pollen. We check our hives periodically to make sure they're doing well. The bees bring pollen to the hive every day, so we place new boxes of frames on the colony for honey storage. If the hive is doing very well, the bees make queen cells that will hatch a new queen. Then we have to split the colony into 2 boxes. You can't have 2 queens in one box, they'll fight and fly away! Then, in August, it's time to start harvesting. All the hard work has paid off and we have pails of honey on hand.
We've even been asked to catch a swarm of bees in someone else's yard. We place a hive base (also known as a brood box) under the swarm of bees, gently brush the bees down into the box (got to get that queen in there) and hope the bees will stay. They quiet down later in the day, we place a towel in the opening and transport them back to our farm.