That picture summarizes this experience well…
April 13, 2018 – Do you remember this weekend? April 13-15 was the Friday through Sunday when the northern suburbs received anywhere between 16″-22″ of snow over the course of the weekend. In Shoreview, we got about 18 inches. The problem was that this was the weekend when my 3 lb. package of Saskatraz bees was arriving. I had to drive to Stillwater to pick them up, and the schedule was for people with the last name between M-P to pick them up Saturday at 8:00 am. Luckily, due to school being called off on Friday and the bees arriving early, I was able to pick them up on Friday before the storm got going. This is the package they came in
I had watched videos and read a lot about releasing a package and, unfortunately, the conditions were almost worse case scenario.
Most people get their bees in the spring when the temperatures are beginning to warm into the 50s or 60s on a regular basis. The recommendation by many is to spray the bees with sugar water while they are still in the package. This simultaneously wets their wings and feeds them, making it a much more calm process. You then put the bees right into the hive, close it up for a day (so they can get used to the new location) and finally open up the entrance.
Due to my near freezing conditions and a forecast of 18 inches of snow in the forecast, I had to change things up. I decided not to spray their wings after learning package bees are normally calm because they don’t have a hive to protect, and afraid that they might freeze to death. I also had to keep them indoors for a few days while the storm passed. That all led to this…
Needless to say, things didn’t go as planned. Thankfully the boys were locked in the van, because I ended up getting 4 stings. The part that was videoed was the middle, when I took the queen in her package, put a mini marshmallow on the end so once they eat it, she would be released, and put it in the hive with the other bees.
Another thing you don’t see is the sleet and cold that was happening outside the garage. A few bees tried to make their big escape but didn’t make it past the hood of my car, as the cold and sleet stopped them in their tracks. We put the bees inside the garage for the first night but, knowing it was only getting colder, we ended up carrying the hive downstairs for the next few days. Thankfully, only one time did some bees escape in the basement. It took a few minutes, but an electric fly swatter took care of them.
After six days inside, the temperatures warmed up and it was time to take them outside.
Once I opened up the hive, a steady stream of bees escaped and oriented themselves to their new home. You see, bees have a GPS like system that, once oriented to their new home, will allow them to fly up to a mile away and, using landmarks, identify their way back to the hive.
This video shows them fanning to cool down the hive, as well as some of their nonverbal communication through dancing (you will see them following one another).
Did you know? Bees do not go to the bathroom inside their home. This means that during the winter, on a warmer day, or in my case, after being trapped inside the hive for 6 days, they take something called a cleansing flight, where they go out just enough to use the bathroom before returning. This lead to the back of my bee jacket looking like this…