By Joanna Bastian
Due to a series of unfortunate events I did not have any bees last year. Long story short: 2014 gave us all a complex, stressing the bees going into winter of 2015, which they did not survive. Ankle reconstruction left me dubious about handling bee boxes while hopping around on one leg. As a result of wildfire, Frankenankle, and disappearing bees, I am just now getting that one part of life back into order.
This year I am trying two different sets of bees: a nuc — which comes with five frames of brood, 10,000 bees and a queen — and a package, which is a box full of bees, no frames, and a queen in a little cage.
The nuc arrived in early April about the same time that the snow melted and the wildflowers began to bloom. The frames easily slid into a waiting hive box and the worker bees downed a bottle of sugar water before setting out to find their own food sources. Within a week they had filled the other frames with comb and required another box. Today, they needed a third box as the second was already filled with nesting baby bees, nectar, pollen and capped honey.
The package arrived on the same day as my cousin Shelby, who flew out from Ohio to visit for a few days.
The package was delayed by a week. That day, I picked up Shelby at the shuttle drop off in Peshastin and apologized profusely that we had to cut our Leavenworth visit short because of my bee addiction. Shelby stopped me with, “Are you kidding me? This will be amazing!” She was thrilled that the bee shipment coincided with her arrival. It’s like we’re related.
After quickly downing a Bavarian lunch of ale, baked pretzels, and smoked salmon drizzled with huckleberry sauce, we returned to the Methow.
At the bee drop-off at the Methow Community Center in Twisp, everyone was true to form: covered in bees and grinning ear to ear.
Shelby also shares my heightened sensitivity to bee stings. We both donned bee jackets for the car ride home with a few “groupies” hanging on to the outside of the package.
At home in the garden, Shelby and I poured the bees into the waiting hive. The bees immediately formed a line at the entrance of the box and fanned their scent into the air, calling everyone home. For the next few days, they spiraled through the air above the hive box, orienting themselves. The buzzing was loud as they communicated where to find water and food with elaborate dances at the hive entrance.
After three days, the bottle of sugar water was fully consumed, and the buzz reduced to a quiet, satisfied hum. The bees no longer flew in spirals. Instead they come and go with a focused determination, some arriving with full pollen buckets of bright orange and yellow. Other bees diligently clean the hive, hauling out bits of trash and the rare dead body. Fascinating creatures.