Our Adopted Hive

the new hive
What’s inside?  Hopefully bees and a queen.

When our brand new package of bees absconded, we weighed our options.  Package, nuc, pray a swarm takes up residence, give up?  After much debate we decided on none of those options.  We decided to just go big with a full blown hive.  We found very reasonable priced hives on Craigslist from someone who was moving and could not take all of their hives.  This seemed almost too good to be true.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to buying a full-blown hive.  A major advantage is that the bees are ready to go.  There’s no lag waiting for comb to be drawn and the hive to increase in strength.  We would have a pretty good chance of actually getting honey this year.  And it seems likely we will be able to make at least one nuc this year.  Plus there’s the benefit of having the actual hive body included.  The boxes and frames themselves were almost worth the price.

We also looked at the disadvantages. We knew nothing about the colony health or the queen’s history. The hive was already closed up when it was picked up, so we didn’t even know if there was a queen.  But we figured that if the queen was no good or missing, we could replace her and the hive would still likely perform well this season.  We also didn’t know the condition of the equipment or what treatments had been done.  After talking with the seller more about his beekeeping techniques we were pretty confident the bees were well taken care of.  In the end we could be buying a healthy, well oiled machine or queenless pile of mite-infested crap.  Yes, it was risky.  But we decided to take the chance, figuring we would be able to recoup the cost of this hive (plus loss of the absconded colony) if we could get a honey crop this year.

What neither of us really appreciated, however, was that there was no more easing into beekeeping.  It’s like adopting a 5 year old.  There is no prepping for what to do the first time you walk into Target and they throw a fit because you won’t let them buy another piece of junk from the dollar aisle.  Sure you missed all the poopy diapers, the spit up, the sleepless nights, the bottles, the potty training.  At least when you’re there from the beginning you know how to handle most situations.  Or it’s not as much of a shock to find the walls colored with crayons and marker, again.  Our remaining package was still in the cute baby phase, drawing comb, laying eggs, a few foragers bringing back pollen.  Very cute and gentle.  The adopted hive, that’s a different story.  Our learning curve just got a whole lot steeper.  

Pathetic Pink hive
Come on, Pink!  Get your act together!

After unloading the hive at the apiary, we did a thorough inspection. (Or as thorough as our limited
knowledge of  bees allowed)  We took the boxes apart and analyzed every frame.  We saw no signs of maladies.  We found eggs and larva.  Plenty of honey and pollen.  We even found the queen.  (Whew)  We reassembled the hive, putting the medium super that had been in the middle of the three on the bottom, as that is where the cluster was and we wanted to be sure they would expand into up into the deep.  Then we let them calm down a little bit.

After a few hours, we came back to see how everyone was doing.  The new hive had already found pollen sources and were busy loading up the new hive with it.  The amount of activity around the entrance was impressive.  Bees flying everywhere.  I then glanced over at our remaining package.  Sure there were bees going in and out, but it seemed really pathetic.  I found myself saying, “Why can’t you be more like your sister?  She’s only been here a couple hours and is already foraging.  You’ve been here a week, and what have you done?”  They may need therapy after they grow up.

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