Friday, May 15, 2015

After Work

I tell no one at work what I have done. I keep my satisfaction to myself. It is my Zen bee moment.
I can't wait to get home and see what is going on with them. After work I go right out and start looking. There is a lot of activity. There is much coming and going. I look, my dog lays on the grass nearby being as patient as I am.

I enjoy watching for a very long time. I take some pictures and some video.  I go to bed and the first thing I do in the morning is go outside to the corner of my yard and look for what the bees are doing. They are already up and about, buzzing and rising in a circular motion and then heading out in a straight line. I assume that is where the phrase "beeline" comes from.

At work I show a couple people my video. They think it's pretty cool. I feel cool. After work I go straight out to the beehive. I get on my knees a foot away, and place my face a few inches from the entrance and watch. I am so fascinated I do not feel time. The coming and going is very heavy. I peer in the entrance and see bees fanning. Because I am so close, and starring, I actually see bees arriving with their back leg pouches full of pollen. Yeah! At least I know they are finding nectar and pollen. I may not need to feed them a lot of sugar water. We'll see. Have to figure this out.

I don't want the bees to starve. But I don't want to open the hive and check either. I don't want to disturb them. They say, stay away form the hive for a few days. When I look at my watch, two and one half hours have passed. Watching bees is like watching a fire. You can watch endlessly. It remains fascinating even though the change seems confined.

If I needed something to relax me, something to entertain me, something to fascinate me, I couldn't ask for anything else. I bow to my Zen Bees. 

The Bees Arrive

I get an email from Honey Hive Farms where I bought my package bees. It says that the bees will be arriving a few weeks earlier than suggested. They will arrive at Lowe's in Independence Missouri on Thursday 4/14/2015. My ignorance is clarified by the understanding I now receive. Here's the email:

First of all PLEASE DO NOT CALL OR EMAIL ME BACK.  I will be in the bee yard or driving, etc.
If you can not make it as your busy on vacations, etc ,,,, please send someone to pick the bees up for you.

We will be at the Lowes 4201 Sterling Ave, Kansas City Mo 64133, West side of parking lot most likely ...

Driving a pickup truck with a large black and white trailer.

Day and date will be Thurs. May 14th,  7 am to 8 am (this is an estimated time but please be there a t7 am, we should be on time)   We will leave at 8 am
Again do not call me if I am 10 min late, please. I am doing my best.

I will not be calling anyone unless I have a break down or am running over an hour late.

Thank you for understanding and your help to pick up the bees in a timely manner.

NOTE> The queens have corks in the cages, you will have to release them or do what I do, take the cork out and install a small marshmallow.
NOTE> PLEASE do not transport bees in the back of a pick up truck as they will get hot and knocked down and get to hot, etc. Put inside the car, if your comfortable the are comfortable.
I will knock off all the lose bees, don't worry.

Tim & Connie Moore

Now that was a sweet message. It was direct and to the point. I liked that. However, I now understood that Lowe's was not receiving the bees and distributing to me at my whim (like after work). I was going to have to get up early and get to Lowe's and find a pickup truck with a trailer. I thought, well, at least there will be a sing on the trailer. I can find Lowe's. So I got on Google Maps, printed out the route, put the address in my cellphone, wrote myself some directions. 

I then went to the garage and started playing with the hive, trying to go through the motions of taking the hive apart and putting the bees in. I practiced but I did not know what I was doing. I made sure I had a marshmallow and a small nail to poke a hole through it. I mixed up my sugar water 1 to 1 and put it in the feeder jars. I put my hive up outside in a corner of my yard. Neither neighbor could really see it in the corner where I placed it. I put the entrance pointed toward the fence as I had been instructed, so I would bother them when I was mowing in the yard. 

I told work I would be in late, but didn't say why. I was ready. The weather reports were bad news for bee installation. It was severe thunderstorms all week. I would be picking up my bees in the rain. Installing them in the rain. How the hell was I going to do that? My first time, and it was going to be in the rain. Well the still small voice was still there. I trusted it. I slept well. 

In the morning it was raining, but it wasn't raining hard. I drove my Crown Vic Ford to Lowe's and despite all my worries, there was a nice pickup truck with a large trailer on the back. There was no sign on the truck or trailer, but I did see two women walking toward a car parked close to the trailer with a package of bees. I had come to the right place. 

I went up to the trailer in the light mist and watched the attendant give packages to two men. Then he asked my name. He was a genuine person, one anyone would like. He charmed me from the get go. He asked my name, I gave it, and he had an invoice that showed I was payed up. He went to the back of the trailer, and with a hand saw, cut apart one of the packages. They are all stapled together for structural integrity so they don't fall over while being carried in the trailer. 

There were fans running in the trailer to keep the bees well ventilated. I had ordered Carniolans. A type of bee from the Baltic's. I do not know why I ordered this breed. It was all just part of this small inner voice I was following. The Carniolan honey bee (Apis mellifera carnica, Pollmann) is a subspecies of the western honey bee. The Carniolan honey bee is native to Slovenia, southern Austria, and parts of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria.

The charming gentleman handed me the package and I was feeling giddy. Such a different thing I was doing A whole new world for me. Some Lowe's shoppers walked up to me and asked what the guy in trailer was giving away. I showed him the honey bees. He looked in the trailer and couldn't believe it. The expression on his face was priceless. There were perhaps 250 thousand Honey Bees on the trailer. 

I put the bees in on the floor behind the driver's seat. As I drove home there were a few loose bees int the car. But they didn't bother me. They seemed like friends. That's how I felt. It was drizzling all the way home. Once in the garage I set the bees up on a small table and looked at the package. I could see a slit in the top of the cage with a thin metal strip. I knew that would hold the queen's cage. I moved it, and I could see how to slide it out. However, since the queen's cage is in with the rest of the bees, when you take the feeder can out to get the queen out, bees come out too. 

I carried my hive tool and feeder tray and bottled sugar water out to the hive. Got out a soft brush and laid it on the hive stand. I tucked my pants into my socks, and I duck taped my sleeves to my wrist. I had a viel I could have worn, but I did not want my neighbors to get suspicious, so I didn't put it on. Basically I was just in my regular clothes. I went back in and got the package of bees and carried them through my house out the back door. I got into the corner where I would be seen and went to work. 

I took a spay bottle full of sugar water and sprayed the bees down good, through the package screen. This would make them heavy and not inclined to fly away. The feeder can came out easily. Of course there were a lot of bees on it. I brushed them off and set the can down. Then I pulled the metal strip to the hole where the can had been and pulled up the queen's cage. It was covered with bees. I put a small plastic bread board over the hole. I din't want all the bees coming out just yet. By now I had bees flying all around me. They were on my face, on my neck, on my hands, on my shirt, on my pants, and even a couple in my ears. 

I brushed the bees off the queen's cage with my hands. I took out my little nail and pulled the cork out of the tunnel on one side of the cage. I put a small marshmallow into the hole and then poked a hole in it with a bent paperclip. I then suspended the queen's cage in the bottom hive box. Then I took the bread board off the hole in the package of bees and began shaking the hell out of the package, holding it upside down over the hive. They fell out in large clumps, spilling all over the top bars and into the space below. More shaking, more dumping, bees everywhere! More bees on me, crawling everywhere. Their feet were soft and fuzzy, sort of cuddly. I was not scared at all, but rather exhilarated. 

Most of the bees came out. They were covered with sugar water, so most of them couldn't fly. They didn't know where to go, but they were here. They were totally in the present moment, just as I. This was the Zen of it. This was nowness and total engagement. The bees and I are one. We are taking this journey together. Sentient beings, both of us. 

I set the package down on its side next to the hive entrance. Then I place a second hive box over the hive box I had placed the bees in. Next I put the feeder tray on the bars of the second box, and then the jars of sugar water upside down into the holes. I then place the third hive box over the jars, and then the quilt box and then the roof. 
I had noticed when I took the hive apart that even though it had rained overnight, the hive was dry as a bone inside. The rain had stopped while I put the bees in the hive. The weather was 70 degrees, perfect! 

I picked up my tools and headed to the back door. I had to put everything down and do my best to brush all the bees off. Then I went back through the house to the garage and put my tools up. Of course there were a number of bees in the house and I spent some time catching them and showing them the door. I let out a sigh of relief as no neighbors had seen me and I did not have to explain myself. I felt very satisfied and got into my work clothes and drove to work. Pickup and installation in less than one hour. 

The queen was alive in her cage. The marshmallow was in place that the bees would chew through and let her out. The bees were in the hive, and all was well with the world. The little quiet voice was right so far. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I had done something I really wanted to do, I felt like I had done something different. Something that was fascinating to me.  

The Devil's In The Details

After I had made my hive, and after I had ordered my bees, it occurred to me that perhaps I should order some beekeeping equipment. Not being a planner, I had failed to do that. Back to Googling!
I ordered a smoker and a beekeeper's suit with a veil. Not being a regular Amazon shopper, I failed to notice that the items were coming from different places. I had inadvertently picked a suit that was coming from China and would be here in June. Woah!

I got my metal beekeeping hive tool, and my smoker. That's when I investigated and found that the suit would be late. However, I did know, from watching videos online, that when first installing bees, one didn't really need a beekeeping suit. Why? From what I understood, packaged bees are taken from their hive and shipped hundreds of miles in a small box. They have a new queen in a private cage hanging from the top of the package. Everything is upended, and they are confused. They have no hive, they have no honey. They have nothing to defend. So, they don't sting.

I had watched enough YouTube videos to know that in their confused condition, you could handle a new package of bees without any special clothing. I figured if my suit didn't come in time for my bee installation, it would be just fine.

 Trying to play catch-up due to my lack of planning, I started to be concerned that I would have to feed my bees some sugar water for awhile after they arrived. Perhaps there was no "nectar flow" going on now in Missouri. What did I know. I researched nectar flow in Missouri and didn't find much, except one old blog that said there was no nectar flow in Missouri in July or August. I had seen some people use jars to feed bees so I decided to make a jar feeder.

I made a frame to raise the jars above the top hive bars. I wanted the bees to have access, and not just between the bars, but clear access to all the holes. The holes were drilled into the plastic caps of glass jars. I made a tray of wood with four circles cut out that the jars could sit in upside down. I had seen videos showing that the surface tension of the water and the vacuum above the fluid would prevent the sugar water from pouring out all at once.

I got the tray finished and took a utility knife and scratched the surface of the plastic lids until they were really rough. The bees need little toe holds to hang on to while they suck up the liquid sugar juice. I had to make sure the tray fit inside one of my Warre hive boxes. Had to do some cutting to make the tray fit. And it need to go in smoothly, because when the bees are being installed you want it to work.

I think I'm doing good. I have some equipment ordered. Some of it will come soon, some God knows when! All I know is I apparently don't need permission to play with bees. I mention beekeeping at work and everyone thinks I'm nuts. No one knows anyone who does that. People have scary thoughts when it comes to bees. They scared me too.

Well, I thought about it and I decided I just wasn't going to be scared. I have been good all my life, why not take a risk with this? I'll deal with the consequences. 

Am I Legal?

As they say, the devil is in the details. I had built a nice hive. I had ordered bees, but I had no clue as to whether or not it was legal for me to keep a beehive in Kansas City where I live. Well, I'm stupid or the little quiet voice knows more than I do.

So it was back to the Internet to search for regulations. No matter where I looked there was a real dearth of information. A lot of information about bees, but none about laws. With persistence and good Google searches I was able to determine that in most municipalities there were no regulations about bees. There certainly no laws in Kansas City.

After more hours of searching I found that the KC Health Dept does have a form you can fill out and send in. There is no license fee. Apparently there had been some regulations on beekeeping in the past, but were repealed in 1995. Guess beekeeping isn't a heavily regulated industry! I filled out the form and sent it in. I had no bees, just good intentions. If that was all I had to do to be legal I thought it was pretty minimal. Not bad after my lack of planning.

OK, what about the Home Association. Well, to make a long story short, I am not in the Home Association. They forgot to put that part in the deed, so a number of homeowners in this subdivision are left out. Since the neighbors on either side are also not in the Home Association they have no one to complain to.

I debated a long time about asking them for their blessing on my impending beekeeping, but I thought better of it. Just like at work, it is often better to do and ask forgiveness than to beg for permission. I wouldn't know if the bees would bother them or not until I did it. So I kept my mouth shut. Since my bees wouldn't arrive for a few weeks I had time to think about strategy.

It was stressful thinking about having issues with neighbors. Being a mind watcher, I watched the the thoughts unfolding. Didn't the neighbors on one side have a Pit Bull? They didn't ask me if I would object before they brought it home. I wasn't consulted. Didn't that sort of give me permission to do my thing? I've read of more harm done by Pit Bulls than bees. I felt justified.

Overall, the legal thing nagged me, but the more I heard the more I searched, it was pretty obvious that beekeeping wasn't something cities cared much about. The worst that could happen was that someone would turn you in as a nuisance beekeeper. I don't think that would be criminal enough to get arrested. I rest my case.

Bee Zendo

I was hearing a quiet little voice periodically that had the idea it would be fun to raise bees. I don't know where it came from or why it came to me. However, I had heard many times that one should listen to the still small voice the whispers in the heart. I had no reason not to listen, so I began looking up bees and what was required to raise them. 

Now, I never knew anyone who raised bees. I had never been up close to a beehive, yet there was an interest I could not account for, so I pursued it. Since we now have the Internet that was fairly easy to do. And YouTube especially was a wonderful place to get oneself educated. Seemed to me right away that a lot of very down-to-earth people raised bees. It was obvious these people were having a lot of fun doing it. It's the kind of thing that either you get it or you don't. Same thing as the saying, "Well you had to be there to understand." 

From what I read and what I saw, it seemed to me that beekeeping was rather Zen-like. I suspect a lot of beekeepers are rather contemplative types. Most probably introverts, but I really don't know. A beehive didn't seem like an overly complicated thing, and Zen calls for simplicity, so I was attracted to what was called "The People's Hive," or widely known as a "Warre Hive." This was about the simplest hive there was. Warre was a French priest who raised bees for 40 years. I thought he probably knew a thing or two about them. 

Without further thought I downloaded plans for a Warre hive. I went to Home Depot, bought some would and went to work. Being a free spirit with plans the first hive I built was a little rough and not to my liking, so I had to buy more lumbar and start over. The second time around I took my time and measured and sawed carefully. The second hive came out much better. 

Now, following my inner voice, and not any plan, I had a nice hive built and no bees, and no knowledge of where or how to get them. So, again I took to the Internet. I found that I had built my hive in April, long past when most bee packages are already delivered. Every site I went to that advertised packaged bees for sale was sold out. 

So, what was I to do. I could try and catch some, but I didn't know how to catch bees. I had caught them one by one as a child, but one wasn't going to fill my hive. Besides, I wouldn't know what I had. I mean the lineage would be God knows what. I kept at it looking at sites, Googling in different bee related words, and I finally found a firm that had packages for sale. 

I had no clue how to judge a honey bee operation. I am still ignorant, so to speak. Really ignorant. But I did know one thing. I did know that if I was going to have bees this summer, I was going to have to order these as all the other sites were sold out. 

I filled out the order form. I didn't really know what I was signing up for, exactly, but I had to act. The price was $177.00 for a package of bees. How many were in a package, I did not know. What was interesting was that the bees could be picked up at Lowe's. I thought that was nice. It seemed quaint to me that Lowe's would let someone deliver bees to them and that they would let you come in and pick them up. How convenient, they would call me and I could pick them up after work. 

The bad thing was that the bees wouldn't be available till the first week in June. I had learned enough to know that was a little late to try and get a hive going. Also, I had to send a check to Arizona and they had to have the check cashed before I could pick up the bees. I hoped the check would get there in plenty of time. I drove it to the post office to give it a head start.