This year marks my first bee installation! Although I have been studying and keeping bees for about 3 years now, I had only worked with observation hives. I don’t actually install the bees in the observation hives—I bring empty observation hives to our bee guy (Rick Reault, owner of New England Beekeeping). Then, Rick installs the bees in the observation hives. Since I have a small Honda, I cannot pick up the observation hives when they’re full of bees (they only fit in my car stacked on top one another). When the hives are full of bees, my adviser takes his larger-than-my-car hatchback and picks up the hives. Installing observation hives is early morning business; my adviser picks the bees up from Rick at 5:00 am and they are at Tufts by 6:00 am! That’s where I come in and install the hives in our hut!
As you may have seen on my Twitter, I am also keeping nine Langstroth hives on the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University (or as I call it, Tufts Vet) in Grafton, MA. To install these bees, my two interns and I picked up nine nucleus colonies from Rick. A nucleus colony (a.k.a. nuc) is a smaller honey bee colony that is created from a larger honey bee colony. A nuc has five frames of adult bees, baby bees, honey, pollen, and its own queen. (For comparison, our Langstroth hives have ten frames.) I had to fit nine nucs (along with two interns) in my small sedan. It was a bit of a squeeze but we fit! Then, we made the hour drive from Rick’s to Tufts Vet.
During the drive, there were some escape-bees. Joanna was the lucky intern who sat in the backseat (with three of the nucs!) and told me which window to open and when. Thankfully, we made it to Tufts Vet with only a few escaped bees and no stings!
Once in Grafton, we set the nucs (red in the photo) out in front of their soon-to-be Langstroth hive homes (yellow) and let them relax a bit (it was a stressful drive). While the bees relaxed, we took a restroom break ourselves. Then, the installation began.
To install a nuc, you simply move each of the five frames from the nuc to the Langstroth, making sure to keep them in the same order. While moving the frames, we also checked the health of each nuc. Were there babies? Was there a queen? Did they have enough food (i.e. stored honey and pollen)? Was there any sign of disease? Thankfully, the answers to our questions were: yes, yes, yes, and no. Our bees were set to have healthy, happy, strong hives! And so far, so great! (All those grubby-looking things are honey bee babies!)