Last week we received our new bees, four hives worth!
Over the winter one of our two old hives didn't make it, we think they lost their queen too late in the season. That hive died before the worst of winter even arrived, leaving us with one hive from last year. The remaining hive was holding strong through March, when we had a huge spike in the temperature (60 degrees) and then it dropped back down into the low 30's, within a day. We have assumed that this caused them to leave the hive prematurely, and they were unable to gather quick enough to regain the heat they needed to stay alive. So, sadly, they went too. We discovered that both hives had perished in April, when the temperatures started to rise again and we saw no bees out and about. So, we set about ordering new bees.
Our new bees come from Russia, although we purchased them from a gentleman in Ohio. I have a firm belief that if they can survive Siberia, they might make it through a Chicago winter. (We're sort of Siberia, right?) The bees arrived in quaint wood boxes with mesh sides and a smaller interior queen box held in the center. The queen remains in her individual box, to keep the other bees concerned and surrounded, therefore keeping them from leaving the mesh box - a very good thing. Our bees arrived in 4 separate boxes, 2 of which were missing their queens. Not good. So, we set up two of the hives with lots of extra bees and then ordered a few more queens. Once those queens arrived we were able to separate some of the bees and put them into the new hives. Because they started with the other hives and therefore the other queens, we had to move the 2 new queen hives far away from the others. Helen took them home to let them settle in and adapt to their new queens. Whew, what an ordeal, but we now have 4 hives, 2 from last year and 2 new ones, all with bees and queens.
The hive bodies, supers (the part that holds the frames) and the frames (the part that holds the honey harvest) were built by an amazing team of volunteers. The day we had planned to build everything on was super rainy and gross, so we had to build inside. Hammers, wood, nails; not a great combo indoors. It was loud, but they endured and 3 hours later we had a host of supers and a summers supply of frames. They are truly amazing and I love getting to know all the new faces each volunteer workday that comes around.
Enjoy the photos, let me know there are any questions about the beehives!