Calgary has a hyper-active bee club. Members help members with all manner of thing. Equipment exchanges, educational programs, disease control. The latest big event was the arrival of 160 packages of bees from New Zealand. By the way, 160 packages contain 160 queen bees and about 1,008,047 worker bees.
This is an exciting, albeit anxious, event for new beekeepers. For many of the folks picking up their bees, this was their first encounter with their own honey bees. Most of these novices had taken the Calgary Bee Club beginner’s bee course. They’ve paired up with mentors (or will when the season starts), and they have spent the winter reading bee books and attending bee club meetings. And yet. There they are, grasping cages of bees, nervously loading the back of a truck or the trunk of a car with thousands of living, buzzing insects.
The bees speed off with their new servants, inexperienced beekeepers whose lives have suddenly flipped upside down. From now on, these beekeepers have new masters – masters with stingers. Already there are internal e-mails between new beekeepers and old beekeepers, further exposing trepidation. One beekeeper may have lost a queen while installing the package. Now what? Another’s queen cage fell to the bottom of the hive box. Cork open, but no guarantee the unseen queen crawled out. What to do? Others were concerned that the weather is turning cool. Is that good or bad? And on it goes.
Reassuring answers bounced back to the newbies. In most cases, the bees will be fine. They will settle down in the cool weather (though they will need easy access to feed) and the queens will soon be laying eggs. (Unless she took flight during installation. In that case, a new one is needed yesterday or even sooner.)
Here in western Canada, we can still get some cold weather, hopefully some wet weather, and there will be sunny days. Packages installed this weekend should build into fully productive hives by late June. They will likely make over a hundred pounds of surplus honey this summer. It all happens fast and even oldster beekeepers are impressed and surprised by the production of packages.
In today’s blog, I’m not going to go into the politics about Calgary beekeepers getting their bees from New Zealand (12,ooo kilometres away) instead of the more sensible source next door in the USA. And I won’t discuss the reasons that Canada – after 30 years of gallant attempts and much ballyhoo – never succeeded in being bee-independent. Instead, we’ll just celebrate the return of the robins from the States and the arrival of the bees from the south Pacific!
I wasn’t at the package pick-up point Friday afternoon where angst was in oversupply. But at least one club member took pictures. Their photos were used in this blog post – I give thanks and full credit to www.briseboisbees.com.