Wednesday, April 29, 2009

5 lbs. of Bees in a Box

This what arrived at the Park Slope post office. I wish I could've been a fly on the wall... or better yet one of those cute, fat, fuzzy bumble bees.

Anyway, on Friday night we met on the roof at 7 pm, just in time for the last light of day. These bees were weary, I could just feel it in my bones. The first order of business would be to extract the box containing our queen bee, Michelle Obama.

The queen is separated from the rest of the honey bees because if she were loose, all the drones would start mating with her immediately, and she'd have no place to lay her eggs. The queen comes in a little wooden box. The beekeeper has to remove the queen's lounge from the mailing box and in the brood box (the bottom box of the hive.) Her lounge has an opening big enough for her to squeeze through, but stuffed with a dried marshmallow. (Kind of a wimpy barrier.) Nothing lies between the queen and her suitors except a measly marshmallow.

Measly to us humans, that is! To the bees, this marshmallow must seem like the Berlin Wall.

The bees are fiercely protective of their queen. If they don't want to kill her, then they'll surely die for her. Here, Brandon is contemplating the tragic ending of "My Girl."

Jon and Brandon suit up. Ain't no bees getting in those spacesuits.

The bees are free! Welcome to New York!

Unfortunately, the queen's lounge falls to the bottom of the box immediately. Onlookers watch in horror.

Not to worry, Beekeeper Brandon comes in with the smoker to pacify the crazed honey bees. The smoke disguises the pheromones that guard bees give off when they sense danger. Beekeeper Jon rescues the queen. Disaster averted.

After moving the queen to the brood box, the next step is to dump the rest of the bees out of the box and into the hive. This is probably the most intense part of the process, but also really beautiful:

One bee smashed into the very tip of my nose. They were insane! And the thing about honey bees being crazed, blood-thirsty, little-girl-killers? That's not true at all. They're very gentle, like little yellow-and-black-striped puppies that fly. They didn't sting anyone. And I didn't even have a supercool bee suit on.

With any luck, the bees will almost immediately start building comb on these panels.

Now is the time for our special bee potion...

We put the top on just so...

...and our work is done for the night! We watch the bees enter the front of the hive. They're so calm and orderly.

They're so amazing. I'm already in love. I didn't see Michelle Obama, but Jon did and I think he's totally crushing.

The next few days will be crucial. We need to make sure the hive is healthy, and that nature is progressing as intended. So far, so good.


  1. gah, so cool, love the foe-toes! neat suits, too! can't wait to meet the little guys.

  2. I would love to see a picture of Cole 'meeting' the bees. Great blog - fascinating actually. Love, love, love the photos, too.