The long hives weren't quite ready for the surprise shake. The screen I used for the floor was kinda saggy rendering the follower board ineffective. I've been dragging my feet about replacing that with a few sheets of the plastic needle point backing hoping that I'd discover someone in the mean time who'd sell me and endless roll of the stuff. As well, there's been some debate about which side of a long hive is most beneficial to put the entrance on: the "sides", or the ends. The floor is still the saggy nylon screen that I installed there when I built them. I'll just have to reinforce the gap at the bottom of the follower board with a small bag of sand - it ought to serve in a pinch, and this is a pinch. After a lot of internal deliberation, it turns out that I don't really care which side the entrance(s) are made on, only because if I don't like where they are, or it becomes advantageous to move them, I'll just bung the old entrance closed: Problems dealt wit'. . .
. . . Mostly. I took for granted that Scotty had his electric drill at Medford, but discovered upon arriving that it was not in working order and I hadn't brought my tools with me from the Valley. I ended up using a crappy old hand cranked drill to make a ½" hole toward the bottom of one of the long sides. It took me a half hour to drill through the ¾" board. I'm thrilled with the large blister I developed on the palm of my hand in the process.
The installation was kind of text book or, at least, went well from there I guess, as I've never used this style of hive before. I ended up securing the queen cage by squeezing it between a couple of the top bars, like I did previously with Langs, which left enough of a gap toward the top that bees could come and go through. So, I covered that section of top bars with a suitable rag carpet to discourage the bees from using this as an entrance. To feed them and stimulate wax production I turned over the can of syrup that came in the package so it would seep slowly between the top bars at the far end, and covered that with a small plastic bucket. This is a temporary measure and precludes putting the proper roof on until they drain the syrup can and I can replace it with a baggie feeder. But a sheet of plywood and a series of rain free days in the forecast makes this less of a concern for me than the little gap in the top bars. . .
Which I discovered, upon checking on them this morning, they have adopted as their primary entrance. I decided that I was better off to break this habit sooner rather than later, after there's fragile comb in place. I understand that bees build their comb in relation to the entrance of the hive, but I don't understand what that relation is, exactly. Nonetheless I decided to remove the queen cage and drive a small nail into its side so to hang it from, thereby reducing the gap in the top bars. Upon removing it I noticed significantly more attendants inside the cage than I remember from last evening but I couldn't tell if any of them were the mother despite the fact she's marked with a very apparent blue dot. I tilted the small box to verify that the marshmallow plug had been removed (which it had, indeed) and that's the moment when the queen made a brief appearance at the opening and flew away, off into the sky. . . as my heart sank.
I stood there a moment letting my disappointment sink in, getting comfortable with a most uncomfortable burning feeling of failure. Although the queens tend not to wander far they will go high and I was starting to imagine myself sitting there all morning watching my hive slowly abscond and reincorporate at the top of a tall tree somewhere out of reach. How could I be so careless? I was scheduled to be at work in less than an hour and I started looking frantically through the single bees that had alighted here and there on nearby branches but none of them bore the telltale mark of this years royalty. Should I beg out of work? Will extra time do any good? I scanned the tree tops, I watched for an exodus at the entrance that I had spent so much time and effort establishing. I checked back again with the lone stragglers, over and over.
After more than the time allotted for worrying to no avail I began packing up the scattered tools and emptying my smoker. In my haste I had left my veil hanging over the rail of the front stoop. Working my way houseward, I gathered that last and, much to my joy and relief the queen had settled on the mesh and was waiting there with a few of her attendants for me to retrieve her and return her to the hive!
After righting all my errors I sat in front of the hive watching the bees clustering here flying wildly about there, slowly figuring out the corrections I had made, feeling proud of my resistance to the "Primal Response", basking in the feeling of relief that comes with "having my lesson without having to eat it too" and contemplating the details of what I'd learned in the process. As if to cement these lessons securely in my memory one of the froggier girls flew up stung me right on the edge of my right eyelid! POW!
Don't you forget it!