On April 25th, a package of bees arrived via special delivery for installation into the first Whiting Forest hive. (Package of bees=literally a cage of live bees with a newly mated queen hanging outside in a queen cage.) Sugar water was provided because early spring has been too cold for flowers to provide food. We will eventually have three hives located at the edge of the orchard to pollinate the apple trees, of course.

Yesterday, May 14th, we visited the hive to check things out. Is the queen still alive, thriving, laying brood (which will turn into worker and drone bees)? Getting close enough to answer these questions takes a bit of nerve and a whole lot of knowledge. Luckily veteran bee-keeper and staff entomologist, Elly Maxwell, was in charge.

We all know the image of the traditional beekeeper covered from head-to-toe for protection. Elly’s philosophy is that a hat with veil is a MUST and all other personal protective gear is up to the preference of the keeper – so t-shirts it was!

Then there is the smoke in our case a mixture of paper, cotton batting and dried sumac berries. The smoke helps to mask the pheromones (chemicals released into the air as communication) which might alert others in the hive to ‘DANGER’. We don’t want to get everyone in a tizzy over our presence.

Take a look at what we found: