Today actually was a red-letter day! A call from the post office first thing in the morning alerted me that the 2 packages of bees that Ben had ordered from Kelley Bees had arrived. Ben has taken over the hives but -- as often happens -- he is out of town right now so he had arranged for me to collect the bees and get them into the hives.
So yes. For those of us born in the suburbs or the city, you may not know that your live bees -- or live chicks -- arrive at post office and you are summoned to come and rescue them from their travel crates.
When I got out to the hives, turned out the bees in one of the older hives were busy swarming (re-locating to another home, which I have written about before). So the new bees and I had to cool our heels for a while as I was not inclined to get in the middle of that, though it is a mesmerizing sound and sight. Look closely and you will see the bees in the air all around the hive.
When they were clear of the hives, and safely parked in the tree above (where they await directions from their scout as to where they are relocating), I got busy and opened the little crates to pour the bees into their new homes.
The box at the top is the traveling box; below is the hive body with its removable frames where the comb is built. You knock the frame against the hive, and the bees fall out with a whump. Some stay in the travel box through repeated whumpings. They will eventually migrate into the new hive by the end of the day -- they will find their way by smelling their queen's pheromones.
The queen rides in her own little carriage, a small wooden box sealed with a sugar cube. She will nibble her way out of the box, by which time her court will have settled in and can welcome her home. The bright aluminum strip you see, middle right, is holding her small box in the midst of the frames. The queen always begins in the center of the hive, and her court huddle around her in a protective buzzing ball.
After I finished, I gently slid the lids back into place, and put the travel boxes, with their lingering tenants, on the top of their respective hives so they could find their way home before nightfall.