The bees arrived from New Zealand on May 8th and I booked off work early to get to the Spruce Grove Alberta Honey Producers Coop in time to pick them up. I also purchased some pollen patties and apivar strips from the staff that were patient and kind enough to answer all of my questions. The apivar strips are necessary to kill varroa mites. As we had learned from Dr. Nasr, the mite population needs to be less than 1% going into Winter; and Spring is a good time to get rid of them.
I could not put off the inevitable anymore and drove around the back to collect our two packages. I was excited and worried – we now had the responsibility to get these wee critters to their new home two hours away. I kept the temperature cool and played music by Jens Oettrich (Abschied von einem Freund is particularly nice). The bees probably didn’t notice, but I began to relax and the collective hum of 17,000 bees inside my car no longer seemed so daunting. When I arrived back at my home in Edmonton, Worth was home from work and ready to hit the road. My daughter, Skylar who will be going into her 4th year in Human Ecology at the University of Alberta had a solution of sugar-water prepared to spray on the plastic cage in hopes that the bees would be somewhat happier. Our dog, Rusty looked on with great interest and then disillusion when he was not invited to make the trip to the Ranch with us. After all, he too (like the bees) was born in New Zealand and made the long journey to Canada with us in July 2013 after we lost our home and endured over 11,000 earthquakes and aftershocks in Christchurch. A series of events we will never forget and be immeasurably grateful that we were not killed or injured as did many that we knew.
When Worth and I arrived at the family farm, we prepared a solution of 1:1 sugar-water (for the feeders) and added a tiny amount of apple cider vinegar to prevent the mixture from spoiling. Off we went to the Ranch to install the bees. The day before, I visited my GP and got a prescription for an EpiPen just to err on the side of caution. The area is remote and if either Worth or I were to suffer a severe allergic reaction, it would be over before we could get help. It was interesting to learn that multiple bee stings can cause a severe drop in blood pressure and in the worst case, circulatory collapse.
We arrived at the Ranch around 8pm. With gleaming white bee suits on, we carefully opened the gate and turned off the electric fence. Worth removed the frames from the hives and I sprayed them with the sugar solution that Skylar prepared earlier. We also filled the frame feeders with sugar solution and placed a pollen patty on the top of the frames. It was now time to install the bees!! Worth slammed the end of the tube against the ground just as was described in our bee class and in a YouTube tutorial. He quickly removed the plastic cage and then retrieved the queen. Then he shook the bees out into the hive, replaced the center frames and positioned the caged queen on top. We repeated the process for the second package. Only, this time the queen was dead in her cage. We were crushed.