20,000 Bees In The Back Seat


What does it sound like to drive with 20,000 bees in the backseat? Like you’ve got boiling water back there, or a pan of sizzling oil. Every once in a while a straggler bee on the outside of one of the mesh/wood cages would fly loose in the cabin, then make its way out the window. Other than that, the drive from Healdsburg to San Francisco was sting-free as we transported four packages of spring bees to their new hives in a Mission District urban farm.

We shook the bees into hives of drawn-out honeycomb, suspended the queen in her individual cage between two frames, fed them lots of 1:1 sugar water and closed the hives. We’ll be back on Wednesday to hand-release the queen. By then, the colonies should have acclimated to her pheromone and will accept, rather than murder, her. I decided against swapping the cork in her cage for a marshmallow, because the bees were so hungry when I got them that I worried they would eat through the marshmallow in minutes. Colonies need at least two to three days to get used to their new queen.

Here’s a photo gallery of our trip, and a slow-motion video showing how to shake bees into a new hive. Images and video by Jenn Jackson.

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