This past weekend I installed a package of honey bees into two hives. There is a lot of great information online about how to perform this procedure. I want to share a couple of tips and things that I do differently from what I have seen posted on the internet.
This reminds me of the old beekeeper saying
“If you ask ten beeekeepers how to do something, you will get eleven different answers.”
Quick Plug For Beekeeping Clubs
I would be remiss if I didn’t take an opportunity to recommend joining a local beekeeping club. It is a great way to meet other beekeepers, learn more about beekeeping and benefit from group resources. I recommend looking for your state association and then finding the clubs that are part of the state wide organisation. For example, in Illinois the associated clubs can be found by clicking here.
I obtained my hives from my local beekeeping club, the Northern Illinois Beekeepers Association. Every year they put together a group order as a benefit for the members.
How To Install A Package of Bees: Step By Step Procedure
Since I was installing the bees and acting as my own camera man, I only have a few pictures to share. The following posts do a good job of showing step by step pictures and explaining the installation in detail.
The thing to keep in mind with a package of bees is that it is a man made simulation of the natural reproduction method of honey bees, a swarm. What happens is that the bee supplier dumps about 3 pounds of bees into a box, places a queen in a cage to hang in the box and provides a food source for the bees because they cannot forage.
This means that the bees are looking for a good home. They also need to get to know their queen. That is why the candy plug is used in the queen cage. By forcing the bees to chew through a candy plug to get to the queen, she is released slowly after a couple of days. This allows the bees to get used to the pheromones of their new queen.
My package of Italian honey bees came from California. The supplier only included one hole in the queen cage. That means I would have to plug the hole myself with a marshmallow to do a slow release, or do a quick release.
The bees had at least four days of travel over the road from California to get used to the queen. That is why I just took the cork off and held the cage so that the queen could crawl into the hive, a quick release. I have also installed packages from this same supplier and had success with the quick release of the queen.
Tips For Installing A Package Of Honey Bees
The first thing I do differently from what I’ve seen elsewhere is to install onto drawn comb. This is better for the bees but is not always possible because it depends on the availability of spare comb (not something the first year beekeeper is likely to have in stock).
The advantage is that the queen can start laying immediately because she does not have to wait for the workers to make cells of comb for her lay in. It also allows the bees to save energy because they don’t have to draw as much comb. I will add a brood chamber containing frames with bare foundation in a week or two, after the bees get used to their new home.
Remember how I mentioned that the bees could not forage in their package container and had to be given supplemental food? This means that the bees have no food reserves stored in their new home. They need to be fed sugar syrup.
Most recommendations are for 1:1 solution of sugar syrup. This means one pound of sugar to one pound of water. A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds and sugar is commonly sold in 4 pound packages. So I dissolve 2 packages of sugar into a gallon of water to make the sugar syrup.
The way I prefer to feed my bees is using hive top feeders. The entrance feeders I’ve seen other people use have a small capacity and may be susceptible to robbing because they are located at the hive entrance. (Black feeder at Mann Lake)
The main draw back of hive top feeders is that some bees drown in them. I have tried a few different models over the years to find one that kills the fewest bees. I like the two pictured here. The biggest advantage to the weekend homesteader is the capacity. These things hold a lot of sugar syrup. This allows me to only check the hives and top off the feed on the weekends.
The pictures also show how I tip the hives forward. This is important for over wintering the hives and is done so that any condensation that forms on the inner cover does not drip onto the cluster of bees during the winter and chill them.
The Most Frequently Asked Question Of Beekeepers
To answer the most common question I get from people as a beekeeper, yes I get stung. In fact, I got stung this past weekend. The sting occurred as it often has in recent years, not when I was manipulating the bees but at an unexpected time. After I was finished installing the package of bees and putting away my equipment in the barn, I got stung on the neck. Ouch. Apparently, I had a honey bee stuck in the collar of my shirt.
If things go well, I will have honey to harvest at the end of the summer. For now, all I have is a pain in the neck.
- Tip For Hive Body Construction
- Painting Bee Hives
- Storing Honey Supers
- Honey Bee Pollination
- Winterizing Bee Hives
- Honey Harvest Step By Step
If you have any questions or comments about installing packages of bees, please let me know in the comments section below.