Installation of Package Bees
Editor's Note: Yes, we ran this article last month. It is package bee season.
By Stacy Hill, Kelley employee and beekeeper
If you are an established beekeeper and can use drawn combs on which to install your package you should do so. If you can just give them two or three drawn combs it is a big advantage. This allows the bees to get to work without having to draw combs from the foundation first.
Installation of Packages
Install the package late in the afternoon. This helps prevent drifting. It is well to mist a little syrup on the screen of the cage 15 minutes before you are ready to move them to the hive for installation. This quiets them down and they will be better natured. There are several ways of installing a package of bees. We recommend the following methods.
Remove one frame from your hive. Store the frame in a dry cool place. This frame will be put back into your hive several days later. Tap the cage lightly a few times on the ground to jar all the bees to the bottom of the cage. Do not let the queen cage slip down into the cage. With a firm grip on the can, remove it, pull the queen cage out of the package and immediately return the square lid to the hole of the cage. This prevents the bees from getting out.
Now that the queen cage is removed, inspect your queen to make sure she is alive and in good condition. Carefully remove the cork from the candy end of the queen cage. The bees will release the queen from the cage by eating the candy (it usually takes a few days for them to do this). You may choose to take a small nail and make a hole through the candy. This will help release the queen sooner.
Place the queen cage, screen side facing up, between frames 5 & 6 in the hive body. Again, tap the package lightly a few times on the ground to jar all the bees to the bottom of the cage. Remove the square lid and begin to gently shake the bees from the package over the tops of the frames and the queen cage. Once you have shaken the bees from the package, place the inner cover over the hive upside down. You can now close up your hive with the top cover. Once you have shaken the bees from the package and closed up the hive, place the package on the ground in front of the hive so that the few remaining bees can fly out and into the hive. You will need to feed your bees on a regular basis. We suggest using a Boardman entrance feeder with package bees to prevent drowning. You can open the can of syrup that came with the package and use the remaining syrup to feed with.
In about three days, you will want to go into the hive to make sure the queen has been released and is alive. If she is still inside the cage, you can choose to leave her there a day or two longer or release her yourself. To do this, hold the queen cage down inside the hive body and carefully pull back the screen to release her. Remove the queen cage and place the frame you removed before installation back inside the hive body box and return the inner and outer cover.
With this method, you do not have to shake the bees from the package. Follow the same procedures as Method 1, except remove five frames from your hive. Place the queen cage, screen side facing up, between frames 2 & 3 in the hive body. Again, tap the cage lightly a few times on the ground to jar all the bees to the bottom of the cage. Remove the square lid and place the package down inside the hive body in the space of the frames you have removed. In about three days, make sure the queen has been released and is alive. Remove the queen cage and package and place the five frames you removed before installation back inside the hive body box and return the inner and outer cover.
Four Important Points
- Feed package bees heavily until the colony is well established. Sugar and water mixed in a ratio of 1 part water to 1 part sugar, or high fructose corn syrup works well for spring feeding.
- Keep entrances reduced to a small size. This prevents robbing and conserves heat.
- Do not add supers or a second hive body until the bees draw out 7 of the 10 frames.
- Do hive inspections to check the condition of the new hive, on a weekly basis, until the hive is well established.