About 30,000 bees have taken up residence at our house and our home feels alive again. Our bee packages arrived last Wednesday. I didn’t realize how much I missed having bees until these new ones arrived. Dave and I love watching them and being around them. We love being beekeepers! 😀 We were ready and have installed them into their new homes.
Approach. After doing some research on techniques for installing bees into hive bodies from packages, we decided to follow the approach outlined in this article from backyardbees: package-bees-a-gentler-way-to-install. We like this kinder, gentler approach and this is our first year for installing a package of bees, so any technique will be new to us. This approach worked perfectly for us. And now, I highly endorse it.
Package of Bees. Our package of bees came in a screened in box with a can of sugar water in it to feed the bees and a queen in a small box that is attached to the top of the container through a metal tab. The bees need time to get used to their new queen, so keeping her in a box protects her from attack and allows time for the bees to get familiar with her scent. The bees instinctively know to protect their queen so they form a chain around her. This is similar to what you would find if you found a swarm of bees in a tree.
Pre-bee Prep. We had our three hive bodies ready – using our deep boxes and frames from last year. We also had feeders ready, one top box feeder that will sit on top of the deep box and two frame feeders – see these on the right side of the two boxes on the right. The new bees will need to be fed for a while as we wait for lots of flowers to arrive. The feed is a sugar water mixture (1:1, 1 cup sugar to 1 cup water) that will give them the nutrients they need to build out the comb in the hive – preparing it for brood and honey. We also had a spray bottle of 1/2:1 (1/2 cup sugar to 1 cup water) mixture ready as the referenced article recommended as well as a container of marshmallow crème.
Installation Steps. We followed the following prescribed steps:
Remove enough frames out of the hive body to allow the package or box of bees to fit in. This required us to remove four frames. We left the frames with honey and comb on them out next to the hive bodies so that the bees had access to them to recover the honey if they wanted.
Spray the bees in the package with the sugar water in the spray bottle. This gave the bees something to do while we did the rest of the steps (they eat this sugar water off of themselves and their fellow bees).
- Put the box of bees into the opening you’ve just made in the hive body.
- Remove the can of sugar water. This required us to get a prying tool. We
used a flat screw driver. We set this can on the ground next to the hive so that the bees that are on it can find their way to the hive.
- Remove the queen box from the package.
- Remove the cork from the queen box and replace it with marshmallow crème. This will allow the queen to escape from the box within a day.
Place the queen box into the hive body between two of the frames.
- Close up the hive box.
- Wait 3-4 days before going back to remove the package and replace the frames.
Other considerations: The article recommends not using smoke at this point. Smoke is what you use to calm the bees when they are in their home hive. It signals a forest fire and causes the bees to suck on the honey in response. Since this hive is not their home yet, smoke will signal that this is not a safe place and will cause them to leave the hive. The sugar water in the spray bottle is the right approach to use to distract the bees while you are installing them in their new home.
Happy, gentle beekeeping, Sheri