Packaged Bee Instructions
Posted on February 14, 2012
Facing East – so the morning sun hits the hive
Not in a traffic area
Not too close to Lawn Mower
Hive Location Preparation
Off the ground
Prop up back of hive about 2 inches – so water/moisture drains out of hive not in
Get something to set on top so lids don’t get knocked or blown off (rock, etc)
Objective in the first year
Build up colony so that it is strong enough to get through the first winter
Note: The first year is best not to expect honey. With a very strong colony and good weather you could get up to 40 lbs of honey but that is not a goal for the first year. Harvesting honey is a goal of the second year and beyond. A good hive after its first year can produce upwards of 100 lbs of honey.
How: Queen must lay eggs and build up bee population
Need drawn comb for the queen to lay eggs
Need sugar syrup for the bees to draw comb – takes 8 lbs of sugar syrup for the bees to produce 1 lb of wax
Stages of the bee
Egg for 3 days
4th day becomes larvae for 6 days
Remainder in pupae stage
21 days from egg to baby bee (24 for drones)
Making Sugar Syrup
60 % granulated sugar (not brown) to 40% warm/hot tap water by weight (for 1 gallon use 8 lbs sugar and the rest water)
Hive Set Up
Feeder – we recommend the inside feeder (this has bee ladders for the bees to climb down to drink the syrup and not drown. It is easy to access to refill and it holds about ¾ of a gallon). Inside Top Feeders also work well.
Frames & Foundation – we recommend beeswax foundation for your brood chamber as the bees draw this comb out faster and more uniformly
Brood Chamber/Box – three options
- Option 1 - Deep (standard) supers – eventually 2 (start out with 1)
- Option 2 – Western (shallow) supers – eventually 3 (start out with 1)
- Option 3 – Deep and Western (1 of each) – start out with 1 deep
Note: The advantages of options 1 and 2 are the you have the same size frames so you can switch frames
Note: The bees need about 20 vertical inches of brood chamber for them to survive the winter as this provides them adequate space for brood, honey storage (50 to 60 lbs minimum they need) and enough bees.
Top - Migratory or Telescoping
Bottom – standard or screened
If using screened on a new hive may want to block the screen with the corrugated material on top for the 1st 30 to 45 days.
Slatted Rack (optional) –although it is an extra piece of equipment this has been known to improve the bees activity and utilization of the bottom brood box as it works to reduce the cold air entering the bottom of the hive.
When to install your packaged bees
These bees have been in the package for 48 to 72 hours – this is not their home and they will die if left in the package too long. Note: These are treated and healthy bees so you are starting out with a good colony of bees.
The best is same day you receive them, however for sure within 24 to 36 hours from the time you pick them up
If not installing same day give them a light misting of sugar syrup the evening of your pick up and the following morning.
The longer they are in the package the worse off. The sooner they are in a new home and able to release their queen the more likelihood of survival and success.
Most conditions are fine unless it is heavy downpour, extremely cold or extremely windy (light drizzle is ok).
Keep them in a cool (not cold or warm) place – garage usually works best
Preparing your hive for your package bees
Feeder – blend sugar syrup just prior to installing your packaged bees and fill this feeder.
Spray Bottle – fill your spray bottle with the remaining sugar syrup
Frames – remove 7 frames (3 on feeder side and 4 on opposite side) leaving 2 frames in the center of the hive.
Our objective is to get as many bees in the hive as quickly as possible as they are not yet oriented. This is in part why we remove so many frames as we can get more bees in the hive immediately.
Note: Once they are in the hive and leave initially they will orient themselves.
IMPORTANT: Always install your packaged bees at the permanent location you plan to have your hive.
Installing your packaged bees
Spray Bottle with Sugar Syrup
Gummy Bear or Marshmallow
Step 1 – spray both sides of your package bees with a light misting of sugar syrup
Step 2 – Pop the gummy bear in your mouth to moisten it and get your hive staple ready
Step 3 – use your hive tool to remove the feeder can from the package
Step 4 – spray the inside of the package with sugar syrup
Step 5 – straighten the metal tab of the queen cage. Slide it out the slot and shake off bees into package
Step 6 – grab the queen cage with thumb and middle finger (this leaves your pointer finger free to cover the hole), check the queen to make sure she is alive. Using hive staple get edge of cork and gently remove cork and then quickly cover the hole with the pointer finger. Then grab gummy bear from mouth and stuff in the hole.
Step 7 – use the metal tab to hang the queen cage between the two center frames and bend metal tab over the top of one frame.
Step 8 – shake the bees into the box
Step 9 – starting on the feeder side put the 3 frames back in. Then proceed to other side of the two center frames and put the remaining 4 frames back in.
Note: Do NOT force the frame in rest them gently in position, they may rest on bees but will settle into position in a matter of 5 minutes
Note: You may not get the 9th frame (one opposite the feeder) in immediately as you may need to let a few minutes pass and the bees to settle. Eventually you will want to push all frames together toward the feeder so they are tight and you can get the 9th frame in
Note: Bees will cluster on the top of the frames near the queen cage. So you may set your top on at an angle until the bees settle so you don’t crush as many.
Note: No smoke is needed to install your package of bees (this is one of two times you don’t need smoke, the other being catching and hiving a swarm)
Checking your new hive
The bees will eat the gummy bear and release the queen within 24 hours typically
Queen will start laying typically in 3 to 7 days after you install your package
You can check your hive 3 to 5 days after installation – this should be a brief check – possibly remove the queen cage
5 to 7 days you can check to see if your queen is laying eggs
Note: You don’t have to see the queen.
Signs Queen is laying eggs (eggs, larvae, pollen being collected by forager bees)
Critical: If your queen is not laying by 9 or 10 days you should be concerned and call to order a new queen. (97% of them will be laying). Remember: Bees live an average of 6 to 8 weeks and it takes 3 weeks for new bees to be born and your packaged population is already dying so that is why it is so critical to get your queen laying eggs.
Managing your hive in the first 3 to 6 weeks
Feed – they will consume ¾ of a gallon in 7 to 12 days. You will feed them for the first 30 to 45 days.
KEY: Keep feeding them
Brood Chamber – they should draw out and fill up the 1st deep brood chamber in about 30 days (if a western brood chamber then maybe about 20 days). Bees work in a sphere so they will work from the very center out in all directions meaning the exterior frames will typically be the last ones they will draw out with comb. If using an inside feeder they will tend to draw out the comb next to that sooner than the frames on the opposite side. You can take the further most frame from the feeder and switch with the one next to the feeder at the point that they have drawn out all other frames. Once they have 90% completed filling out the 1st brood chamber you can add a second brood chamber (Note: Don’t do this too soon as they will tend to move to the second box and not finish the first). When adding the second brood chamber remove the inside feeder from the first chamber and replace with your 10th frame and put the inside feeder in your second brood box.