Begin Beekeeping

Installing Your Package Bees

When your package finally arrives, make sure everything seems in order. If you are not going to install the package right away, place in a cool (not cold), draft-free, quiet, darkened area. At this point you may feed the bees. With a spray bottle filled with a mixture of sugar syrup, mist the bees. Feed them liberally with the sugar syrup; do not soak them. The sugar syrup should be prepared ahead of time and consists of a mixture of either one part sugar one part water, or two parts sugar, one part water.

Your equipment should be ready and in place before the bees arrive. Close the entrance to keep mice out. The best time to install the package is in the late afternoon. If the weather is unusually cold, wait for the weather to improve. However, your package should not be kept more than a few days. It’s best to hive them as soon as possible.

Take the package to your hive. Open the hive front entrance. Take off the outer and inner covers and set aside out of the way. Next, remove four or five of the frames from the middle of the super; gently lay these frames against the side of the super. Take your package and shake or jar the package so the bees drop to the bottom of the box. Now with your spray bottle of sugar syrup, spray the bees to coat their wings — do not soak them.

Next, take the wrapping off the top of the package, exposing the top of the feeder can and Queen cage (if with the package). Queen cage is usually hung next to the feeder can by a wire. Grasp the wire tab to keep the cage from falling into the package; remove the feeder can and set aside. Remove the Queen cage. Check to see the Queen is alive, then place the cage in your breast pocket, screen side out, until you are ready to install the Queen. If the Queen is dead, you can proceed with installing the package but you’ll need to contact your supplier to get a new Queen as soon as possible.

Again, spray the bees in the package with syrup. Take the package and place over the hive where the frames have been removed and shake the bees into the hive. You do not have to shake out every last one: place the package at the hive entrance so “stragglers” can enter the hive.

Now you will have a large mass of bees in the centre of your hive. Slowly replace the frames you removed. Just lay them on top of the bees; do not push or shove them in place, you’ll only squash bees. Allow the bees to climb up onto the frames. You’ll find the frames will settle into place. Now, open up a small space between frames five and six for your Queen. When the Queen is shipped inside the package, use one of the indirect methods to release her. Remove the cork (if present) from the candy end of the Queen cage. With a small nail (1 1/4″ frame nail works nicely) make a small hole through the candy, being careful not to impale the Queen. The cage can now be suspended between the two frames. The bees will eat through the candy, releasing the Queen (about 24 hours).

If the Queen is shipped separate from the package, to install her, leave the cork in place. If no cork is present, take a piece of masking tape and cover up the opening to the candy. The Queen cage can now be suspended between the frames. Come back in two days. Remove the cork or tape, allowing the bees access to the candy, which they can now eat through. This method delays the Queen’s release and increases the likelihood of the bees accepting her.

In both methods, once the bees have access to the candy, come back the next day and remove the Queen cage. Make sure the Queen has been released. If she hasn’t, leave the cage in place another day. If bees have not released her by then, you can do so yourself. Carefully open the cage, place on the top bar of the frames and allow the Queen to walk out. She will soon disappear into the hive.

When closing up your hive, put feeder with medicated syrup in place (see Feeding Your Bees section). replace inner and outer cover. Put your entrance reducer in place so bees only have a small opening to guard. Leave, and come back when it is time to remove the Queen cage. remember, when you remove the Queen cage, to reposition your frames. Place the end of your hive tool between the first frame and the super wall, to lever the frames towards the centre. Keep the frames parallel and tight together.