Lesson 4: Installing package bees

You decided on package bees, and your first package shows up. So now what?

When you receive your package bees, the first thing to do is inspect them. A few dead bees on the bottom of the box is okay. If you have more than an inch of dead bees in the bottom, then you have a problem.

The first thing you notice from you package is that the bees are agitated. Place them in a cool, dark space and mist them with sugar water. They will calm down.

There are acceptable several methods for installing the package. With any method, always begin later in the afternoon. The bees are less likely to abscond. Here are a few methods:

I. Shaken Out Method

Step 1: Be sure you have your hive ready and setup. I typically use a Nuc body with this method, however you can use a Deep Super as well. If using a Deep Super, do not add a imag1796second Deep Box or a Super until they have drawn out 7 of the 10 frames. Also, if you have other hives, rob an empty drawn out frame and a frame of brood. This will help give your
hive a lift as well as encourage the bees to accept the hive. If you do not have any other hives, then ask you mentor, or another beekeeper for a couple of frames.

Step 2:  Remove the cover from the package. Locate the tab sticking out from beside the can in the top of the package. This tab is stapled on. Be careful to hold tight to this as you remove the can  imag1798because the queen is on the other end. Gently pull the tab and pull   the can. The can is full of sugar syrup and has holes on the bottom for the bees to feed on during transit. Once removed, replace the cover back over the hole to keep the bees in.

Step 3: Typically, the queen comes in a Benton Queen cage. Inspect the cage to ensure that there is still queen candy present, the queen is still alive with a few attendant bees, and then stick the cage in your pocket with the open screened side facing outwards.

Step 4: Tap the box gently on the ground a couple of times to get the bees on the bottom of the cage, then remove the cover, and shake the package into your hive. You will not beimag1813 able to get all of the bees into the hive, but get what you can. Place the package with the remaining bees in front of the hive. The remainder of the bees will typically enter the hive through the course of the evening.

Step 5: Queen introduction. There are 2 ways to introduce the queen. There is the Direct release or the indirect release. With the indirect release, you suspend the queen cage between frames 5 & 6 ensuring the screen in face up. Prior to placing the queen cage in, you can remove the cork from the candy side if you choose to let the hive release her, or you can leave the cork in if you plan on direct releasing in a day or two.                                        imag1802

With the direct release method, you remove the screen from the top of the queen cage and allow her to walk onto a frame full of bees you have shaken out. If the accept her, she will walk around freely. If they do NOT accept her, the will ball the queen. Balling the queen means they were still not accepting of her, they formed a tight ball around her to raise her body temperature to suffocate and kill her.

Step 6: Put the top on the hive, and inspect the progress frequently until they have drawn a few frames out, and the queen is laying.

II. Hansen Method 

Step 1: Setup equipment. You will need 3 Deep Supers for your hive bodies. Setup one Deep super on the bottom board where your hive will be setup. Next to the hive, have another Deep Super with 10 frames (again, if you have frames with brood and drawn comb it will help your success and be easier on the bees).

Step 2: Remove the cover from the package of bees. Remove the queen and feeder can.

Step 3: Suspend the queen between frames 5 & 6 just as in the Shake Method.

Step 4: Shake a cupful of bees over top of where the queen cage is suspended.

Step 5: Place the package inside the Deep Super that is sitting on the bottom board.

Step 6: Place the Deep Super with the frames and Queen on top of the Deep Super on the Bottom Board.

Step 7: Place the inner cover on top of the second Deep Super. Then place the feeder can over top of the Porter Bee Escape Hole in the Inner Cover.

Step 8: Place an empty Deep Super on top to enclose the feeder, and put on the lid.

Step 9: In a day or two, go remove the top and bottom Deep Supers, and inspect the hive. Release the Queen if she has not already been released.

III. Method III

This method is a combination of the two above methods.

Step 1: Setup equipment. You will need a Deep Super with 5 frames.

Step 2: Remove the package cover, remove the queen, and feeder jar.

Step 3: Suspend the queen between frames 3 & 4.

Step 4: Shake a cupful of bees over top of where the queen cage is suspended.

Step 5: Place the package containing the remainder of the bees into the empty space next to the 5 frames. Be sure the package opening is on top.

Step 6: In a day or two, go remove the top package, add 5 frames, and inspect the hive. Release the Queen if she has not already been released.


Some helpful notes :

  • Package bees have virtually nothing to work with. Be sure to feed them heavily to get them going. A 1:1 sugar syrup is best. Pollen patties are also a good idea. As soon as the bees get drawn comb, the queen will begin to lay. The nurse bees need adequate pollen to feed the larvae.
  • Keep entrances reduced to a small size to minimize robbing and limit the intruders that can gain access to the hive.
  • Do weekly inspections to ensure your hive is progressing properly



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