If you’re going to start up your own hive, one of the only ways to do it quickly and easily (after you get all your gear ready) is to get a “package” of bees and “install” it into your hive. It sounds kind of strange, but that’s really what they call it. “Installing a package of bees.”
But how do you do it?
First, you’ll need to find a local store, or go online to find a place to buy a package of bees. Packages are generally 3 pounds and have about 10,000 bees plus a queen bee. The queen bee usually is in a separate cage so she’s mostly by herself (minus a couple worker bees to keep her company and tend to her needs). The cage also makes it very easy to identify the queen and to pick her up and move her around.
Inside the package of bees there is usually a large can of sugar syrup in the center of the bees, and although it’s usually enough food for the journey, you’ll want to put your bees in your hive (install them in your hive) shortly after you get them.
Keep things cool
Generally you’ll want to install them in a cool spot ( 50F to 75F ) and preferably in the evening.
First, you’ll want to spray a sugar syrup mixture (1 part sugar, 1 part water) to the package screening. That sugar spray will help keep the bees calm and distracted.
Next, take your package of bees and put them next to your open hive where you want to install them. Make sure to place an entrance reducer in the hive opening on the bottom board. The entrance reducer is basically to make it easier for the bees to defend the smaller entrance to the hive just in case any robber bees come along while they’re getting themselves established in their new hive.
How to put the Queen in the hive
Next take off the wood cover on the top of the package of bees. Carefully slide out the sugar syrup inside the package of bees and put it aside. Pull out the little wooden cage with the Queen in it, and you can put her in your pocket if you’d like. The pocket helps keep the Queen warm and out of harms way.
Keep in mind this Queen has not been brought up around the collection of the other 10,000 worker bees you have in your package. Strangely enough, if you just threw the Queen in unprotected into the hive the worker bees would most likely kill her because she is not “one of the hive.” So while the Queen is in the cage during the shipment of the package the worker bees get used to her pheromones and the workers start to accept her as part of the hive.
Shaking the bees out of the package
Before you start shaking your bees out of your package and into the hive, you’ll want to put a bit of “bee candy” or a small marshmallow into a narrow hole in the Queen cage. This is to let the Queen Bee be in the hive for a bit longer while the worker bees eat the candy and eventually release the Queen into the hive.
Be very careful in how you place the Queen Bee in the hive, make sure to suspend her by putting the cage between the two frames about four frames from the side of the hive box. You can position the cage with the marshmallow/bee candy up or down. I prefer putting the candy up because there’s less of a chance of the Queen falling down once she’s released.
Next, literally just start banging the package of bees on the ground or on the hive box itself a few times to get most of the bees to fall towards the bottom of the box. It may feel strange, but really, you just bang the box around. Don’t be too violent, but don’t be too gentle either.
Next pick up the box and put it upside down over the center of the hive box, and bang it again. Or shake it, or do whatever you need to reasonably do to get the bees out of the “package” and into the hive. Some bees will fall between the frames, and that’s OK.
No matter what you do, you probably won’t be able to get all the bees out of the package, and that’s just fine. Just put the package on the ground in front of the hive with the opened area facing towards the bottom board. Eventually the bees inside the package will move from the package to the hive.
And finally just close up the hive.
And we wait
Now you just wait for a few days and come back to check to see if the queen has been released from her cage and that everything is OK with the hive.
If she hasn’t been released then just carefully lift the cage out, widen the “bee candy tunnel” and put back the cage. Then come back and check the next day.
Make sure you’ve provided the bees with enough sugar syrup for food. And that’s it! You’ve installed your package! Congrats!
If you’d like to know more about starting your first hive click here to grab our free beekeeping quick start kit.