Monday, August 11, 2008

How To Install A Package Of Honey Bees


One of the most common ways of starting a new hive is to buy a 'Package Of Bees' from a bee supply company. O­n the east coast of the US, most packages are produced by companies in the State of Georgia. Georgia's warm climate is very conducive to honey bee production.

The average package purchased comes with three pounds of honey bees  amounting to about 10,000 bees inside plus a Queen Bee in a small screened cage in the center out of sight. She is accompanied by two or three worker bees who attend to her every need during the period of shipment. The bees are provided a large can of sugar syrup in the center of this mass of bees. This can is upside down with numerous pinholes punched in the lid to provide access to the food for their journey to their new bee hive. A small wooden cover is nailed over an opening o­n the top of the box to give access to its contents,the Queen Bee Cage,thousands of worker bees in a huge
clump and a can of sugar syrup, food for their journey. You should be ready to install a package very shortly after it arrives. If not,wait until evening and keep them in a cool spot( 50 to 75F )away from the sun.Your bee hive should be all set up and ready for the bees. It is not in the best interests of the bees to keep them in the package box any longer then necessary. Spray a sugar syrup mixture ( 1 : 1 mixture of water and sugar ) o­n the package screening. This will help to keep them occupied and remain calm.

Now you should you have the package of bees next to the open bee hive in which they are going to be installed. Be sure you have placed an entrance reducer in the hive opening o­n the bottom board. This is for the purpose of making it easier for them to defend the smaller entrance to the hive should a horde of robber bees descend upon the bee hive while they are getting themselves established.

Pry off the wood cover o­n the top of the package box. Gently slide out the large can of sugar syrup and place it to the side. Pull out the small wooden cage with the Queen and slip it in to your pocket to keep her warm and out of harms way. This cage is a small wood block suspended downward under the wood cover and hollowed out in the center to provide a chamber ( covered with a piece of screen ) for the  Queen and a couple of attendants inside with her. O­ne end of the this Queen Cage has been drilled out and the tunnel is filled with a bee candy mixture so that she cannot escape.

This Queen Bee has not been raised with this collection of worker bees. If she were thrown in with these workers unprotected when the package was being put together, they would immediately kill her because she is not 'one of them'. While she is in this cage during shipment they get used to the pheromones she is constantly giving off and she and the workers become family so to speak. So when she is finally released from her cage she is 'one of them'.

When you are ready to shake the bees out of the box into their new home take the Queen Cage out of your pocket and using a small nail insert it into the bee candy and make a narrow hole. This is to help the worker bees now in the hive eat their way thru to enable the Queen to enter her new home. At this point you don't want her coming out thru the tunnel and perhaps falling to the ground and getting injured or possibly stepped o­n or disappear from our sight.

Suspend the Queen Cage by gently putting it between the two frames about four frames in from the side of the hive box. Position the cage with the bee candy plugged hole facing down towards the bottom board and make sure the frames o­n each side of the cage are pushed together securely.. The bees will chew through the bee candy plug and release the queen within a few hours. Do not put the queen cage under the opening in the inner cover with the sugar syrup feeder sitting above it. Bang the package box o­n the ground or the hive box itself a couple of times to get most of the bees to fall towards the bottom of the box. Pick up the box and invert it over the center of the hive box and give it a few healthy shakes so that the majority of the bees will fall down between the frames. It's okay to bang the edge of the box to shake some of the remaining bees loose. Some bees will fly around but don't worry about them as they will not fly away. They will never abandon their Queen. There will still be some bees stubbornly staying inside the package box. Place the box o­n the ground in front of the hive with the opened area facing towards the bottom board. The bees remaining inside will eventually all crawl out o­n their own and march inside the entrance to the hive. Close your hive up leaving the package bee box where it is o­n the ground. Come back in a couple of days to check if the queen has been released from her cage. If she has not then gently lift the cage out and widen the bee candy tunnel making sure o­nce again that she does not fall out. Replace the cage and check it the following day. Make sure that you keep them supplied with sugar syrup until they start building up their own supplies.

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