Monday, April 14, 2014
It’s that time of year, everyone is getting the call to pick up their packages and nucs for spring bee hive installations. I added myself to the list early on as a safety precaution, and I’m glad I did because yellow hive has been sitting empty since February. I received the email on Friday that my package (a 2 lb box of bees complete with queen) would be ready on Monday as early as 7am.
Mother Nature Not Helping
I figured I’d go pick up my new bees early and get them installed before heading to work. But mother nature had different plans. After a most perfectly gorgeous spring weekend, I woke up to a cold, cloudy, and insanely windy Monday. Ugh.
I thought the day might warm up in the afternoon, so I left at lunch, picked up the girls (still cold, windy and cloudy), went home and got them into their new digs. I’ve never installed a package before. It wasn’t difficult, now that I have a little bee experience under my belt. But I can see how it would be intimidating for a beginner. Keep in mind though that bees without a hive to defend are naturally docile. They fly around but they aren’t aggressive or stingy. Regardless, wear your gear as a precaution.
What’s a Package?
A package includes 2 lbs of bees (about 3500?), a can of sugar syrup for feed, and a queen cage containing the queen and several attendants. Queens are marked a different color each year so you can identify her and the year she was installed. This year is green. All of this comes in a nice compact wooden screened box. You can imagine the buzz during our ride home. The girls were very excited!
Installing the Package
I’m sure there are many ways to install a package, but here’s what I did, and it worked like a charm.
1. Hive configuration:
1 8-frame box
3-4 center frames w/ drawn comb – (keeps the queen safer and gets the bees started more quickly)
2 frames of honey – one on each side of comb frames (feed for cold eves – more freezing temps expected)
3-4 fresh foundation frames on the outside edges (to allow room for growth).
2. Spray 1:1 sugar syrup to settle them down and occupy them while prepping for the install. (see below)
3. Remove several center frames to give space to dump bees.
4. Remove can of syrup. Bees will start flying at this point. (see below)
5. Remove queen cage and set aside. (see queen cage below)
6. Take the large wooden box, with the hole facing top, lift it a few inches and slam (not too hard) the bottom on a hard surface so that the bees drop into a ball at the bottom of the box.
7. Then slam (again, not too hard) the side of the box on a hard surface to further condense the ball of bees into the corner of the box.
8. Turn the box over and shake the bees out of the hole, dumping them into the open center area of the hive.
9. Repeat steps 6-8 until most of the bees are emptied into the hive. (see below)
10. Gently add the frames back into the center of the hive. Bee very careful, they won’t drop in completely right away because of the mounds of bees located at the bottom of the hive, but gradually the bees will move up onto the frames and the frames will lower into position. Be patient with this step.
11. Poke a hole through the candy in the queen cage. This helps facilitate the eating of the candy plug that allows for the release of the queen over a course of several days.
12. I insert my queen cage differently, and it has worked for me just fine. Insert the queen cage between two frames, under the top bars, embedded within the comb. I insert mostly horizontally with the candy side tilted up slightly. This prevents the exit from being blocked should any of the attendants die. A blocked exit means the queen can’t exit the cage. I also place the screen side down so the bees have easy access to the queen.
13. Once everyone is installed, I close her up and feed, feed, feed with 1:1 sugar syrup.
14. Some bees will likely be loitering in the wooden box. Place the box with left over bees on the ground just beneath the hive entrance. They’ll all march into the hive when they’re ready.
Freezing Temperatures and a New Package
Not a great combination, but it is what it is. We had freezing temps all week. As long as the queen is inserted within drawn comb with easy access to the bees, and as long as the bees have honey stores to feed on, then all should be well. You don’t want the queen to bee on fresh foundation. The bees might easily cluster away from the queen, leaving her to freeze.
Several Days Later
I checked on the hive Thursday (3 days later), the queen still hasn’t been released, but she looks alive and well. All the bees are active and building comb fast, all over the cage and up to the inner cover. Giving it one more day. If she isn’t released on Saturday, I’ll dig out the candy and free her into the hive.
Yay! Yellow Hive is Back
We’re all happy to have Yellow Hive back in action. Of course, Blue Hive was curious and had to come out and see what the fuss was all about.
Green and Blue Hives
Green Hive is still slow. I suspect they have too much space, or the queen may be doing poorly, so I’ll need to combine it with Blue or Yellow Hive, or find a new queen soon. Blue hive is active, but hoping they become more active as the weather warms again. This fluctuation in temps is crazy. Regardless, we’re in full swing now so let the decision making begin!
Coming soon – DIY solar wax melter, soap making, and harvesting beeswax from comb. Woo hoo!