Tag Archive | package

New Package for Yellow Hive

Monday, April 14, 2014

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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)

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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)

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5. Remove queen cage and set aside. (see queen cage below)

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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)

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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.

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13. Once everyone is installed, I close her up and feed, feed, feed with 1:1 sugar syrup.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

Installation Day

May 12, 2013

The day had finally arrived.  Our nucs were ready to install!  As a refresher, I spent the prior night watching YouTube videos on how to install bee nucs.  Gotta love YouTube!

Nucs and Packages

Perhaps I should have explained in my prior post about what a nuc actually is.  You see, new beekeepers can choose to start their hives with a nucleus hive or with a package.  A nucleus hive is a mini-hive that includes a wax covered box (which acts as the hive body) and five established frames with the bees and the queens all ready to go.  All I do is transfer those frames into my larger hives, then add three new frames to fill my 8-frame hive.  Nucs are the easiest way to start a brand new hive, and because the colony is already established, you get a quick head start.

Packages are screened boxes that contain about 3000 bees, a separate box containing the queen and several attendant bees, and a can of sugar syrup.  The package is opened by pulling out the can of syrup and the queen box.  Then the bees are literally dumped into an empty hive.  Bees don’t like this much, which makes this method a bit risky.  Plus the queen has to be gradually introduced and accepted by the worker bees.  But packages are considerably cheaper and can be purchased in the mail.  I understand postal worker just love having bees in their facility.  Packages are best to use if you have drawn out frames just need bees.

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Nucleus Hive (Nuc) Ready to Install

Let the Installation Begin!

So I went into Sunday morning feeling excited to jump in and start interacting with the bees.  I had even created a checklist of action items in preparation for the big event…

  • Make 2 gallons 1:1 simple syrup made the night before
  • Fill feeder buckets and hammer down tight so they’re ready to go
  • Learn to light the smoker
  • Pull tools out of box:
    • Hive tool
    • Brush
    • Smoker (lessons via YouTube)

My hubster had been waiting to light the smoker with his stash of wood chips from the workshop.  So while he worked on that, I marched the tools and feeder buckets up to the apiary.  We set up a video camera and I dressed in full gear, completely covered from the top of my hat all the way down to my pink muck boots.

I moved with relaxed and fluid motions.  Gently and slowly I removed each frame, inspected for the queens, then transferred them to the center of the hive in the exact same position from which they’d been pulled from the nuc.  Then brand new frames were added to the outside slots.

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Removing Frames from the Nuc

The hubster took photos from afar.  He could see the flying activity that surrounded me and he nervously began coaching me, thinking I was unaware of my surroundings.  I quickly reminded him that just because I couldn’t SEE the activity didn’t mean I couldn’t HEAR the activity.  I was very aware.  But when you’re covered head to toe in canvas, leather and muck boots, it’s hard not to feel like you have the upper hand.

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Adding Established Frames to the New Hive

I didn’t find the queen in Green Hive 1 (GH1), but I did find one in Yellow Hive 2 (YH2).  I was pretty certain both were where they were supposed to be.  A few puffs of smoke calmed the girls down and coaxed them back into the hive.  Feeders were placed and I closed everything up.

They were pretty cool about the move and they certainly adapted quickly to their new space.   I was thrilled that the deed was done and that it was a success…and (guess what?) it’s on YouTube.

See Bee Install Movie on YouTube!

Pre-Bee Planning and Decision-Making

Jan-March 2013

Before the bees arrived, we had some key decisions to make.

The Hives

Its recommended that new beekeepers start with at least 2 hives. That way, if one swarms or dies for some reason, you have a backup.

So, the next decision was what types of hive bodies to use? A bit of research confirmed my original thought. I chose 8 frame mediums simply because they be easier to handle. Brood and honey-filled frames can weigh about 5-7 pounds each. Multiply that by 8, then consider that up to 6 of these boxes will be piled upwards… oh yeah, my back will thank me.

It’s also a good idea to pick one size and stick with it. That way all of my hive bodies will be interchangeable.

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Picking Out Colors

I knew I wanted bright and fun. They also had to be different so the bees could differentiate their own hives. I chose golden yellow and lime green to add a splash of the warm tropics to our backyard. It worked! I love our bright colorful hives, and the bees seem to like them too.

The Apiary Site

I selected a site facing east so it gets the morning sun, is not too close to the neighbors, is adjacent to the garden, is out of dog range, and is shielded between the greenhouse and some tall shrubs.

We prepped the ground with landscaping fabric, lined the perimeter with railroad ties, and filled the space in with small landscaping pebbles. The hives – painted bright green (Hive 1) and yellow (Hive 2) – set about 2 feet up on cinder blocks.

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Packages or Nucs

This was a no brainer. We chose nucs simply because we were starting from scratch. Now that we have filled in frames, I’ll probably purchase packages in the future.

Feeders

Bucket feeders are simple to use, inexpensive, safer for the bees, and closed off to ants, pests and robbers. The only downfall is that an extra box is needed for cover.

I have yet to hear any good words about boardman feeders, and the open feeders just seem too….well…open.

Water Source

For our water source, we purchased a bird bath that automatically fills from a 2 liter soda bottle that screws into the center. As the water level lowers, more water is released from the bottle. So we just refill the bottle as needed. The water source went out before the bees arrived so that it would be the first source of water they saw. It worked. They drink from it regularly. Fun to watch their little bodies pump up and down when they drink.

To provide resting spots for the bees, I filled the bottom of the bird bath with colorful glass nuggets, like you find in flower vases and aquariums. I love the way glass looks outdoors, especially in the water, and it works quite well for the bees.

Equipment

I took the easy route when it comes to equipment. I ordered a kit that included my first complete hive, hive tool, brush, smoker, boardman feeder (which I’ll be happy to give away if anybody wants one), a beekeeping book, and a great Brushy Mountain Intro to Beekeeping video. Definitely the way to go!

So far our upfront decisions are working out well. But everyone is different, and depending on your bee situation, you may have made different choices. I’d love to hear what choices you made for your bees.

Leave a comment and share how and why you may have done things differently (or the same) and how those choices are working out for you!