How To Install Package Bees in a Langstroth Hive
by Anita Deeley at BeverlyBees.com
Preparing to Install Package Bees – Be ready when your bees arrive.
All equipment needs to be set up and in place. You need at a minimum –
- hive stand
- bottom board
- 1 hive body
- 10 frames with foundation or comb (for a 10 frame hive) or 8 frames with foundation or comb (for an 8 frame hive). Note: You can also use foundationless frames, if doing this it helps to have every other frame be a frame with foundation or comb, to help guide the bees to build the comb straight.
- inner cover
- outer cover
- entrance reducer
Boardman feeders are great for package installs because you can replace the feed without disturbing the bees while they are getting settled. However a regular entrance reducer will not fit when the feeder is in place, so you will need to make a smaller one or use a piece of wood to reduce the entrance to the hive to protect it from robbing.
Pick up your bees as soon as they arrive, either from a local dealer or the post office. Check that the bees are still alive. An inch or more of dead bees piled up on the bottom is not good. If you see this, you need to call the supplier.
Install the bees as soon as possible after arrival. If it is going to be a day or two before the install, you will want to put the bees in a cool, but not cold location, in a dark, draft free area such as a garage, basement etc until you are ready. Lightly mist the outside of the package screen gently using a spray bottle with 1:1 sugar syrup to feed the bees, twice a day as needed.
You will need a clean spray bottle that has never been used for pesticides, cleaning solutions etc. Fill it with 1:1 sugar syrup. Sugar syrup should be 1 part white cane sugar dissolved in 1 part warm water (by weight or volume) and cooled to room temp. You need to make enough for your feeder and your spray bottle.
You will also need:
- a hive tool
- a lit smoker
- smoker fuel and lighter
- a bee brush or feather
- bee suit/veil
- rubber bands or rim board
- duct tape (just in case)
- a pocket knife
Now It’s Time To Install Some Bees
Late afternoon is the best time to install the bees into their new hive. Make sure your smoker is well lit. Although it is not usually used when installing package bees it is a good habit to get into when you start inspecting your hives.
Optional – If it is above 60 F, mist the outside of the package very lightly with sugar syrup. This gives the bees a snack and helps prevent too many from flying around. Do not do this if it is cold outside.
Using your hive tool, pry open the lid of the box.
Bump the package against the ground or the top of the hive to dislodge the bees.
Remove feeder jar. Hold the tab for the queen cage. Don’t let go!
Remove the queen cage from the package of bees. Replace the lid on the package so the bees cannot escape.
Open the hive and remove 3-4 frames from one side of the hive.
If bees are clustering on the queen cage, brush them into the hive with a bee brush or feather so you can inspect the queen.
Long Live The Queen
IMPORTANT – Inspect the queen and make sure she is alive and healthy. Watch her walk. Check that she is not gimpy, count her legs, make sure they are all there. Check that the queen is alive. If she is dead or injured, put the queen cage back in the package, close it up and store it in a cool dark place. Call your dealer ASAP to get a replacement.
Some queen cages have two corks, one on each end. Only remove the cork from the CANDY END of the queen cage with your knife.
Three Different Ways to Install the Queen – Pick One
- Rubber Band Method – Place a rubber band around one frame in the hive. Place the queen cage between the rubber band and the foundation.
- Rim Board Method – Place the queen cage on top of the frames, facing up, and place a rim board around her.
- Push In Method – If you have drawn comb you can push the queen cage into the wax, sticking it to the comb.
#1 Rubber Band Method of Installing The Queen
Place the queen cage under the rubber band and against the foundation using the rubber band to hold her in place.
Push the queen cage down a few inches so the bees have room to take care of her and feed her. You can also install the cage vertically behind the rubber band. If you do this be sure the candy end where the cork was removed is facing up. This way, in case the attendants die, they will not fall down against the hole and block the queen from getting out.
Replace the frame with the queen cage attached into the center of the hive. The queen should always be placed in the center of the hive.
Push another frame gently next to the queen cage.
#2 Rim Board Method of Installing The Queen
If you don’t want to install your queen using the rubber band method, you can install her using a rim board or medication board. An extra piece of equipment is required but hanging the cage is not necessary with this method.
After removing the cork from the queen cage, simply lay the queen cage on the top bars in the center of the hive.
After you shake all the bees into the hive and replace the frames, place a rim board on the hive to give the bees space to cluster around the queen.
#3 Push In Method of Installing The Queen
This is a good method to use if you have drawn comb and it is warm outside. With this method you simply remove the cork from the candy end of the cage and push the queen cage into the comb in the middle of a frame in the center of the hive. Make sure the candy end is accessible and a few inches from the top of the frame. Be sure the screen can be accessed by the bees, so they can feed her. Face the candy end up so if an attendant dies, they will not block the hole for the queen to escape. After the cage is secure, gently place another frame against the frame with the cage, closing it as best as possible.
Now It’s Time To Install The Bees
Don’t worry if you don’t get 100% of the bees out, the rest of the bees will find their way into the hive.
Gently replace the frames. Do not push the frames in on top of the bees, let them fall into place so you do not squish the bees in the hive.
If using the rim board method to install the queen, first place the rim board on the hive. Place the inner cover back on the hive with the deep side down, followed by the outer cover. Be sure to brush bees out of the way, so you do not squish them when replacing the covers.
Feeding the Bees
- Package bees on foundation have no food, honey, pollen or bee bread and can starve if not fed. Feeding 1:1 syrup stimulates them to make wax which they need to build their home and to store their food inside.
- A boardman feeder is great for newly installed bees because you do not need to disturb the hive to see if they need more food.
- Keep the feeder full and keep on feeding your bees 1:1 syrup until they have at least all 10 frames drawn out or as needed. Be careful not to over feed during a nectar flow.
After Package Install
- Do not touch the hive for at least a week. This is the hardest part. But it is essential. If you disturb the bees too much they may kill their queen instead of accepting her.
- Keep the feeder full.
- Bees will be flying everywhere. They are very confused. Soon you will see them flying outside in front of the hive doing orientation flights. This will last for a few days and then calm down.
- Look for bees carrying out dead bees, the undertaker bees. This is one of the first things you will see and it will help you know the colony is doing well.
- Look for bees bringing in pollen on their legs which they need to feed the brood. This is a good sign you will have a laying queen soon.
One week later – Check for Release and Remove The Queen Cage
- Suit up, gently smoke the bees with a puff in the entrance and a puff under the cover. Open the hive up and inspect the queen cage. See if the queen has been released. If she has it is time to remove the queen cage. If the queen has not been released check to see that she is still alive and remove the cork from the non candy end. Be careful not to let the queen fly away. Put the cage back in, close up the hive and check it again in a few days.
Here is the cage after it has been removed. Look at all the wax the bees built on it.
Close the hive back up and do not disturb it for another week. At which time you can check for eggs and brood to make sure the queen is laying.
For even more pictures check out the gallery below. Simple click on a picture to open it and click the arrows to scroll through the gallery. Click the picture and the gallery will close. Enjoy!