Package Bee Installation

Package bees are used to start new colonies or to repace colonies lost over winter. Below is a pictorial showing one method of installing them.


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Package bees are sold by the pound and shipped in shoe box size screened packages as shown above. These are 3 lb packs that were shipped from Georgia to Michigan where I picked them up. Popular sizes that they come in are 2lb & 3 lb. In 2004 we purchased 20 of them for $45 each. (In 2012 they cost about $100 each)
Each package has 3lb of honeybees, a queen in a special cage and a metal container of sugar syrup to feed the bees in transit.


These bees were installed in a beeyard in an orchard in Almont Michigan. Chuck Bristol, the farm owner showed up to see what we were doing. Later his father Bill Bristol arrived and helped take some of these pictures.
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A "deep brood super" with 9 frames is set on top of a bottom board (the one shown is a "screened bottom board" which is used to reduce problems from "varroa mites."
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The can of sugar syrup that was feeding the bees is removed and the queen cage that was stapled to the top is removed.
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The queen cage (shown on the left) has a section in it that is full of a hard frosting like mixture. A cork is removed at one end and a nail is used to push a hole through this sugar mixture. The honeybees will continue to enlarge this hole over a few days - this time delay allows the bees to get used to the new queen so that they accept her and do not kill her.
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The queen cage is inserted between frames in the center of the hive.
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A second brood super is put on top of the bottom one with a few frames removed from the center. This make a space for me to dump the bees in.
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The honeybees are shaken quite hard into the open space, and a little smoke is used to drive them down to the queen below and make room to put the frames back in.
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The frames are put back in the hive and a powdered sugar/terramycin to help control bee diseases is put on the top frames.
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An "inner cover" is put on, then a "top cover" and the hive is ready for another year. In a few weeks we will return and make sure that the queen has escaped from her queen cage and is laying eggs.


In these pictures you see me installing these honeybees without a veil protecting my eyes. I do not recommend that you do that - you should always use a veil all the time. Stings around the eyes are very painfull and could possibly damage your sight. I did not use a veil in this instance since there were no other live colonies in this beeyard and this was the very first one installed - very vew bees were flying and it was easier to use the camera without a veil. 



A few weeks later I returned and I had a helper with me this time. Eric Fisher (a local youth who also helped prune vines) joined me for a few days checking the colonies of package bees.
Each colony was inspected to see that the queen was released from her cage and was laying eggs
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In another month we will return and start putting honey supers on the top for the bees to put the honey crop in.


We also have a pictorial showing the whole year at a honey farm....