A New Home for 10,000

This year we decided to install packages of bees instead of the nucs we have purchased the past few years. This worked very well for us, because package delivery date was early and it seems our nuc friends are still waiting!

Installing a package is a rite of passage for new beekeepers. All winter and spring, new beekeepers plan equipment, build equipment, place orders, and research. They’re awaiting the day when they add live bees to their system.

A package is a screen cage containing 3 pounds, or 10,000 bees. There is a caged queen with a few attendants and a large jar of sugar syrup for food. The bees came up from Georgia, and therefore it’s a good idea to install your package quickly after receiving them.

I like to mix sugar water in a spritzer bottle and mist it gently on the bees through the screen to give them something to do. The lid is easily pried off with a hive tool. The can, which fits in the cage easily can be lifted out with nimble fingers or with the hive tool. Then the queen cage can be removed and inspected, confirming the presence of a live queen.

Now for my favorite part! First, remove a few frames from the middle of your hive. I like to firmly thump the package on a hard substance a few times, to knock the bees into a mass and off the sides of the cage. Then invert the package and shake the bees into the space frames were removed! Yes, bees will fly around you. Yes, it does make for a dramatic initiation into the season. Yes it still gives me a thrill!

Frames can be put back into the hive and then the queen cage gently nestled in. I like to remove a cork and then puncture the sugar slightly, allowing for a slow release. We’ll check back in a couple days to confirm the queen escaped the cage and begins laying!

In the meantime, we’ll leave the one-story hive set up with a jar of sugar water. I like to feed newly installed bees to help them get started.