September 06, 2017 3 min read

Have you ever seen how a package of bees is installed into a hive? I was shocked at the process, after 15 years of only installing swarms I had never installed a package of bees, ever. Since I have a lot of people asking questions of how to do it, I decided I should know what it is about.

I had my chance when 20 packages arrived last year that we were going to put into nucleus hives. I asked the package guy how to do it. 'Hmmm!' that's pretty aggressive I thought. Bang the screened package box hard on a surface to shake down the bees, then feeder can is pulled out and the screened box is shaken madly until the bees eventually come out of that 4 inch hole. 'Yikes!'

So I thought why don't we just pop off the screen on the side of the package and shake them all at once into the hive. Well if you take off the screen you can't get your $5 rebate for returning the package box next year.  But who cares! 5 bucks to avoid the hassle of trying to shake bees thorough a little hole and the stress to the bees. Seriously? You mean thousands of people in the US are going through this silly process to save $5? Really?

Let's all do the sane method. You will need a thin screwdriver to pry up the wooden frame holding in the screen, that's it. Then the concept of  hanging the queen cage from one of the top bars in the hive is a bad idea. This practice is almost a guarantee to get cross comb. Why? Because the orientation of the queen cage in the new hive will most certainly be off and the bees will have already decided in the package box how that first little comb will be orientated.

So, the point here is to walk the queen into the entrance of the hive. No candy plugs for the bees to free the queen. Just walk her in. We did this process for 20 packages, successfully, no problems. Note: Before you release the queen make sure the bees and the queen have been together in the package for a couple of days so the bees will accept her. Check with your bee package supplier.

So if you are going to install a package of bees just look at the video, I'm sure this is the best approach.

Corwin installing a Package of Bees

Corwin shows how to simply take off the screen on one side of the package and get the bees in with a shake.

Things to consider when installing a package of bees

  • Don't install bees if it is raining or if it going to be below about 35 degrees at night for an extended time.  It is detrimental to the bees to have moisture inside the hive. -If is going to be cold you could add some comb that has some open cells from another hive so that the new bees have something to crawl into at night to cluster and stay warm.

  • Check with the supplier to find out if the queen has been with the bees for about 3 days

  • Check with the supplier to find out if the queen cage plug is candy, marshmallow, plastic or a cork. You may need a small screw driver (as Corwin uses in his video) to open the plug of the queen cage.

  • Install the package of bees as soon as possible after arrival. If the queen has not been with the bees for about 3 days or the weather is rainy or too cold (below about 35 at night) you will want to put the package of bees in a cool location like a garage, shed or cool basement. A temperature cooler than about 45 degrees so the bees are not too active.

  • Lightly mist the screen on the cage with some water and if it will be a day or two then gently mist some watered down honey, 1:1, onto the screen a few times a day.

Corwin Installing Bees from The Bee Bus

The Bees Begin to Fan

A honeybee fanning after installing the colony into a hive. She is sending her scent  pheromone alerting others in the colony of the hive location, where the queen is

Honeybees fanning