Package Installation

Installing your first package of bees can be intimidating. You may have noticed a wide variety of techniques suggested for installing a package of bees and properly placing the queen. Here is a simple and straightforward list of instructions on installing your package.

Step 1

To determine *when* to install your package of bees, find out the date they were shaken into the cage. Most of the time, Koehnen bees are shaken 1-2 days before they are PICKED UP from the ranch. Your package contains a brand new queen, so the workers need to become accustomed to the new queen before you install -- it should be a minimum of 48 hours before you can install the bees from the date they were shaken. Until installation, keep your packages either indoors in a cool, well-ventilated spot, or outdoors in a densely shaded, protected area with good ventilation. It is important the bees stay ventilated, at a cool (but not cold) temperature, away from chemicals and sprays. Bees placed outside will likely draw "hitchhiker bees"--nearby wild bees that crawl on the outside screens, drawn by the queen.

Step 2

The best time to install is during the early evening hours. This is so the bees will tend not to fly, but will stay in the hive for the night and settle in. Place an entrance reducer at the entrance to prevent robbing and reduce the need for guard bees. If you don't have an entrance reducer you can block all but about 2 inches of the entrance with grass or burlap.

Step 3

To install each package, start with a single super or brood box. Have your smoker ready to aid in calming the bees. Remove the three center frames from the hive. Remove the package feed can and the queen from the package (she is in her own cage hanging from the top of the box of bees slightly aside from the feed can). To reduce flying, lightly spray the package with water mist before shaking the bees from the cage. Knock the box of bees once firmly on the ground which will knock the bees to the bottom of the cage. Then turn the box over and shake the bees into the hive. Use small puffs from your smoker to calm the bees. In about 3-5 minutes they will have crawled up sufficiently so you can carefully replace the three frames.

Step 4

Check the queen. Remove the cork carefully so that the queen does not escape (a drywall screw works well for removing the cork). Since there is no candy inside the queencage, you'll need to replace the cork with a marshmallow, some granulated honey or candy. The candy helps make her release more gentle and gradual. Place the queencage between the two center frames with the entrance down about 45 degrees. The cage should be placed about 1 inch from the top of the hive, or if the temperature is cold, place the cage farther down in the hive so the bees can cluster around her to keep her warm.

Step 5

If bees start crawling over the top edges of the super, use a small amount of smoke and brush them back inside the hive. Replace the lid and feed with sugar syrup (1:1 ratio), even if there is honey in the hive--feeding is very important when establishing a new hive. The bees will settle and become established before flying the next morning. The workers will chew through the candy in the queencage and she should release overnight.

Step 6

In 5-7 days, check the colony for eggs and larvae and remove the empty queencage. If your package was installed on brand new foundation (no drawn comb) it may take a bit longer to see eggs--the queen needs comb to lay eggs, so the bees will need time to pull comb. Keep the hive well-fed for rapid buildup. As colony size increases, remove the entrance blockage.