Strong Starts For Your Package Bees

 The most important objective when taking home your package bees is to make them feel right at home.  For starters, think about the needs that any other livestock would have be it a flock of sheep, chickens or a new goat.  They need adequate food, water and shelter.  

Before we get too far, lets discuss your bees acclimating to the pheromones of their new queen.  It takes several days for this process to occur.  Keep in mind that your bees will be quite new to their queen and container.  As soon as the bees are loaded down south, they are on their nonstop (accept for gas) trip up to their new homes here in Michigan.  It is fine to wait a day or two to hive your bees as long as they are nourished with some sugar water.  They will have cans of syrup inside their packages.  However, I have found that it is also a good idea to spray sugar syrup onto their screen for them to access if the can is not dripping sugar syrup and a quick enough rate.  

If you are storing multiple packages for the night, keep them separated.  You don't want the queens' pheromones mixing and causing confusion between the two colonies.  Keep in mind that they have been transported in close quarters with pheromones flowing every which way.  They still need time to acclimate.

Also, some beekeepers lay their packages screen side down on a damp towel.  This enables the bees to have access to a means of hydration if necessary. Although, the can provided will also serve the same purpose. 

For bees, you can provide carbohydrates and protein in the form of sugar and pollen.  The sugar should be in the form of 1:1 sugar syrup. This is, one part sugar to one part water. It can be fed through many different types of feeders.  (Boardman feeders, frame feeders, top jar feeders, etc) .  The sugar syrup will also serve the purpose of hydration.  The main function of the sugar syrup is to stimulate the wax secretion glands in the worker bees thus enabling them to quickly draw out comb for the queen to begin laying in.  Feed, feed, feed!  A new colony can take down about 1/2 gallon per day.  Give your bees sugar syrup until they stop taking it.  Once they stop you can rest assured that they have found other sources which better suit their needs.

Protein is not as necessary in May because there is ample pollen for them to forage.  However, one can purchase pollen patties or dry pollen substitute to provide if they so choose. 

Having some drawn comb frames is ideal because your queen can begin laying right out of the gate instead of waiting for her colony to draw out comb for her.  Since many of you are just starting out, you might not have drawn comb to provide for your bees.  Some of you are choosing to go "foundationless", others are going with wax foundation and still others are going with plastic foundation. All of these have their certain advantages and drawbacks.  They are all suitable options though.  Just remember that it is imperative that they have the sugar syrup to draw out that comb sufficiently.  If you have plastic foundation, be sure that it is pre-coated with wax.  If it's not, purchase some bees wax, melt it down and paint it onto your plastic foundation.

Now is the time to be painting your hive boxes, bottom boards and covers.  I suggest applying 2 coats of latex primer followed by 2 coats of latex paint.  Be sure to select lighter colors that will reflect the heat instead of absorb it.  You don't want to be applying paint the week before your bees arrive because you want the paint to be fully cured and free of smells before you try to sell it to your new colony.  If they don't like it, they just might abscond.

You want your bees to feel like they are safe and have a defendable shelter.  Be sure to use your entrance reducers for this purpose.  Leave the reducer on its smallest opening for several days.  Your newly installed package bees are in a vulnerable state and can feel the need to take off if they suspect that they are unable to defend their new dwelling from other would be predators and pests.

   Leave them be!!! You will be tempted to peak in several times a day to see what's happening.  Just let them adjust to their new surroundings.  You will only seem like a predator if you keep lifting the roof of their house off and pulling up frames to inspect them.  Again, that may tempt them to think about moving on.

Install the queen. REMEMBER TO REMOVE THE CORK!  There will either be a candy plug behind it or you will need to replace the cork with a marshmallow.  DON'T LET THE QUEEN CLIMB OUT DURING THIS PROCESS. 

Please refer to the recommended videos for how to install your bees and queen.


After 3 days, you will need to go in and see if the queen was released.    At this time you should check for eggs and/or brood. 

If you see eggs and brood then you will know that your queen has been released, has been accepted, is laying and all is well.  Sometimes the bees choose to "supersede" the queen provided.  The caging of queens and putting them with packaged bees is basically like an arranged marriage and sometimes, the colony just chooses to raise their own.  That is perfectly fine.  It is a minor setback for the beekeeper's standpoint but, is best the best option from the bee's point of view.

Another significant sign that all is well in your hive is if you see incoming bees with

pollen sacks on their back legs.  This is one sign of a queenright hive.  Although some would disagree, I have found it to be true.  Once you see bees carrying pollen in, I'd say it's time to open your entrance reducer to a wider setting.  Observe the traffic in and out of your hive.  If it seems congested at the opening, plan to completely remove the excluder soon.  After a week or so, let 'em fly!   May and June provide ample pollen and nectar for honeybees.  They won't be at much risk for being disturbed at this point.

Hopefully this information will help you give your bees a strong start to their season.  Remember to watch the package installation videos!

1 comment

  • Great info!


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