About Package Bees
A package of bees is essentially like a swarm of bees, approx 1.5kg of bees with a mated queen.
The risks with installing a package of bees is that they are not on comb at all, they are effectively in the same state as a swarm of bees would be. Therefore the biggest risk when you come to put them in your hive is that they decide to take off and swarm away. Not good when you’ve just paid for some package bees.
This is a risk that is there, no matter what you do, and is a risk that must be accepted when buying package bees. Package bees should really only be used by beekeepers with experience.
How to Install Package Bees
We are asked frequently if package bees can be collected at anytime. In helping to manage the risks of swarming, the best time to install package bees is in the late evening. Bees won’t swarm at night, so the risk of loosing the package of bees to absconding/ swarming is much reduced.
Therefore our collection times for package bees is usually in the afternoon, as we make these up in the morning. The package bees are made up that afternoon, so they are completely fresh and ready to go full of young bees.
When you return home with the bees, we recommend you install the bees that evening, even if the light is fading. Or if you’d prefer you can wait until the next morning (early). But the benefit to having the bees installed that evening is that they will have had some chance to start building comb and therefore will be less likely to abscond.
When installing the package bees you will need to feed syrup and they will take rather a lot. Remember it takes 8lb of honey or syrup for the bees to draw just 1lb of beeswax and they have alot of beeswax to draw to build comb.
We always recommend starting the bees on foundation as the drawing of combs is much neater and also the presence of the beeswax foundation gives the bees something to work off. We appreciate though that alot of people using packages use them in foundationless hive systems, warre, top bar etc. However even a starter strip of beeswax foundation can be given in these systems and make the process a whole lot neater and easier to manage when it comes to working with your bees.
When you are ready to install, spray the bees in the package bee box with a light syrup, and tap the box firmly on the ground, this will agglomerate all the bees into a ball and from this ball you can tap the bees through the whole in the package bee box into the hive. Ensuring that the hive has the middle frames removed to accomodate the ball of bees you are tapping in.
Once the bees are tapped in, you can place the queen cage, with candy tab removed, candy end down between the centre frames – which you will have replaced into the hive once the bulk of the bees are tapped in.
You can then re-assembled the hive, coverboard and feeder – filled with syrup – and then roof.
The entrance of the hive should be reduced to around 1 bee-way for the first couple of days at least, this will allow the bees to fly in and out of the hive and start foraging. When installing package bees, be aware there will be alot of orientation flights with bees flying everywhere.