Bee Keeping 106 Package and Nuc Install

Lesson 6: How To Install A Package of Bees

You should obtain or order the proper equipment discussed in 101, 102.  We would recommend that you start two hives. It would be good for you to have a plan “B” if plan “A” goes South.  You can order your bees threw www.apishive.com during the months of January and February.  If you live in Salt Lake, Denver, or Grand Junction Colorado.  Other wise try to find other package providers that deliver near you.  A very common amount of bees to order is a 3 pound package with an Italian queen or a 5 frame nuc starter hive. For a little extra, you can have your queen marked.  We sell packages and 5 frame nucs that have marked queens.  This really helps us prove that were only selling this years queens in our Nucs or Packages.  Color of the queens

Marked Queen Bee

dot indicates the year she is born.   Marked queens really make this a lot easier to find your queen when you do hive inspections.  This marking allows you to keep track of your queen.  If she has been replaced (superceded) by the hive you will know. The superceeding queen will not have a mark.

You typically you will be emailed or contacted a time, place, and date that you can pick up bees.  If your purchased a package of bees, the bees will be in a small screened box. This box is equipped with a sugar water can similar to a soup can and a  small wood cage that the queen will reside in while traveling to you.  This will keep the queen within the cluster inside the package but easily removed from the #3 of bees, and inspected by you prior to installation of the package of bees.

To prepare for the arrival of your bees, you will want to have a spray bottle and a light solution of two cups of warm water , and add two cups of granulated sugar.   Consider adding a teaspoon of essential oils to your spray bottle of sugar water.  Also don’t use any spray bottles that may of had any harmful chemicals stored in them.  If it’s a warm day when your picking up your package from the drop site, consider bringing the spray bottle with you.  Give the package a lite spray, the sugar water will cool them and feed them at the same time.  The box is made with a wood frame and screen. The spray will go right threw through the screen. Use the mist setting. They will have been traveling for typically 2-3 days.  The sugar water will really replenish the outside bees.  Don’t get them soaking if it’s below 70 degrees.  Try to keep the package in a shaded or dark place in the car or truck. If you use a truck, try to avoid excessive winds that may occur if you place your bees in the bed of your truck. If you have to travel a long distance at interstate speed, and the bees are in the bed of your truck, place something around them, protecting them from the wind.  But be sure to provide sufficient air flow. Bees must have air but not to much.  If you see lot’s of bees running around on the outer edges of the cage that look like wild ants running around they are way too hot.  Give em a spray, and get them out of any direct sunlight.

Many times here in the Intermountain West the weather might be too wet or cold to install your bees the same day they arrive. In this case, simply keep them in a cool garage, or dark room and spray them with sugar water 3-4 times a day lightly. They will usually be fine for 24 hours, if you have to wait. It is completely normal to see some dead bees on the bottom of their package.  Don’t panic, it is pretty common.  If you see a inch or more of dead bees on the bottom of the cage you need to get them installed ASAP, and provide sugar water in a feeder.  It’s likely they are starving and stressing.  This could become a problem in getting things going in the right direction.  Your supplier is not going to replace your bees if you call two weeks later with a dead hive or dead queen.  Most suppliers will replace expired queens that day or next.  If you do have a problem with your package call ASAP.  Your supplier might have great suggestions for tips for you.  Do not proceed to install anything if you need a replacement queen.  Be prepared to return the cage and queen in order to get a new one.  If you see a few bees on the outside of your package, do not panic. It does not usually mean there is a leak. It usually means that a few bees have been clinging to the outside of the package for the trip.  Please do check to make sure the box is sealed well prior to taking it home.  A small inadvertent hole could become problematic.  Tape it up prior to heading down the road.

Will the bees in the package sting you? Honeybees can always sting. However, you will find that by spraying them with sugar water, they will likely be very calm. They do not have any brood or honey to protect, they are not trying to defend their hive. Technically they don’t have a queen mingling amongst the cluster either. Their desire to defend is very low, they could be very docile and not aggressive at all.  ”Warning” don’t let your guard down. Package bees are typically very gentle they can still turn on you and sting.  Always wear proper equipment like a veil, gloves, and cover clothing.  5 frame nucs will be a different story.  They will be defensive.  Nucs will typically be sealed up for transportation and stowed safe for travel.  Proper ventilation is CRITICAL!!!!

Here is one effective way to install your bees in your new hive. Choose a good time of the day, when it is sunny, warm and not too windy. Mid to late afternoon works well. Be sure and take all your equipment to where you will install your package. You will need these tools:

  •  Spray bottle with sugar water (1:1 ratio)
  •  Hive tool
  •  A wood screw (for removing queen cage cork)
  •  A comfortable amount of protective clothing like a long sleeve shirt, boots, or tall shoes, and jeans
  • Veil
  • Bee gloves

 #3 Package Instructions

Be sure your new hive equipment is where you want your hive to be. At this point, you will only need your bottom board, 1 deep hive body, 10 frames and foundation, top cover. Remove 4 to 5 of the center frames from the hive body. This is where you will dump your bees into. Spray all 10 frames, both sides, with the 1:1 sugar water mixture. This will attract the bees to the foundation and give them a warm welcome to their new home.  The sugar water is good for the bees.  It gives them all a shot of energy they will need to get to work.

Also, before you install your package, you’ll want to insert your entrance feeder or your frame feeder.  Add your entrance reducer if you have one.  If you don’t have one you could make one out of spare wood or even a spare brick would work.  Block 80%-90% of the entrance.  This reduces the risk of robbing and reduces the package from absconding.  Reduce the entrance to a minimum, it really helps the process.  Bees will need to be fed when first installed because they are not functioning hive just yet. They have no incoming food. So feed them for a couple of weeks the same mixture of 1:1 sugar water (by weight) and add correct essential oils mixture.  It smells great and will stimulate the bees to get after the feed.  Remember to pre full you feeder prior to installing your bees.  Do not fear that the bees are flying away because you see lots of bees flying around. This is normal. They need to fly and do there business,  remember they have been traveling cooped up. So they have things to take care of.  Bees do not relive themselves inside the cages.  They are very clean, but you may see some signs of bee crud on your white box or lid.  This is pretty normal.  The bees will experience some stress and darker bee crud could likely result.  This will go away with time, and warmer temps.

Read 10 Steps Prior to Starting

  1. Put on your veil and tuck or wrap up your jeans in your boots or tie off with light rope you wont want any bees to crawl up your legs.
  2. Spray the package thoroughly on both sides of the screen, front and back. This will calm the bees, keep them well nurished and keep them from flying about so much during the installation process. Get them pretty wet.
  3. Now, you will want to begin opening your package. Do not be afraid. Remove any spare wood that is on top of your package.  This will expose the feeder can.
  4. You will need to identify a sliver or white flexible tail stapled or folder to the side or 1/2″ stapled or folded on top.  This little strap is attached to the queen cage.  Try not to let it fall into the cage while you remove the feeder can.
  5. The bees may become noisy which is normal. Spray them again if you need to calm them. They are becoming loud not because you are making them mad, but simply because of the the sunlight and air. They are ready to do what bees do.  Fly around and find the food.
  6. Tap the package on the ground, pry gently and remove the tin can.  Set up right as it may still have sugar water in it.   Remove can and the sliver or white tale that is attached to the queen cage.  Cover exposed hole that will be as you remove can from package.  The tail will be attached to the queen cage.  Verify that the queen is in there and alive.  Detach the queen cage tail from the package completely.  Place queen on top of existing frames in hive.  Hold there until further instructions.
  7. Remove cover gently tip the package of bees over the new hive, positioning it over the center where the 4 frames have been removed.  Proceed to dump your bees out and into the hive.  At this point, the bees will have access to the great outdoors, specifically, their new hive.  You can shake as hard as you want and you’ll start seeing them pour into the new hive. You may also want to firmly strike the side of the package with the palm of your hand to free bees that are hanging on to the screen.  You can have gloves on to reduce a possible stinging.  If you smash a bee you till typically get stung if you have bare hands.
  8. Installing your queen.  The slow release method is the best. These are not her bees, and she is not the queen they are used to just yet!  If you pull the cork plug they will kill her.  You must let them get to know her before she can roam freely among her new hive.  Gently pick up your queen cage.  Shake gently to remove the cluster that will likey be on the cage.  The queen cage has a screen on top and through the screen you can identify a white candy substance at one end. This is the end that you will have to remove the cork.  So just take a wood screw and gently screw the screw into the cork and gently pull it out.  There should not be access to the queen but their should be access to the candy.  It must have a white hard candy blocking do no remove the cork at the other end.  You will loose your queen quickly as she will fly right out or other bees can get it to quickly to kill her.  Only remove the cork from the candy end of the cage. . Do not distrub that candy plug. As the bees eat through the candy, they will become familiar with their new queen. Then, once the candy has bee eaten, she will emerge from her cage as queen of the hive and be readily accepted by her new workers.  This will take at least one day and sometimes more like 2-3 days.  This is a good thing.
  9. Once you’ve removed the cork and exposed the candy you will want to place the cage between the frames in the center of the hives from the top. Use the pressure of the hive frames to hold the cage between the frames. Hang the queen cage with the candy side down and as close to the middle of the hive as possible. Some say to hang it with the candy up, incase her attendant bees within her cage die, they don’t block her exit.  Don’t worry as we’ve never seen a queen blocked or kept in by expired attendants that are sometimes within a queen in the cage.
  10. Replace proper frames.  8 frames in 8 frame equipment, and 10 in 10 frame equipment.  If you have frame feeders you will have less frames.  like 7-8 frames with 2 Gallon feeders 8-9 Frames with 1 gallon frame feeders.  If you don’t replace the proper amount of frames the bees will quickly make comb in place where your frames should have gone. This will be a mess and huge misuse of your feeding resources.  Just replace your frames gently as there will be alot of bees.  This may take a few minutes for you to get them all in.

You only need the one deep box at this time. Let them draw out the comb, usually 6-8 frames and about a month, then you can place your second hive body on top. Once 6-8 frames of your second deep have been drawn out, you can start placing your honey supers on.  You may need to place the package box near your hive like on the side or back of the hive.  But don’t put it the front of the hive.  We don’t want the bees to come our and go back into the package.  If you have additional packages you can proceed to your next hive. Our package video, it’s old but we make another one thats better soon.

 

Five Frame Nuc Install

Please read all 9 steps prior to installing your nuc.

  1. Transport nuc with good ventlation.  Rubber band lid on or duck tape lid if your transporting in back of a truck.  Lid could blow off if not secured.  Try to keep out of direct sunlight.
  2. No need to dress up for the first part of these steps.
  3. Your nuc will come in a cardbord box.  It will typically have a yellow plug in the front that is plastic.  Set up your hive body with frames and all.  Bottom board, Hive body, and lid.  Then just set your nuc box with the yellow plug facing the same direction of your entrance and on top of the hive.  Pull the yellow plug out and walk away quickly.  They will likely be aggressive at first as they just made a trip your place.  They need air, and they need to get out.  Lot’s of bee should come out at first but find home quickly if it’s cooler outside.  Let nuc settle down for at least a day.
  4. Pick a nice day to install nuc.  Less wind, sunny, and mild temps.
  5. Put on your veil and tuck or wrap up your jeans in your boots or tie off with light rope, you wont want any bees to crawl up your legs.  Light smoker, and put on gloves.
  6. Approach nuc, and gently smoke entrance.
  7. Set nuc on ground next to hive.  Your hive could use a 80-90% entrance reducer.  The reducer will be removed as your hive grows in a month or so.  Remove hive lid and make sure to have sugar water in feeder ready to install into hive body if you decided to feed.  You should only have 3-4 frames in a 10 frame equipment.  Remove lid from nuc and puff a few more puffs of smoke.
  8. One by one remove frames from nuc.  Place them into hive body carefully.  This is a great time to inspect the frames and identify your queen.  She will have a dot to identify here and she will be quickly moving around the frames so be careful not to smash her once you find her.  Try to keep the frames in order from your nuc to the hive body.  Once all the frames are transfer if there are bees still in box just lightly tap the box and dump the remainder bees in cardboard into your hive body.  Remember to really take some time to find the queen.  It will not get any easier to find her.
  9. Replace lid on hive body and there you have it.  Your nuc is installed.  Keep it as a single box for about 3-4 weeks then add additional equipment as necessary.  Take card board box away.

You only need the one deep box at this time. Let them continue to draw out the comb.  They should have at least 4 frames finished with them working on a 5th.  It won’t take long for a nuc to grow to 6-8 frames in 2-3 weeks.  They should have 2-3 frames of brood that will be hatching soon.  You can place your second hive body on top typically in about 2-3 weeks. Once 6-8 frames of your second deep have been drawn out, you can start placing your honey supers on.  In a average area this would occur late June early July.  It all depends on how good spring is to the bees and if you decide to feed while in the early stage of developing the lower brood boxes.  If you have additional nucs you can proceed to install your next hive.  How we make our nucs video here.