Zen and the art of Package Bees

This year I decided to try a different technique for hiving my package bees.  Instead of the traditional method of bumping, shaking, and dumping the bees into their new home, I used the following technique…

zen-packages-spring2010

1.  Prepare your Equipment

Assemble a hive stand, bottom board, and hive body.  Put five frames of foundation or drawn comb into the hive body, and push them all to one side.

2.  Feed the girls…

Add an entrance feeder and fill it with 1:1 sugar syrup.  Close off the rest of the entrance with some grass clippings.  This will keep the new bees inside while keeping potential robbers out.  In a few days, the grass will dry up and fall out on it’s own.

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3.   Calm things down

Fill a spray bottle with sugar syrup, and gently spray the outsides of the packages of bees.  You’ll notice that this quiets the bees down almost instantly as their attention quickly turns to the task of cleaning each other of the sticky, delicious syrup.

4.  Install the package

Place the entire package into the hive body.  Pry off the plywood cover to reveal the syrup can and queen cage.  Gently remove the queen cage and use the plywood cover to close off the hole left by the queen cage.

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5.  Get the queen ready

Pry off any covers on the candy-side of the queen cage, and then, using a 1/16″ drill bit, very gently bore a hole through the center of the candy plug.  This will speed the release of the queen.    Place the queen cage screen-side up on top of the package.

6.  Release the girls.

Carefully remove the syrup can (tip: stick a strong magnet to it and pull straight up) and immediately place your inner cover on top of the hive.  Using your bee brush, gently brush the bees from the syrup can onto the inner cover.  Replace the outer cover.  Hold things in place with a rock.

7.  Wait

Don’t open the hive for three days.  Be sure to keep the feeder jar full.

8.  Clean up

After three days, open the hive.  The queen should have been released by now;  if she isn’t, dig out the remaining candy and let her walk out of the cage.  Remove the empty package and replace it with five frames of foundation or drawn comb.  If there are any bees left in the package (there are usually a few stragglers), place the nearly-empty package near the hive entrance.  The remaining bees will make their way back inside.

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I performed this procedure this spring with four packages, and each one turned out beautifully.  It was a much more relaxing process — not only for me but also for the bees — than the traditional dump & shake technique I described last year:   How to Hive a Package of Bees:  http://www.thebeeyard.org/?p=24

~Eric

1 Comment

  1. Carl Young
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    Great job Eric! Leave it up to you to come up with something new and creative. I used my new method of suspending the queen’s cage using the metal clip between the frames. The release was successful, and everyone seems content in their new home.

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