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HIVING PACKAGE BEES
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Hiving a package of bees is not difficult, but to a beginner it can be intimidating. Most books on beekeeping have illustrated hiving instructions that you should study, but if you have not done that, here (in brief) is how you can hive your package of bees.
Heat is the main enemy of package bees. If the weather is warm when you receive them, it is best to set the package in a cool place that is not brightly lit. The bees should be hanging from the top of the cage in a cluster around the feed can and should be quiet. It is normal for there to be some dead bees on the bottom of the cage, and shippers allow extra weight so up to 3/4" of dead bees should not cause any problem. If there is as much as one inch of dead bees, notify the shipper. If the weather is cool you can hive the package of bees at any time of day, but if it is warm, it will be better to wait until late afternoon.
Before you hive them, the bees should be fed all the syrup made of half sugar and half warm water they will take up - probably a pint. You should use a clean household spray bottle to spray the syrup through the screen on the cage and onto the bees. The package should be in a place so it will not be damaged by dripping sugar syrup. Some books suggest applying the syrup with a clean paint brush, but we do not recommend that because it will damage some of the thousands of bees tongues you will see sticking through the screen mesh licking up the syrup.. When the bees are gorged with syrup they will be very quiet and docile.
Open your empty hive and take out four or five frames of comb or foundation from one side. Take the cover off the package of bees and turn it over enough so you can grasp the feed can and take it out. You will see the queen cage hanging from an aluminum strip that is stapled to the top of the cage. (Some shippers use a piece of frame wire or thin piece of metal tacked to the end of the queen cage to hold it in place during transit). Pry the staple loose and remove the queen cage. Examine it to make sure the queen is alive. If she isn't you can either hive the package with the dead queen or put her and the feed can back into the cage and hold it in a cool place until your supplier can get a new queen to you. If you hold the bees in the cage remember to give them a good feeding of syrup every day.
The queen is usually alive, so take the cork out of the candy end of the cage and poke a small nail hole through the candy before hanging the cage near the center of the hive with the screen exposed to the bees. You may now dump the bees out of the cage into the space from which you removed the frames. It will not hurt the bees if you bounce the cage around to dislodge most of the bees. Now you may carefully replace the frames and cover the hive. You should have stopped the entrance down to an inch or two, and you should have an entrance feeder in place so you can put a jar of syrup into it.
Now wait about five days before going into the hive to see if the bees are drawing comb and the queen is out of her cage and laying. If she is not out, you should now release her into the cluster of bees. Although the queen was laying when she was caged, it sometimes takes as long as nine days for her to start laying in the new hive. Keep feeding until you are satisfied that the bees are getting plenty of nectar from the spring flowers. Do not put on a second hivebody or a super until the first one is well filled with bees. Enjoy your bees, but do not go into the hive more often than once a week.
Richard Weaver
2010
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