Buying and Installing Bee Packages

By uthus2000 | uthus2000 | 10 Sep 2019


Do not wait until you're ready to set up hives to order your bees. Packages and nucs go quickly. Order them in December or January for delivery in March or April.


I don't recall how many hives I've had over the years. 10 maybe. Of those, I'd purchased five packages.

Being from rural south Georgia, I knew or knew of a few commercial beekeepers. Chuck Hester in Waterloo, GA, runs Georgia Bee Supply was one. 

Chuck is a distant relative of mine. I bought all of my packages from him. I got two when I was still living in Georgia. A few years later I got three more to bring to Illinois.

Here I know five beekeepers in the area - one of which lives in a town just west of St. Louis.

I've seen a few others here and there while driving through the countryside. I probably know where there are a dozen bee yards within 20 miles of where I live.

Buy locally

Bees are not difficult to find. If you know of any beekeepers in your area, ask them where they got their bees. If they have good, strong hives, ask if they would consider selling a package or nuc. Local bees are already tempered to the area. Heat and cold stress will not be as much of a concern.

A package of bees comes in a screened box about the size of a shoe box. A package typically has about three pounds of bees. Some of the bees are drones (males) but the vast majority are workers (female). The package also comes with a screened matchbox containing a queen and four or five workers.

A nuc (nuclear hive) is a small, deep bodied hive that has only five frames. They are intended to raise queens or as starter hives. They are quickly filled and have to be swapped out with the more common Langstroth hive.

Search for bees online

A quick search on DuckDuckGo shows three places in my area to purchase bees as well as a local Bee Keepers Association. 

One beekeeper I know purchases his bees from an Amish man in Minnesota. It's a several hour drive for him to pick up the bees, but he's happy with the service.

Ordering them online is another option. Shannon from Ga Bee Supply told me that she would ship bees but it had to be somewhere within a two day shipping time-frame. 

If bees are delivered by the US Postal Service, you will probably be getting an early morning phone call when they come in. I figure it's because most people don't want to hear the buzzing of bees in their ear all day. 

Bee Keepers Associations

These are great places to meet beekeepers great and small. The one in my area meets monthly in two different cities. This month is here. Next month is there. 

Associations have often have seminars or lectures on different things like diseases, pests and the like. Some do demonstrations on hive maintenance or hive building. My local association occasionally meets in someone's bee yard to do inspections and teach new beekeepers how to find queens or look for mites.

They are a wealth of knowledge and many members are willing to mentor new "beeks".

What do I do with my new bees?

First, go to the bee yard and set up your hive whether it be Langstroth, British National, Warre or top bar. Nuc frames only fit in Langstroth hives.

Nucs

If you've purchased a nuc, simply puff smoke in the entrance then crack open the top and puff smoke in the top. Put the lid back on and wait a few seconds.

Take the lid off and transfer the frames to a Lanstroth hive. Fill the empty space with more frames and replace the lid.

Make sure there is a shallow dish with clean rocks or sticks in it near by. Pour sugar water into the dish. The rocks or sticks are for the bees to stand on as they are collecting the sugar water. One hive of bees can consume a quart of sugar water in an afternoon.

My recipe for sugar water:

  • Fill a quart jar with sugar leaving about an inch of head space.
  • Fill with water to cover the sugar.
  • Shake vigorously until sugar is mostly dissolved.

This is a heavy syrup. Use less sugar for a lighter syrup. Use only refined white or raw sugar - not brown sugar, not a sugar substitute, not honey unless it is some from your own bee yard. Store bought honey may carry diseases that that would affect the bees but not humans.

Packages

With a spray bottle, mist the package with a light sugar water. This will calm the bees.

Remove the small board holding the feeder in place and gently remove the feeder.

At this point there is probably a flat, plastic strap stapled to the package that is attached to the queen trap. Pull the queen trap out and set it to the side.

Remove the frames from the center of the hive and set them to the side. Mist the package again then unceremoniously dump the bees into their new home. Shake the package and repeat two or three times.

Pin or staple the queen trap to the side of one of the frames so that it will be hanging down when the frame is placed in the hive. Place this frame toward the center of the hive. Replace the remainder of the frames.

Place the lid on the hive.

Make sure there is a feeder nearby as with Nucs above.

Go away. Don't come back for about five days. If you are anything like me, this will be extremely difficult.

First check on the hive

Five days after you've installed your package or transferred frames from a nuc, go back to check on the bees. They have had time to acclimate to the area and have fallen into a routine.

Puff smoke into the entrance, crack the lid and puff smoke there. 

First pull the frame that the queen had been attached to. Check to see if she has been freed. If not, replace the frame, close the hive and wait two more days.

If she has been released, look at a couple of the frames and be amazed by what the bees have done. There will be clean white wax on the frames. Some of cells should have pollen in them. Some of the cells will have a liquid in them. This is not honey. It is a thickened sugar syrup that they will use until they start producing honey from flower nectar. They use this temporarily to make wax and to feed new brood.

Some of the cells should have eggs in them. They are tiny - less than 1/16" in length. If sunlight hits the frame just right you should be able to see them. They look similar to grains of rice. There should be one egg per cell. 

If you don't see eggs, don't worry. It takes a little practice finding these things. It also takes a practiced eye to find the queen among the tens of thousands of bees in the hive.

You can continue feeding the bees for a week or so. They will eventually quit going to the feeder as much. They prefer flower nectar to sugar.

Check out Don the Fat Bee Man on YouTube. He has videos on everything you might want to know about bees.

How do you rate this article?


0

0

uthus2000
uthus2000

I'm a beekeeper electrician in a great small town in a terrible state.


uthus2000
uthus2000

Small town life and observations in the mid-west.

Send a $0.01 microtip in crypto to the author, and earn yourself as you read!

20% to author / 80% to me.
We pay the tips from our rewards pool.