LESSON 9: Packaged Bees and How to Care for Them
Packaged bees are produced in the southern states to be shipped into northern states in the spring. The 3 lb. size is the most popular and it is said that 1 lb. of bees represents approximately 4,000 bees. Packages of bees are usually ordered in the winter to insure timely delivery around the middle or the end of April.
GloryBee sells Packaged bees each year at it's Annual Bee Weekend.
- Traditionally packaged bees were shipped parcel post.
- Today, they are trucked to your region by local beekeeping supply dealers. This is your best guarantee of timely delivery and better handling.
- If temperatures are below 45 degrees, packages should be covered with burlap or paper.
- Bees should be kept cool with temperatures between 50-60 degrees.
- Never leave packages of bees or queens sitting in direct sunlight when it's very warm. If bees are restless and they are too warm, sprinkle them with cool water.
Condition on Arrival
- Drones usually die in shipment and normally you will see a few hundred dead workers.
- Expect shipper to give overweight of 1,000 bees.
- If queen is not alive upon inspection, your local package bee dealer will replace the queen.
Have Your Equipment Ready
- Have your brood chamber super ready with only 4 frames in the middle and a frame feeder on the right side with sugar water.
- If you can obtain 2 or 3 combs of drawn comb from your hives, your packaged bees will do better.
How to Handle and Hive Packaged Bees
- Immediately upon receiving the package, check to see if there is enough syrup in the feeder can.
- The best time to hive your package of bees is in the late afternoon, when the weather is moderately cool and bees will not want to fly.
- It is best to mist bees with sugar water (50/50 sugar and water) before removing them from the package. Simply spray the bees using a spray bottle.
- Remove the feeder can and the queen. Check the queen to see if she is still alive.
- Place her into the hive hanging between the two middle frames. The queen bee comes in her own package with one hole in the end that has cork in it and a screen on the top. While in the box, the bees feed the queen through the cage.
- When you take the queen and place her into the hive, be sure to replace the cork in the hole with a gummy bear or marshmallow. When your bees get into the hive they will eat the candy and the queen will be able to get out. This timed release is crucial for a stable introduction and pheromone adjustment to the new colony.
- Shake the bees from the package over the queen. The reason we only have 4 frames installed is so the bees can fall to the bottom of the hive very easily. Be sure to also mist the inside of the hive with sugar water.
- Once the bees have been transferred, put in the remaining frames and immediately close up hive and reduce entrance of hive. It is important that the bees get their orientation of the new hive before they fly out so they know where exactly their hive is and will return safely.
- After three days, check to see if the queen has been released, if not, release her.
- Continually feed bees sugar or honey syrup until they draw out all foundation in deep super. (25 lbs. of sugar will be needed.)
- Place second brood chamber super on the hive when 7-8 frames are drawn out.
- When adding another brood chamber with Carniolan bees, take a frame or two of drawn comb from the first chamber or super and place in the center of the second super. This will make it easier for the bees and the queen to begin laying eggs in the second brood chamber.