Monday, March 25, 2013

Installing your Bees

Beekeepers are beginning to install their bee packages. Here are videos that will explain a package and go over the steps of installing your packages.  This can be an exciting experience and knowing what to do before installing your packages will prepare you for the task at hand. We want you to feel comfortable while installing your package.

About a Package

Installing a Package

Be prepared before you go to your hive to install your package. Ensure you have all the tools you need and are dressed appropriately for your comfort level. With your hive setup and painted, ensure that you have:
Hive tool
Spray bottle with a sugar water mixture (temperature permitting)
Rubber Bands
Feed and Feeder
Protective Clothing

Installing your bees can be a thrill and during the activity certain steps must be carried out. Remember that the cork must be removed from the candy end. Removing the cork from the non-candy end will release the queen prematurely and your colony will not have accepted her yet.

Non-Candy End
Cork Removed from Candy End
Once your bees have been installed, a feeder must be applied. Depending on the weather and temperatures outside, using an entrance feeder or a division board feeder are most common. The feed must be easily accessible by your colony and checked on regularly. The colony is not yet established and will not be able to forage for pollen or nectar. Keep the feeder on until your bees are able to sustain themselves (even then, having a feeder on for that rainy day is recommended).  If temperatures do not drop below freezing, a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water is an acceptable feed. The sugar water mixture will help stimulate colony growth. If colder weather is forcasted, feed with fondant or other semi-moist, hard feed.

Cold Weather Suggestions

We had our first Bee Pick Up Day at the Bee Farm. We know everyone that came to pick up their bees were worried about the colder temperatures and what to do about installing their packages.

Bee Packages
Ideally, a package of bees should not remain in the package for more than 4-5 days. Keep in mind that the bees will have been in the package for about a day before they were picked up at the Bee Farm.

Package Installation
If your weather is forecasted to be:

(a) Cold (highs of 45° or less) for more than 4-5 days, it will be best to install the bees.
(b) Cold, but forecasted for just a day or two, keep the bees in a cool dark place, such as a garage. Be sure to lightly mist the bees with sugar water twice a day. If you see increased bee mortality in the bottom of the package, install the package.

When installing bees in cold weather, be careful not to excessively wet them down with sugar water. It is best to shake the bees from the package so that they can cluster around the queen to keep her warm. The passive method of installation is not suggested as the bees may cluster in the package rather than round the queen.

 In cold weather the bees will cluster and may not be able to access a feeder. Your colony will need a feed that can be easily accessed. If temperature reach below freezing, liquid feed will crystallize and bees can not    obtain the food source. It is best to use a semi-moist, hard feed that can be close to the cluster. Here are some different ways:

(a) If you have some drawn comb with honey from another hive, certainly that can be used by hanging a few of the frames in the middle of the hive with the installed package

(b) If you have drawn comb which doesn’t have honey, you can lay the frame flat and sprinkle sugar into the cells until they are full. Mist the sugar just a little so it gets sticky and doesn’t fall out when you stand the frame up. Now do the other side. Frames loaded with sugar can be hung in the hive and used for food by the bees.

Fondant Frame
Fondant on Frames
(c) If you don’t have any drawn comb, you can apply a fondant to the top bars, or better, use a Fondant Feeder (an empty frame filled with fondant and wrapped with a hardware cloth). The bees can cluster around the fondant and use it as a food source.