Introduction: Hive/Install a Bee Colony From a Package

Picture of Hive/Install a Bee Colony From a Package

In this instructable I'm going to show you how to start your very own beehive with a package of bees. There are many ways to start a hive, such as buying a nucleus hive from a beekeeper, buying a package of bees, or even catching a swarm of bees in the wild (kinda Pokemon-like, except its not a Beedrill).

I'm assuming you've got all the components you need for the beehive body. Generally, for starting a colony, you will need a bottom board, deep body, inner cover and an outer cover. Once your colony expands, it is up to you to decide what size hive bodies you want to keep adding (keep weight in mind! Honey is heavy.)

Many thanks to my good friend David Miller who helped me take some pictures during the process. My hands were either sticky or full of bees and his help was awesome to have!

Step 1: Level the Boxes

Picture of Level the Boxes

First, you'll want to level the hive bodies and bottom board. Just grab any regular level and make sure the hive is not rolled in any direction.

The bees use gravity as a guide, so if the boxes are tilted too much, the comb may be built pretty crazily!

Step 2: Pick Up the Packages

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Pick up your packages. Look at the picture to see what to expect when you pick up your tens of thousands of new pets.

Step 3: Take Care of the Queen

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Fist, you'll need to take out the queen and place her in between two frames. Your package will probably have a wooden covering. Take this off and you'll see there is a can of syrup and the queens cage. Packages vary by the farm, so your queen may only come out once the can is removed.

Either way, once the can is removed, you should cover the package opening again with the wooden piece. This will stop bee from leaving and make things a bit more calm for you.

Usually, the queens come in a tiny cage with a few attendants. One of the sides is blocked with cork, the other with sugar candy. Sometimes the queen is marked with bright paint so she is easier to find. This makes it very easy for beginning beekeepers to identify their queens. You can call your supplier and ask them if the queens are marked. If she is not, you can mark her yourself, or work with her not being marked.

Take off what is covering the sugar candy. Make sure this end is up, this makes sure that if the attendants die, they will not block the entrance.

Place the queen cage between two frames secured as securely as you can, rubber banding the frames together or rubber banding the queen cage to a frame works well. Make sure the mesh is not covered by anything (i.e. not pressed against the foundation or frame).

The bees will eat the candy an adopt the queen (through her scent) during this process.

If the queen is not alive, you should contact who you bought your bees from ASAP.

Step 4: Place the Package Inside the Hive Body

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Now place the package inside the hive body. Usually you'll need to remove five frames to make it fit, but you may need to remove one or two more to make it fit.

Step 5: Open the Package

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Now, remove the wood covering again.

Take out the can of sugar syrup. This is usually best done with a hive tool and a free hand. Put the can near the entrance of the hive. Any straggling bees will make their way inside eventually.

If you've been spraying the bees with sugar water they are probably very calm. You can now place the inner an outer covers on.

Step 6: Close It Up and Let the Magic Begin

Picture of Close It Up and Let the Magic Begin

Put on the inner and outer covers.

Some Beekeepers also recommend using an entrance reducer to make it easier for the newly established colony to defend themselves, but I've seen it done with or without an entrance reducer.

Wait about 2 days for the magic, which is beeyond our understanding, to happen. Come back and check the bees released the queen and remove the package box. If they have not, you may need to wait a bit longer.

Later, you should check that the queen is laying eggs. If you see no eggs, the queen may not be alive and you should buy a new one. Some Beekeepers local to you may raise and sell queens.

I'm a beekeeper in the greater Boston area. Let me know if you have any questions!

Step 7: Bonus Points for Bee Kisses

Picture of Bonus Points for Bee Kisses

Many also enjoy spraying sugar water on their hands, and placing their hands against the package of bees to feel the bees lick their hands. If you are so inclined, feel free to do so with your face. It tickles a lot!

Thanks for reading!

Comments

theegghead (author)2015-03-30

Nice ible, but i was wondering if getting stung is ever an issue or are they stingless?

BrendanMH (author)theegghead2015-04-01

Hi! Thanks for reading!

These bees can sting! In my area I don't think I know anyone that keeps a stingless variety of honey bee.

Even so, the stinging is not an issue. The honey bees are really quite docile and don't want to sting you (as they would die doing so; their stinger is attached to their internal organs causing them to be pulled out upon stinging).

When hiving or installing a colony, such as in this instructable, the bees are even more docile. They have no hive, honey, or queen to protect yet. The bees do become more defensive in the Fall, so that they protect their honey stores for the winter.

Please let me know if you have any other questions!

ferjanyen (author)2014-06-17

Sorry, not talk but instructable.hi!

ferjanyen (author)2014-06-17

Hi Brendan, thanks for your reply, yes, it is important to support the bee keepers in particular now a days with so much bee morality due to pesticides and land mismanagement. Ok, thanks for your instructables and can't wait till your next talk in particular of how to capture a swarm from the wild. Regards Fernando.

ferjanyen (author)2014-05-28

Sorry, I ment to say what is the keeper do with the wax, is it reusable once the honey has being taken out?

BrendanMH (author)ferjanyen2014-06-07

The wax is absolutely usable once the honey is taken out. Using typical extractors, the capping wax (the bees seal the comb with wax after the honey is inside) is taken off and the frames are put into what is basically a centrifuge. The frames are spun so the honey spins out of the frame and collects at the bottom of the tank the centrifuge is in.

The capping wax, since it is usually so clean, is usually reserved for cosmetics (though it is still used for candles and more). The honeycomb wax that used to contain the honey can be put back in a beehive for the bees to use (meaning they don't have to expend the energy to make more wax). This is not done if the wax came from a diseased hive, however. Beekeepers also like to only keep the same wax honeycomb for a few years because it will start to get really dirty (the bees walk over it and it can accumulate substances foreign to the hive such as dirt).

Let me know if I can answer this question any better or if you have anymore questions!

ferjanyen (author)BrendanMH2014-06-07

Hi and thanks for all the explanations about the wax. Should a worry about eating honey with the comb as it may be too old or dirty?? And, is there a way to tell when a bee keeper has mixed sirup with honey to increase his profit, you seems to have opened a can of worms now!!. Don't answear my last two cuestions if you don't want, I will continue to eat homey regardless. I am shure that the bee keeper fraternity is composed of proud and honest people.

BrendanMH (author)ferjanyen2014-06-16

There usually isn't much to worry about, we are indeed proud and honest. The wax you are buying is almost certainly clean! I've never seen cut comb honey with dirty wax (it would look really unappetizing if it was dirty). Typically, honey that you buy is always 100% honey, just read the label. I always recommend going to a farmer's market and buying right from the beekeepers themselves--you'll be supporting local beekeeping and getting to know your local beekeepers!

geller6980 (author)2014-06-12

any suggestions on where to buy the bees?

Great write up!

BrendanMH (author)geller69802014-06-16

Hi There! Thanks for reading. I would recommend getting in touch with beekeepers local to you, they can likely point you in the right direction.

lopezjohn2012 (author)2014-05-27

Hahaha I really like the bee licking it made me laugh! :D I really want to be a bee keeper, hopefully I make it happen soon.

BrendanMH (author)lopezjohn20122014-06-07

It made me laugh too! It tickled quite a bit. :)

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)2014-05-28

Great instructable - check out my budget beehive instructable if you have time.

BrendanMH (author)Tecwyn Twmffat2014-06-07

Checked it out and it looks really great! I'm so glad you made it, too. The cost of new wooden hive bodies is quite high for some people and it is great for them know they can make it themselves.

ferjanyen (author)2014-05-28

One more question, I love to eat honey from the comb (I think that is call) why is so dificult te get it from shops? What is the bee keeper do with it? Please continue to write, it is a fascinating subject and now with the high mortality of bees is very important that we all understand more about these little creature in particular farmers, agriculturers and the likes.

BrendanMH (author)ferjanyen2014-06-07

Yes! This is typically called "cut comb honey." Actually, cut comb honey used to be very popular. I've been told that back when beekeeping had a boom due to advances in hive-construction to make honey gathering easier, honey was being sold mixed with other syrups to stretch it or make more of a profit. Cut comb honey was sold to assure the customer what they were getting was in fact 100% honey.

Typically, a general grocery store will not carry it. Check local farmers markets or ask local beekeepers if they know anyone selling it. Beekeepers make it by putting in no foundation (a pattern, sometimes made of plastic, that promotes more regular comb building), so that the comb can be cut all the way through and packaged. It really is a fun way to eat honey!

pdu toit1 made it! (author)2014-05-27

bonus points all day long bee kiss are epic bad ass

BrendanMH (author)pdu toit12014-06-07

YES!

SJU87 (author)2014-05-27

The saying goes, "Put 10 beekeepers in a room, ask a question and get 11 opinions." Here's another opinion on how to free a queen. The University of Minnesota beekeeping class recommends direct releasing the queen onto a frame by pulling back the mesh netting and letting her walk out. During the days of transport, the bees have already bonded with the queen, so she will be fine, you will know she is out (I've seen frequent reports of beekeepers finding the queen still in the cage up to a week after hiving) and this way she gets right to work laying eggs.

beelab . umn . edu is a great resource for more details.

I followed this in packaging three 3# packages this year and in all three hives after six weeks I added a deep this past week as they now have over 80% combed out in the first deep.

I didn't mark my queens (there is a standard color for each year, 2014 is green) but I would do it in the future or at least until I get better at spotting her and definitely recommend for first time beekeepers.

They (U of M) also will pour the bees out of the package into the bottom of the hive before carefully replacing the four frames. There is good video of this on the site. The thing you may run into by allowing the bees time with the package inside the hive is that they will probably build comb off of it.

I recently heard of the idea of spraying frames with sugar water to encourage building out comb.

I hadn't tried putting sugar on my hands, but it sounds like a good way to get family members and neighbors comfortable with bees. Nice instructable! You should do a series on all aspects of beekeeping.

Picturerazzi (author)SJU872014-05-27

It's not very nice to so this in a residential neighborhood... I would say especially if you're a novice. I'm extremely allergic to bees and have to carry an epi-pen beecause of it. It stinks beecause I know our bee friends don't make it after stinging.

It happened whilst in the car. I had no idea a bee was on my neck and when I turned to get my water bottle it stung me. That was a trip to the emergency room and a year of breathing treatments.

Now, I'm especially vigilant to not wear anything scented. I was wearing scented sunblock at the time.

Brendan, do you have any other bee advice so I can stay friends and not have them bee attracted to me? For some reason my mom and I attract bees a lot. :(

SJU87 (author)Picturerazzi2014-05-28

The novice beekeeping class I took recommended talking with your neighbors prior to starting. If any neighbors have allergies, find another location. None of my neighbors do, still, with three hives, I decided to locate mine outside of town. That is the best thing beekeepers can do to avoid neighbors being stung. Educating the public and neighbors is important too. Honey bees pretty much go from the hive to the flower and back and aren't aggressive unless the hive is under attack. Typically "bee" stings are wasp stings. Wasps are much more aggressive (and can sting more than once!)

Any place there are flowering plants, there are pollinators (honey bees, bumble bees, etc.) and numerous wasp types are found near places people live because they love to eat our food scraps. Bees typically will travel a 2-3 mile radius and up to 5 miles foraging, so it is likely that there are domestic and or natural hives within that range in most places, so there are likely bees and wasps nearly everywhere you go outdoors.

Additionally, for beekeepers, if you live in close proximity to your neighbors, check with them, check local ordinances, place your hives so that flight paths out of the hives are away from neighbors, and put a fence around your hives at least six feet tall as bees will maintain an altitude once there.

If you know you have allergies, you should talk with a doctor, as it sound like you have Picturerazzi, allergic reactions can vary in severity and can be worse after a second attack (you don't "build immunity" just by being stung frequently.) The doctor will have additional advice and may be able to start treatments to lessen the severity of the reaction. Epi-pens save lives. I have one for a shellfish allergy, so I have a little experience. They don't do any good, if they are in a medicine cabinet at home and you are miles away at a park having a picnic! So keep it close by. Keep it up-to-date and mark your calendar to get a replacement when it goes out of date. Know how to use it and make sure those close to you know how to use it in case you are unable to. Wear an allergy bracelet that says what your allergy is and that you carry an epi-pen.

You are on the right path to avoid stings whether by bees or wasps. First, don't appear like a flower to them by wearing bright colors and scents. Be aware and look for bees that get in the car with you, roll down your windows when you get in and turn on the air, the bees, wasps, mosquitoes, etc. won't want to stay around and will fly out, then roll the windows up. Be careful when eating outdoors as yellow jackets will frequently fly into drinks, especially sugary ones, and when you go to take a drink they find themselves trapped and attack what they see as an attacker and you call "lips." Not a pleasant place to be stung!

If you do get a bee or wasp on you or near you remain calm. I have never worn gloves while beekeeping and despite several tens of thousands of bees in my hives, I've only bee stung 3 times and all my own fault when I lifted a frame without looking carefully first. If you stay calm around bees, they won't waste their life on a non-threat (you are right, by the way, stinging causes the bee to die.) Wasps are more aggressive to movement as well. Quietly and calmly move away from the area. The bees or wasps likely have a nest or food source nearby that attracts them to the area and once you are away from that, they are not interested in you. If you find yourself near a hive, walk away at a 90-degree direction from the entrance as bees tend to follow a "beeline" (that is why we use that phrase!)

Don't go barefoot and wear close-toed shoes as many varieties of bees and wasps make their nests in the ground. Don't wear loose fitting clothing as the bees and wasps can get up underneath and then feel trapped and sting in self-defense.

Enjoy the summer and enjoy some honey in your iced tea! Just be sure to keep a napkin over the pitcher and look in your cup before you sip!

Picturerazzi (author)SJU872014-06-01

SJU87,
Thank you for your reply! I definitely keep my epi pen in my purse and carry Benedryl in my purse and my car. Also, I never wear perfume in the day anymore because of my last bee sting to the neck. I knew it was a bee because it died :( and my bf pulled it out of my skin. Ouch! And sad.

I am actually super, super afraid of bees, unfortunately. I wish I wasn't but I am. My first bee sting experience was in Kindergarten my friends were annoying bees in the rose bush in my front yard, I walked by and one landed on my right pointer finger. I brought it up to my face to look closer because I thought the bee was pretty and I saw it sting my finger! My hand swelled up so badly. Then I stepped on them at times growing up. Meh.

I'm not a fan of their stingers. I try and stay inside as much as possible bc of bees and dogs and the sun.... The outdoors haven't been kind to me. :P

Is there a time when bees AREN'T around? Like when it's too cold or hot?

Also, thank you for the 90 degree angle info!

BrendanMH (author)SJU872014-05-27

Hi! Thanks for taking the time to read my instructable and to write such an awesome comment! You have a lot of great information in there, and I always find the comments section of an instructable to be where a lot of the particulars are worked out--so I am glad you took the time. It is also definitely true about asking beekeepers 10 questions. The oral tradition of beekeeping and how it fosters a community and continuity, while frustrating sometimes, is one of the beautiful things about it.

I did not release the queen immediately because I knew my bees had come from Georgia to New Hampshire and then to Boston in the same day. I didn't want to take the chance of releasing her immediately as I've had poor experiences with needing to requeen in the past. Though you are totally right, oftentimes it is totally okay to remove what is holding the queen in.

When I did my install a few days ago, I tried two different methods. One was the "place the package inside" method, which I did for the first time. It was incredibly calm, and while it may be a little tragic to have to remove extra comb that was built because of the package box being in there, it makes it less crazy for a new beekeeper (to whom I have aimed the instructable). On another one of my hives at home, I poured the bees directly into the hive body. I will be updating the instructable to show how I did this (my mom took a video!).

We did not have marked queens this year, but I totally agree that it is a great idea for first time beekeepers. I will actually update my "take care of the queen" step to reflect the fact that she might be marked and can be if they choose to do so. Thanks for the reminder!

I actually am at a loss for what else I could possibly write about beekeeping. After hiving, it really is a matter of beekeepers discretion for what to do--I know some people who don't really do anything, and I know some people who are very involved. I could absolutely do an instructable on extracting honey, purifying wax, and making lip balm. Any ideas for what else I could do?

Thanks again, and congratulations on what sounds like a successful installation on your hives! Have a great beekeeping season, and let me know if you think I can address anything else in this instructable or beyond.

SJU87 (author)BrendanMH2014-05-28

BrendanMH. It seems you have to strike a balance on care of domestic bees. They say the typical new beekeeper disrupts the bees too much. Conversely, there are those who treat their hives like feral bees, let the "do their thing" and end up with swarmed hives and hives decimated by varroa, hive beetles, etc.

A few thoughts for Instructables come to mind. First, identifying the queen. Experienced beekeepers make this sound so easy and maybe it does come quickly, but I haven't developed the skill as of yet. How about how and when to add brood chambers or supers? A good one might be how to choose a good location for hives. I like your other ideas too!

ferjanyen (author)2014-05-28

Hi and thanks for such good instructable. How about a writing on how to capture a colony from the forest and how to introduce it into a new bee hive. Also a video idea is a good, it is said that a picture is equivalent to a thousand words.

dpruett (author)2014-05-27

Thanks for posting this Instructable!

For some reason, a lot of the beekeeping info I find online - or even in books - always seems to gloss over the finer details of doing things like this. I was on a beekeeping forum the other day where someone complained that they had searched online for 2 hours to try to figure out under what circumstances they were supposed to use an entrance reducer. I don't understand why that is - I guess things like that must be mundane for experienced beekeepers and apparently it doesn't occur to them that it's completely uncharted territory for us noobs!

So thank you again, and PLEASE write more Instructables on beekeeping.

BrendanMH (author)dpruett2014-05-27

Thanks for reading the instructable and thanks for writing! I am very glad to be of some help. I was very fortunate to have learned the basics of beekeeping with others at my university, I know it must be pretty daunting by one's self.

Any suggestions for what else I could write about? What would you like to hear? I have been thinking of doing instructables about honey extraction, wax purifying, and making lip balm from beeswax, but I would love your's and other's suggestions.

zhamster rules (author)2014-05-25

Really cool. I will have to try it dometime

BrendanMH (author)zhamster rules2014-05-27

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions! The bees are far better teachers than I am, though. Even if you are hesitant to jump right in, I am sure you can find people in your area that would be willing to show you what working with a hive is like.

Wolfbane221 (author)2014-05-24

Good! Have you ever split a hive?

BrendanMH (author)Wolfbane2212014-05-25

Nope! I have been beekeeping about 4 years now. Probably the most advanced thing I have done is when I combined a queenless hive with one that had a queen via the newspaper method. Would love to split a hive at some point though! Seems a lot better than letting a swarm go. ;)

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