Hive/Install a Bee Colony From a Package

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About: When I'm not studying engineering, I'm helping people reach the top shelves at grocery stores.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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29 Discussions

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BrendanMHtheegghead

Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

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!

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ferjanyen

4 years ago on Introduction

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.

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ferjanyen

4 years ago on Introduction

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

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BrendanMHferjanyen

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

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!

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ferjanyenBrendanMH

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

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.

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BrendanMHferjanyen

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

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!

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BrendanMHgeller6980

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

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.

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lopezjohn2012

4 years ago

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.

1 reply

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.

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ferjanyen

4 years ago on Introduction

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.

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BrendanMHferjanyen

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

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!

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SJU87

4 years ago on Step 7

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.

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PicturerazziSJU87

Reply 4 years ago on Step 7

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. :(

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SJU87Picturerazzi

Reply 4 years ago on Step 7

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!

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PicturerazziSJU87

Reply 4 years ago on Step 7

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!