Whilst the shake method to install bees has been successful for decades, after a couple of installations, I couldn’t help notice a considerable number of dead bees in the package as well as at the bottom of the hive. It seems no matter how careful you are, shaking bees will damage them and most likely shorten their lives. By using the method described in this information sheet, your bees will emerge from the package on their terms and as a result will be less stressed, less damaged and if done right almost zero bee deaths.
Step 1. Package pickup from the shop or post office
Prior to accepting your bees, be sure to carefully inspect the package noting any signs of damage that may have occurred during transport, note any dead bees on the bottom of package and make sure the wire is intact and that bees are not likely to escape into the car for the trip home. Take along with you a spray bottle with fresh cool water and give your bees a good spray to hydrate them after the long trip, there is no water within the package so they will welcome the drink. Don’t use sugar solution; they have plenty within the feed can. Be sure the water sprayer has not been used for anything other than water in the past, bees are highly sensitive to chemicals of any kind.
Take your bees straight home (no deviations to the café) and ensure your bees are not exposed to direct sunlight within the car as this could over heat them.
Step 2. Hive setup for the new bees
Be prepared and have your hive ready to go before you get home, preferably in a sunny to part shade site, east to northerly facing direction (south hemisphere) and east to south in the northern hemisphere. Make sure the hive will be on a stand of some kind to protect your bees from predators such as lizards (in my area its water dragons), slugs, ants and rising damp. You will never find a swarm or wild colony on the ground, so it’s best to provide some elevation to make them feel secure.
A list of tools and items you may need for the package install:
• A ready to go hive with two supers (or deeps) and frames to fill at least one super
• Bee Protection, suit, gloves and veil
• Hive tool to remove the package lid, staples and feed can
• Spray bottle with water only
• A piece of wire or string and thumb tack to secure the queen cage
• A small nail to pierce the queen cage (though not necessary)
• A frame of honey, pollen and brood (if you can spare it)
• Feeder with 1:1 sugar and water
Step 3. Day 1: Installing the package
Empty your hive and close up the entrance, insert the full package to one side and then fill the remainder of the hive with frames. If you have another hive and can spare a frame of brood and food, the insert a frame (without the bees) closest to the package, be sure your brood is free of disease, this will help the new bees to feel welcome and give them something to do although this step is not necessity. You should not need any smoke for the package bees installation as you will not at any stage be disturbing them in a way for them to think you are a threat to the colony. You may however encounter the odd bee they may turn on you so wear protection.
Use your hive tool to remove the lid and staples, if there is no lid, then use a piece of cardboard cut to size to cover where the feed can is inserted. To remove the queen and feed can, give the package one or two light taps on the bottom of the hive to knock any lose bees from the queen cage and feed can. Carefully remove the can and then the queen cage and replace the lid back over the hole to prevent the bees from emerging. If the odd bee escapes don’t worry too much, she will be disorientated and not be an issue. Check your queen to make sure she is alive and vigorous. If she has not survived, contact your supplier immediately for a replacement.
Set the feeder can down on top of the empty frames as there may still be a few bees inside. Remove the end cap on the queen cage exposing the candy plug and poke a hole with the thin nail through the candy place the cage (this step is not a necessary one, however if your queen has already been accepted by the workers this will release her in a shorter time period). Insert the cage candy to the side (this ensures the cage is not blocked by any worker bees who may have died) between two frames and fix with the wire or string with a thumb tack to prevent her falling to the bottom of the hive. Have the lid at the ready, then remove the package covering and replace the hive lid and leave overnight for the bees to acclimatise to their new home.
Step 4. Day 2: Release the bees
First in the morning is to open the entrance to the hive and allow the bees to emerge and then stand back and watch the show. Your bees will gradually fly out and their first mission is to cleanse, so don’t sit directly under them as you will get dotted in bee poo. You will notice they start in small spirals as the orientate themselves taking in the landmarks and the new surroundings, these spirals will gradually become larger and larger with almost the entire colony leaving the hive for this flight. After about 30-60 minutes, they will re-enter the hive go into building mode, some will attend to the queen, some will attend the brood (if there is any) and others will feed on the sugar syrup or candy and start drawing out comb. This is a time to leave them undisturbed for at least a day.
Step 5. Day 3: Remove the package and feed can
Open your hive and remove the empty package and feed can from the hive, brush of any loose bees, use the space to insert an Apithor Hive Beetle Trap (if you have one) on the bottom of the hive and then fill the space with empty frames.
Check your queen, don’t touch the cage but observe, are the workers all over the cage trying to feed her? If so, this is a good sign. If there is any burr and bridging comb in an odd spot or angle, remove it, you want to encourage the drawing out of comb on the foundation or frame.
At this point you are done, take away the top super that was added for extra room, close up the hive and leave for at least 3-4 days to allow for the queen to be released from her cage. Later in the week, re-open the hive and remove the queen cage, inspect the cage to be sure she is released, re-align the frames, refill the sugar syrup if necessary and close the hive again. It may take a few weeks for the bees to draw out new comb for the queen, this is where a frame of drawn out comb and brood gives the colony a head start.