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New package in Connecticut, newb questions

We have a new Flow Hive 2 with foundationless frames ready for a package of Italian bees to arrive in the next week or so from Mountain Sweet Honey.

I have a few questions that I’d love help with:

  1. In their “Installing a Package of Honey bees” video, Mountain Sweet Honey recommends feeding the bees for the first week or two, which seems prudent for our area (Connecticut) where we don’t have a ton of flowers blooming yet, and the trees are not making pollen yet. Based on some threads here, I purchased a Rapid Bee Feeder which I plan to place in the otherwise empty Flow Super, separated from the Brood Box by the Inner Cover which has a hole that is perfect for admitting the bees to the Rapid Bee Feeder. Question: should i put the Queen Excluder between the Brood Box and the Inner Cover, to eliminate the possibility of the queen getting up to the feeder? On the downside, the bees might try to build combs from it?
  2. Releasing the queen: in our area, it still gets below 50 degrees F every night, typically 40, but not freezing (forecast). I know from threads here not to just leave the queen plugged behind candy on the bottom of the cage, but some threads express concern about the hanging cage messing with the bees starting the combs on the foundationless frames. OTOH, I’m nervous about direct release, losing the queen. Best technique I’ve read is to pull the cork, put a finger over the entrance, place cage on bottom, then put the top on before she can go anywhere. Any advice in my situation for hanging the cage vs. direct release, technique? This is the part I’m most stressed about!
  3. Given our temp range, is it advisable to block half or more of the entrance, to reduce the work for the bees of keeping the hive warm?

Thanks a lot,

Nick

No need for the queen excluder. She is very unlikely to go up into the feeder.

I would only direct release the queen if she has been with the package for a couple of days. Usually shipping time is enough for this acclimation of the package to the queen to happen. I do direct releases this way:

  1. Get the bees out of the shipping container into the hive. There are several ways of doing this, from shaking to just letting them crawl out. If you do the latter, it can take some time so I would normally pour or shake them out, providing it isn’t windy. I remove some frames to make space for the bees to land in a big lump inside the hive. At this point, I put the queen cage in my bee suit pocket until I am ready to release her. This keeps her warm and relatively shaded.
  2. Once the bees are all in the box, I gently replace the 4 or 5 frames that I removed prior to introducing them.
  3. When the bees seem to have settled down and spread out (usually 10 to 30 mins), I hold the cork end of the queen cage right over a gap between 2 top bars, tilted slightly down. When the queen is away from the cork, I ease it out with a hive tool blade or pocket knife and point the cage even more downwards for her to walk out. She usually does this within a few seconds.

I prefer to do this rather than your described method, because if you put the cage on the bottom, you still have to put frames back in on top of her cage, and there is a risk of crushing her. I have lost one queen doing direct release, but I wasn’t holding the cage close enough to the hive at the time. Now I am more careful, and I haven’t lost a queen since then. It is very easy to do, and not stressful after the first time. :wink:

Otherwise you will need to use the candy method, as they may not have accepted her. If you hang the cage and they build comb around it, it isn’t a big deal. You can just cut it out and they will repair the hole.

I would actually reduce it down to about 2 inches. Not just for heat, but to prevent robbing while you are feeding.

Hope that helps, and please let us know how it goes! :blush:

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I’m for feeding a package or a nuc when you install them with 2 water to 1 sugar syrup to give the bees a boost and help them in wax production. It is a part of my routine even with a split.
A QX is for one purpose only, to stop the queen getting into the super and kept her in the brood box, Use it for that purpose and you won’t make a mistake. Leave the queen in the cage with the candy plug so that when the bees release her by chewing out the candy she is accepted as their queen and not killed as an invader.
Your entrance could be reduced to about 3" to aid the colony in keeping warm.
Cheers

Re: reducing the hive entrance (thanks @Dawn_SD and @Peter48), I made a reducer to get the entrance down to 3 inches (about 8 cm) out of some spare cedar, with a thin backstop made from a paint stirrer as the cedar is not high enough to completely fill the entrance, glued together, with two nails to go between the slots of the bottom metal screen to hold it in place. Then I realized this would be permanent, as I’d have to remove all of the frames to take it out. And the bees might cement it in.

My question is: is 3" a good year-round opening size? Or, do I need to have the reducer be replaceable so I can vary the entrance over time? I read these threads (1, 2) which suggest 15 cm (6 inches) as a size bees seem to prefer, but no qualification was made based on local climate.

Here is my local temp range (the red and blue lines are F):

My hive will not be in full sun all day, maybe 70% of the day.

Here is my entrance reducer:

If I need to vary the entrance over time, I’ll probably just cut another piece of cedar and screw it to the front of the hive, standing vertically.

Except for package installation or robbing, I leave mine at 6 inches year round, per the research of Tom Seeley. I don’t think he studied climate (although I think much of his research was done in a climate like yours), but it probably isn’t much of a factor, given that bees control the temperature with fanning, and laminar air flow will likely work better with a 6 inch entrance than a 12 inch one. I think @JeffH has some lovely video of bees directing the air flow in an observation hive.

I think 3 inches might be a bit small when bees are bearding or during the peak nectar flow when 30,000 bees may be trying to forage all day, every day. :blush:

Most of my hives have an entrance of about 3 to 4 inches and it works for me in my climate. Some of the earlier ‘modifications’ included a double entrance which worked better for less draft on the brood and a double entrance gives a better air flow than a single entrance of the same combined size.
My Winter is 42F at night to 82F day and Summer is 80 night to 98F of a day with hardly any change day to day. Sure in hot weather bearding happens and caused by the temperature being hot in the hive, but with a lot in bee keeping the entrance size is worth experimenting with.
Cheers

I agree with @Dawn_SD. Six inches seems to be the ideal length. I used to think longer was better, however I was wrong. You don’t want it too fat either, maybe 10mm or 3/8". That will give you 150sq.cm. which someone said was the ideal area for an entrance based on research for Tom Seeley, if my memory serves me correctly.

@Peter48 & I & others are moving over to 2 small entrances. One on either side, which in theory allows the bees to draw air in one side & expel it out the other.

cheers

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Just a pic to show you a double entrance, the entrance size of both of the entrances is the same size as a single entrance.
Cheers

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First, thanks everyone for your helpful advice on this thread!

Our package of bees is set to arrive in a few days! My daughter is very excited (this is her hive, I’m her helper), and I’ve gone from being pretty stressed out to feeling almost ready.

I just had a few questions about the actual installation. I’ve watched an installation video by our package provider, as well as Michael Bush’s installation video posted by Flow Hive, and read many threads.

Questions:

  1. We planning to do a delayed release of the queen. We plan to position the queen cage horizontally at the top of the brood box, sandwiched between two (foundationless) frames, with the queen cage strap thumb-tacked to one of the frames for safety. But I’ve also seen suggestions of having the queen cage vertical, with the candy facing down, to prevent a dead worker from blocking the exit. This could be achieved by thumb tacking the strap to a frame and having the cage hang down. Any recommendation on this would be appreciated!
  2. Once the queen cage is secure, we plan to gently shake / pour the bulk of the bees out of the shipping box, then place the shipping box hole-side-down over the frames to let the rest make their own way out over the next 15 - 30 minutes. Then, before closing up the hive, we’ll put the shipping box on the ground in front of the hive so any stragglers can find it. Does that approach sound good? How long should we leave the shipping box in front of the hive if stragglers persist in staying in it?

Thanks!

I prefer the horizontal orientation if there are any attendants in the cage with the queen. If you hang it vertically with the candy down, a worker can certainly block her exit.

It does sound good, yes. We leave the shipping box in front of the hive until dusk, by which time most bees should have gone into the hive. They won’t like being outside on their own as the day cools down. :wink:

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Thanks for the help, everyone! Our package of bees came today, and we successfully installed them in the hive.

My daughter and I both felt calm about our first time through the process, in part because of the useful help from the people on this forum!

There was a fair amount of dead bees in the package, as the package took five days to get here, but we were mentally prepared for that. The queen was alive, and a good amount of bees made it, so we are hopeful!

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Thank you for the update. Always makes my day to hear how it went. :blush: