I’ll be a new beekeeper starting in late April/ early May of this year. I’ve ordered two Flow hives. I’ve also pre-ordered a 3lb package of Italian bees w/queen that will be delivered during that timeframe.
Should I order a second package for my second hive. Or should I keep the second hive empty in case I need to do a split?
My original plan was to use a split to populate the second hive but I’m not sure if I can expect the first colony to grow that quickly in the first year.
I live in Upper Michigan USA (46 deg North Lat). We can usually expect things to start blooming around early to mid-May around here. Our first overnight frost is typcally in October or late September.
Buy a second package, because you are highly unlikely to need to split in the first year. Having 2 hives is enormously helpful, as resources from a strong hive can help a weaker hive.
Then buy some more equipment, if you can afford it. You are going to need:
An extra brood box for each hive. I bet that >90% beekeepers in your region run their hives with double deep brood boxes. You will need to let the bees fill the second deep box before you add the Flow super, so that they will have enough reserves to last through your impressive winters.
A way to feed your bees while they build up for the first week or two. I use a pail feeder on top of the inner cover, surrounded by a spare deep brood box. Others use baggies. Please don’t use an entrance feeder - they encourage robbing and a new hive can’t survive that. You might also consider some substitute pollen patties to encourage brood - Mann Lake has some good ones, and they keep for years in the freezer.
An entrance reducer. This can be as simple as a stack of craft sticks, glued together to the right height to wedge into the hive. You want the entrance to be about 6" wide, especially for a new colony
An extra hive setup, if you can afford it. This can be a simple traditional Langstroth. Many beekeepers will agree that you need much more spare equipment than you think. I like to have at least 50% more. Then if you need to split, or something breaks, you have a spare ready to go. If you aren’t allowed to have a 3rd hive (or you don’t want one), consider buying some nucleus boxes for any splits, so that you sell the extra bees.
Please ask any questions that you like here. We don’t believe that any question is silly, and there are lots of people here who like to help.
Hi Jason and welcome! Everything Dawn said…and I’d add that given your short season, it is not likely that you’ll be putting the Flow super on this year. Package bees are geared for comb building and if healthy will do it quickly, but might not fully build out all the space in two deeps by the time nectar dearth hits your area. Where I am in SE PA just north of Philadelphia, I can expect the nectar flow to slow down by late June if it’s been hot, and definitely by mid-July. Just to give you an idea.
A comment about starting with two vs. one colony - I forged ahead with just one in my first year, against advice, and realized how much better having two is the following year. My first colony died in the fall from varroa infestation because of my poorly timed treatment, so the next year I got two nucs. The extra cost was well worth it for the bigger impact on my learning and having options on hand for problem-solving.
Agreed…there are several reasons for this but the most important is that…at least in our part of the world…a package will allow you to go through your first season without so much worry of a varroa infestation taking over in the fall. Nucleus colonies often breakdown in the same fall of the year you recieived them. This helps out the newbie as there’s lots to learn those first few years. Check with your package supplier if they inserted a miticide strip in each package…that’s standard for bee packages imported into Canada…for good reason. They may charge a bit more for the package if the strip is included.
This is a standard setup for cold-climate package installation…plus add insulation under the lid:
The bees will build out those sheets of plastic or wax foundation much better if they are kept toasty warm…and they will take the syrup quickly as it is hive temperature. Cold syrup is OK for over-wintered strong colonies in a cold climate but not packages…and a pollen patty is not a bad idea as it tides them over any multi-day cold spells when pollen isn’t being brought in.
I also use a sheet of 6mil poly to seal the heat in the hive…this allows the curious newbie to take a peak without disturbing the colony and tells you that if wax is being built under the plastic within the first week, all is well and an inspection can wait until week 3.
Good luck and keep us posted!
P.S. Very prudent of you to get the 3 lb package size…increases your chances of success immensely…and you might even get a Flowhive crop your first year.