Really want to do this right! Newbie

Hey everyone,

So we have our hive, and are part way through setting it up and locating it. Today I got a call from the apiary saying our package of bees will be ready to pick up on Friday. PANIC!

I’ve done hours and hours of reading, watched videos, read the book that came with thegovernment course twice and I’m planning on leaving notes on the gates of two local beekeepers that I know of to see if I can come and watch them do hive checks. But I’m still freaking out. I’m not scared of the bees, I’m scared of doing something wrong and killing the bees!!!

So as I was setting things up today, I realized that a lot of what I’ve read discusses setting up a new hive with drawn out comb. The flow hive frames do not have any wax on them, they’re plastic. Soooooooo, I feel like this may be a silly question, but can I just put my bees into the hive, with an extra food source nearby and they’ll draw out the comb and start setting up shop? This seems too simple to me, which is why I’m second guessing myself. Any answers to my questions would be greatly appreciated :slight_smile:


Hi Rachel,

I assume you ordered the full Flow hive? If so, the “super” (the part with the windows which takes the plastic frames) is not even needed at first. Don’t put it on the hive until you have the lower box full of bees with mostly drawn comb, and at least 80% of that comb filled with brood, honey or pollen. In Canada, I would imagine that most of your local beekeepers actually use at least 2 brood boxes. If so, you need to get a second one, and put that on to fill with bees once the lowest box is full. Only when the second box is full should you even think about putting the box with the plastic Flow frames on.

You say you are getting a package of bees, so they will need the 8 wood frames that came in your kit, so make sure you have those assembled too. Keep asking questions, we want to help you make sure that your bees are happy and that they thrive! :smile:


The bees have been doing this for thousands of years without our help, so yep it is in theory just that easy. They know what they are doing. The thing you will want to monitor is that they are drawing straight comb vs wonky crooked comb. Other then that let them do their business.

Ok… so I use the eight wood frames that came with the brood box, put those wooden frames in to the brood box and wait for them to draw out comb and fill with brood or honey/pollen. Yes I think a second brood box has been mentioned by the book that is published here in Alberta. I’m assuming this is so the bees have extra stores to make it through our particularly nasty winters(although this winter was lovely and the apiary near me is reporting record survival rates through the winter!)

So once brood box #1 is looking full, I add brood box #2, and when that starts to fill then I can add the honey super with the plastic flow frames?

So, do I need to buy wax foundation or starter strips for the wooden frames? Or will the bees draw out their own wax comb? I think I’ve read that both ways can be done, but perhaps they draw out the comb straighter if given foundation? Is that correct? I’ve read a lot of what Michael Bush has written over the last few months and I think he is the one that mentioned no foundations. He does mention a wooden “starting guide” though, and I’m wondering what this is specifically. Could I use Popsicle sticks??? The kids would be happy to help me collect them between now and Friday :wink:

Thank you so much for answering, it really makes me feel a lot better that there is an entire community of beekeepers here with expert knowledge!

Ok awesome! This is what I was just reading, it just seems so simple I thought I must have it wrong :slight_smile: Thanks!

Your Flow should have come with starter strips :slight_smile:

There are a hundred ways to do this. The general idea with foundationless comb is that they build straighter and better comb if they have a sharp point to work from. Which is the idea of the comb guide/popsicle sticks/etc. That gives them a definitive starting point which is directly in the middle of the frame so the chances of it being straight are greatly increased. Foundation works as well, and many people recommend to go that way, @JeffH is one of our local master beekeepers who is a big proponent of foundation, though he has done foundationless as well.

To confuse things further for you, there are regular cell and small cell foundations, which both have benefits depending on your personal beekeeping philosophy. I am personally using small cell plastic frames in order to regress the bees to natural size. Just put a pin in that concept and read up on it later, as foundationless bees will often regress themselves over time. I hope I am not confusing you too much or adding too much information overload for you. But this is a hotly debated topic that has lots and lots of information out there on it. I’ve been reading up on these concepts for about 6 months and just now feel like I am getting a grasp on them.

You just made my day!!! I went flying out to the garage to find these starter strips and there they were!!! hahah. Had I gotten to that part of the assembly yet I may have figured it out. Thank you :slight_smile:


You got it absolutely right. It is even possible that with an 8-Frame Langstroth in your area, local beekeepers might even suggest a 3rd box to help the bees store enough food for the winter. There is a very experienced beekeeper on this forum (@Anon) who lives south of you, but overwinters his hives on 3 brood boxes - he says they do better. When you think about a standard Langstroth, 2 deeps will be 20 frames. Your 8 frame Langstroth will only be 16 frames, so they are 4 frames short. Ed has found that adding an extra box really helps survival. You will then be up to 24 frames of brood and winter food, but the survival advantage seems to be worth it.

Let me answer your question with another question. Have you assembled the wood frames? If so, you will have noticed that they came with a thin wood strip to glue into the top bar of the frame. If not, do it and you will see. That thin strip is your bees’ comb guide and it is all you need. You don’t need wax or popsicle sticks, but feel free to use those instead if it makes you feel better! :smile: You just need something that sticks out about 5mm down from the middle of the top bar of the frame, and the bees will hang onto that to build their comb.

No, no confusion at all! I have read about small vs large foundation and that the bee traditionally was smaller and made smaller combs. I think I’ve also read something about larger vs smaller foundation and varroa mites, with smaller being less prone I think!?! Honestly it is a very steep learning curve but I love learning, so I’m happy to take it all in. While I think the honey is exciting, the reason we are getting bees is to pollinate our vegetable garden, teach our children about pollination and bees, and do our part in ensuring bees survival, so any and all information that will aid us in doing that is always appreciated :slight_smile:
Even if it is really technical :wink:

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Thank you SO much everyone for answering! Now I can call the apiary tomorrow and tell them that yes, we will indeed be picking up our bees!!! This morning I was frantically saying “we’re not ready for this” to my husband!!! I feel far more confident now :slight_smile:


Welcome Rachel,

In Alberta I would go with 3 deeps and then add the Flow frames once the bees have populated 85-90% of all three boxes.

Alberta Canada, that’s some beautiful county there. I’m headed to northern Wyoming next month to pick up,of all things, an 8 week old buckling (goat) to be our new herd-sire, and am tempted to cross the border. I haven’t been up there in awhile

Good luck with the bees! You’ll do fine.


By the way, if you want extra matching brood boxes, they aren’t cheap, but you can buy them here:

Here is a list of dos and don’ts:

All in all, a package is a swarm and they will likely do fine as long as you don’t drown them or overheat them or starve them before you put them in the box. All three of these things are easy to avoid.

Thanks, I think I will do 3 deeps then. Yes sir, this is beautiful country :slight_smile: We have goats as well, worth the drive to get a good sire!!!

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Thanks Dawn, I’ll check that out

Thanks Michael, I’ll give that a read.

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So we are currently having a very strange Spring. It was +30 degrees out (that’s 86F for you American folk), which is quite ridiculous for April here in Calgary. The thing is that it will drop to +4 (39) tonight or lower. The dandelions are out in full bloom, the poplars, choke cherries and saskatoons are all budding out.

So with this apparently early spring, it seems like I wouldn’t need to feed the bees anything…there are flowers out, trees blooming. Or do I still need to provide some food because they are package bees?

@Michael_Bush you mentioned the baggie method in your article. I’m assuming this could go on the top bars in an empty super above the brooding box initially? I like the idea of the feed being inside the hive.

And further to my above comment…if we do get the late spring snowstorm (which is bound to happen here at some point, it does every year) would I then need to add more feed? Or just wait it out as long as it doesn’t last more than a few days (which is normally doesn’t).

If it rains more than two days and they have no stores I would be out there feeding in the rain.