What are Package Bees?
Article by Nancy Ketner
Package bees are one way for a novice beekeeper to get the bees he needs to fill his hive. They are also used to populate hives which have previously housed colonies that didn’t make it over the winter.
They can be bought through advertisements online or through catalogues or through a local farm supply store. The farm supply store is most likely the least expensive way to buy package bees. The bees are all ordered at once from one supplier and trucked to the farm supply store from wherever they’re grown. Then the new beekeeper can pick up his package bees.
A package of bees weighs from two to five pounds and contains thousands of adult bees. Package bees are sold by weight. The most popular bee packages are two and three pound packages. In the United States, many of them come from Georgia, which has a very hospitable climate for bee production.
Usually a bee package includes a queen. The bees are contained within a screened cage for shipping. If a queen is included, she’s in a cage that’s separate from the rest of the bees. A package of bees also includes a container of sugar syrup to feed the bees. Shipping has to be quick because bees will not live after the syrup is gone, unless they’re moved immediately into a hive.
Just before the bees are introduced to their new hive, a brood super with nine frames is set on top of the bottom board. The sugar syrup used to feed the bees is removed and discarded and the queen cage is removed. The queen’s little container has a section that contains a mixture that looks a lot like hard cake frosting. There’s a cork at one end of the mixture and a nail is inserted into the other. The bees in the package will work at the hard mixture which makes the hole larger. This takes takes several days, and allows them to accustom themselves to the new queen. If they didn’t, they would kill the queen. The queen cage is put between two frames in the centre of the hive.
Then a second brood frame is put on top of the first one with a few frames removed from the middle. The bees are then dumped into the hive. At that point the beekeeper, will, of course, be wearing protective gear, including a helmet and veil. He will have smoker pre-lit which he will immediately use to drive the new bees deeper down into the hive. This allows the beekeeper to put back the frames that he has removed without squashing the bees.
After some powdered sugar, possibly containing an antibiotic to ward off any diseases, is sprinkled into the hive, the inner cover is put on. This is followed by the outer cover. The queen will be able to get through the hole in her cage that’s been enlarged by the other bees in several days and the hive will be all ready for another year.The beekeeper should come back in a few weeks to make sure that the queen is out of her cage and that she is laying eggs.
About the Author
Nancy Ketner has been fascinated by Bees for as long as she can remember. Sourcing package bees as a beginner can be difficult. To understand all about beekeeping, including information on package bees come to BeekeeperCentral.com and sign up to our FREE mini Beekeeping Course e-course.