Package Bees

Here’s a video showing how to handle and install package bees.

As a commercial beekeeper, I’ve installed thousands of packages this way except:

  • using a spray bottle of light sugar water is easier than a spray tank
  • I manually release the queen after a week if the bees show no aggression towards her

A couple of shots of spray through the screen, then a couple of shots into the package, after removing the feed can, is all the spray that’s needed. The idea is to use just enough spray to keep them from flying.

A week later,  the queen is released if the the bees aren’t biting or clinging to the queen cage. Some bees will cluster on the cage. But will freely move around on it. That’s OK.

If the queen is in a typical 3 hole Benton cage with candy:

  • remove the cork on the candy end
  • push a small hole through the candy using a frame nail
  • let the bees release her

I don’t manually release the queen when installing the package. When it works right, it works great. But under some conditions, and with some kinds of bees, it just doesn’t work at all.

Package bees are stressed bees:

  • they have been shaken from more than one hive
  • the queen is young, newly mated, skittish and unaccustomed to the bees
  • they have been confined and subjected to non-hive smells, vibrations, movements

It’s going to take some quiet and undisturbed time for them to:

  • associate each other as nest mates
  • see their new hive cavity as home
  • begin to collectively think and act as a colony
  • accept the queen

It’s best to keep them well fed and undisturbed for a week or more. Disturbing them can cause the bees to abscond or kill the queen. So:

  • leave them along as much as possible
  • when feeding, use as little smoke as possible

Give them time. It will take a brood cycle for the queen to mature and the bees to become a cohesive colony.

And thank you beefitter for the video.


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