Package Bees – FAQ for Every New Beekeeper
Every year new beekeepers begin the hobby. A major part of beekeeping for beginners is obtaining bees! Buying bees is the most common way of getting bees for that new hive. Here are some FAQ about Package Bees.
Obtaining your first family of honey bees is a very exciting time. While there are several ways to get bees, buying packages is by far the most popular.
Each year thousands of beekeepers buy package bees. These bees arrive in bee supply stores and are shipped through the US mail to all sections of the US.
Why is this method of getting bees so popular and what should you know before taking this path to becoming a beekeeper?
FAQ About Package Bees
Several different sizes are available to purchase. The most common size is the 3# package. This size contains roughly 10,000 bees.
Most packages will contain all 3 types of bees. You will have a queen bee in her protective cage, thousands of worker bees and some drones too!
Order bees in late Winter for Spring delivery. Early delivery dates often sell out so it is wise to order before the end of January.
Bee Packages are usually only available during Spring. The beekeeper who misses the Spring delivery season may have to wait until next year to get bees.
The main disadvantage of starting a hive with a package is that the bees start with nothing.
This new colony has a lot of work to do. They have no built comb or brood to help the hive grow. It takes time for the colony to develop.
Packages are normally available earlier in the season than full hives or nucs. The desire to get bees early is not always related to impatience.
For some, early hive setup helps the colony have time to become established before Winter.
Yes, honey bees have a life span. In any hive, some bees die every day. A few hundred dead bees in the bottom of the box is no reason for concern.
If you have more than 1″ of dead bees in the bottom of the package, you should speak with your bee supplier.
Your bees will suffer from less stress if you install them into their new home as soon as possible.
Keep your bees in a cool dark place until you are ready to take them to the bee yard.
Your bee package queen did not come from the same hive as the workers inside your package.
She must be slowly introduced to the bees. The queen cage allows a slow release.
No, package bees have no brood to defend. However, it is always a good idea to have a lit smoker on hand.
In general, there is no need to use a smoker when installing package bees.
The answer to this question has a lot of variables. The biggest factor being your location.
In some regions, a hive started from a package may not produce honey for the beekeeper until the second year.
Installing Your New Package of Bees
There are several methods for getting the new bees into your hive. You may decide to simply dump the bees inside and hang the queen cage between 2 frames or take a slower approach.
Read my article on Installing a Package of Bees for more detailed information on the procedure.
Should I Feed my Bees?
In most regions, new colonies benefit greatly from being fed. A new hive has a lot of work to do before Winter.
Feeding bees sugar water helps them get off to a strong start. This is especially true for new colonies that are starting with nothing.
Feeding should be a temporary boost. If you find yourself feeding your colonies all year, something is wrong.
Inspecting New Hives
Managing bees into strong, healthy colonies requires routine hive inspections. The beekeeper can not simply install the bees and forget about them for months at a time.
Checking to see that the queen bee is accepted and laying a good pattern is necessary during the first major hive inspection.
It is also important to monitor the colony for disease, pests and suitable food stores throughout the season.
Before Winter, your new colony will need to be healthy, and have enough honey to survive Winter.
Starting new hives in this way is a rewarding experience. With proper attention and care, most colonies have the potential to grow into productive hives.