Common Questions about Honey Bee Packages
Most new beekeepers start their beekeeping journey with bee packages. Thousands of honey bee packages are sold each year. Once they arrive, the beginning beekeepers are faced with the task of growing that small bee family into a productive hive. These common package bee questions and answer should get you off to a good start with your new hive.
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 package 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
Packages of honey bees are sold in several different sizes.
The most common size is the 3# package (3 pounds).
A 3 pound bee package contains about 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 bee package 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.
Installing the bee package promptly is best as that gets the bees into a natural environment.
Some beekeepers like to wait until just a few hours before dusk to put bees in a new hive.
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 a Package of Bees
When you purchase a package of honey bees, you have everything you need to start your hive. Over the coming weeks and months, the colony population will grow – if the bees have what they need.
Once you get your bee package home, it is a good idea to put them in the permanent hive as soon as possible. There are several methods for getting the new bees into your hive.
In my article installing a Package of Bees, I outline the process step by step with more detailed information on the procedure.
Whether you decide to simply dump the bees in the box and hang the queen cage between the frames or take a slower approach – either method can work.
Should I Feed my New Package 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.
A common beginner beekeeping mistake is to fail to feed package bee hives long enough.
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.
Your package bees have a lot of work to do before Winter. Don’t wait to check on their progress. If they hive is not building comb and growing population by mid Summer, you need to find out why.
Before Winter, your new colony will need to be healthy, and have enough bees and stored honey to survive Winter.
Final Thoughts on Questions about Package Bees
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.
Package bees are a useful tool in growing your apiary.