In our last section regarding how to keep bees, we discussed basic positioning, beehive layout as well as timing. In this section, we will go over the installation of your queen bee and the process involved with creating the entire honey bee swarm. If you haven’t already checked out the previous part, here is the link. How to keep bees pt 1.
You can order bees through any number of companies and have them shipped through the mail. Check online or on your local craigslist as well
to see if there are any people that keep bees near you. The google term would be “beekeepers near me”. Be sure and have the parts down below ready to go before your honey bee swarm arrives. They need to get moved from the transport device to the bee box as quickly as possible.
The process for installing your honey bees is a delicate one. First and foremost, get your tools ready. Put the bee suit on, get a flat blade, a pry bar or flat bar scraper and/or screwdriver and set it off to the side. In addition, you’ll want some source of food for them. I use sugar water in a can with small holes tapped into the bottom. A couple should do. A couple of scrap pieces of wood or foliage around the area to keep the sugar water can lifted off the inner cover will be needed as well. These pieces need to be thick enough to have enough clearance for the honey bee workers to get under it to get to the food. Also grab either an elastic band or some sort of strap that will work on wood. You are going to want to put all of the items near by so they are easily reachable for working the package of bees that you received or purchased. A standard bee package consists of a box filled with a specific weight of bees, a queen cage and the life support medium for keeping them alive during transition. Usually this is sugar water for the workers and a type of candy for the queen bee.
Once all of your beekeeping equipment is situated, take a look at the bee package. Pop the covers off of the beehive that the bees will be going into. Remove the top cover and the empty top box. Next, remove 3 or 4 panels from one end of the bee box. Set these nearby, to the side. On the top there will typically be a piece of wood that sticks out. That piece will need to be removed using your flat bar or pry bar. Once removed you should find some sort of feeder can that will keep bees fed that has a secondary piece of metal that hold on to the queen bee cage. The queen bee cage is pinched by the feeder cage and will fall in if you start to pull the feeder cage out. Keep that in mind.
Next, take a look at your beekeeping equipment and tools to determine a good device for prying the feeder can out. With your free hand, grab the handle for the queen bee cage and hold it off to the side to prevent it from slipping and falling into the bee package. Next, start prying around the edges of the feeder can to slowly start lifting it out of the hole. Gently work that can up and out while holding the handle for the queen bee cage until the feeder can comes completely out. Set this to the side. Paying close attention so you don’t crush any of your faithful workers of the honey bee swarm.
Next, pull the queen bee cage out. In just about every case, you’ll find the attendants attached to the cage. You can give them a gentle shake down into the bee box to expose the queen bee. If you look closely at this box, there should be a piece of candy or some sort of feed that is designed to slowly feed the queen bee. This will degrade over time and eventually release the queen. We now need to attach this to one of the sleeves in the bee box. There will be a stopper at the end containing the food for the queen bee cage. This needs to be removed prior to attachment to the bee box.
Once the cork is removed, and with your elastic band or strap handy, stick the queen bee cage to one of the panels in the bee box. She should be situated near the top of the panel with the food source facing down. Over time, the food source will dissolve and the queen bee will be free to come out. By the time that happens, the workers will have established enough of the bee hive for her to call home. You can now slide this frame back into the bee box gently. Push that frame so that the queen bee cage is against the next frame up leaving the remaining open space away from the side she is attached to.
Bee fact: When you have already established bee boxes to keep bees, there should be sufficient wax on the panel for the queen bee cage to just stick to it. This will take off a few steps.
With the frame containing the queen bee cage nestled back in the bee hive box, you are now ready to install the rest of the bees. This next part is music to my ears. Position the bee package over the open panel spots in the beehive box. Turn the package upside down and give it a gentle downward shake. The bees should start an orchestra of buzzing! Remember, honey bee swarms are generally very gentle and the buzzing noise is simply them being confused as to what is going on. That doesn’t mean do this without gear. Sometimes, you’ll get a feisty one that is looking for revenge. After a bunch of the honey bees have fallen into the open space, start shifting the bee hive package back and forth to get the remaining bees to the bottom corners and simply pour them out. The remaining stubborn bees can be removed by a little pounding on top of the box. When there are only a few left in the bee package, just set it off to the side with the exit hole facing the bee box. The remaining few will crawl out to the bee box later. After you have done this a couple times, this will probably be a walk in the park.
Now that the major majority off the bees have been dropped into the beehive box, you can gently return the remaining panels to the box. Being as careful as you can not to crush the bees at the bottom and sides. When you keep bees, try to keep as many alive as you can. They all have a job to do. If you slide the panel down in gently enough, they’ll get the hint and move. Most of the time. Next, use a scraper to get the bees that are clinging to the edge of the box pushed into the box and put the inner cover back on.
Next comes the feeder. On the top of the inner cover, place down your two small pieces of wood or debris you find nearby that will be used to prop the feed can up. Set the feed can on top of those with the holes facing down. Be sure there is enough clearance underneath for the bees to get between the inner cover and the bottom of the can.
Now simply put the top empty box and the top cover on and you’re golden! That concludes the how to keep bees section.
Our Next topic for discussion will be bee colony maintenance. Please click the arrow below to proceed!