For anyone who is interested in becoming a beekeeper or for anyone who is curious about bees, you may wonder just how someone gets an entire colony of bees into a hive box. There are a couple of ways of doing it, but the one I want to talk about is how to install a package of bees.
What do the bees come in? And where is the queen?
Oftentimes, I will get asked how bees arrive or if they come in the mail. Honeybees do not come in the mail. But instead, I order my honeybees through a local honeybee store that I have to go pick up. However, they are ordered well in advance. Usually I will call around early to mid February. Simply because there’s usually a waiting list!
The package of bees will come in a box with a metal mesh around it (or sometimes it’s made of plastic) with a queen who is in a smaller box with a metal mesh over the top that is placed inside the box just near the top.
This package of bees isn’t very big and doesn’t provide a lot of space for the honey bees. Everyone is piled on top of each other and crammed in a small box.
The queen is placed in a separate wooden box inside of it because all the honeybees do not come from the same hive when they are put in the box. Oftentimes, there is a mix of different honeybees from different hives.
In this case, if the queen is released she will be killed by the other honeybees. They are not used to her pheromones and it is only natural for them to kill her off.
So to avoid this issue, the queen is put in a separate container with a small hole at the end. When you first pick up your bees, the hole has a cork in it (which you will replace with some candy. I’ll explain this later).
This smaller box has a metal mesh over the top which allows for her to breath and also allows the other honeybees to get used to her pheromones so by the time she is released, the goal is that everyone is used to her and accepts her as their queen.
Inside the small area of bees is usually a metal cylinder feeder filled with some sugar water for the honey bees to feed on while they await the location of their new home.
Preparation ahead of time
Before you set out to pick up your bees, you’ll want to ensure that your hive is already set up and good to go. Also, keep in mind that their new home will not have any stored food for them to survive on. You will also want to provide them with some sugar water to start them out with.
The sugar water mixture is made up of 1 cup of water to 1 cup of sugar and is usually place inside a sugar feeder that you can purchase online. Usually if you buy your hive as a set, this is already included with it.
Picking up the bees
Depending on the company you are purchasing the honey bees from, the dates could vary on when you are supposed to pick them up. Typically, bee purchasing time is in the early to mid spring time frame.
If you are anything like me and you do not have a truck or a handy area to place your bees when you go to pick them up, you will want to place them in the back seat of your car.
Yes, this sounds scary because you can just imagine how disastrous the trip back home could be.
However, the bees are securely placed inside this package without a way out.
This last spring I had three packages sitting in the backseat of my car as I drove 54 miles to get home. And during this long trip home, there weren’t any loose bees inside my car.
It isn’t recommended putting the bees in the trunk. When I went to pick up these little creatures it was about 9:30 in the morning, so it was pretty warm already.
By placing them in the trunk, they would have over-heated and potentially all died.
Installing honeybee packages
It is advised to install packages later in the evening when it’s almost sunset. The reason for this is so the bees are less likely to fly off. It’s later in the evening and they are more inclined to settle down for the night.
Each beekeeper may have their own way of installing bees but this is how I do it:
The first thing I do is I will get a spray bottle and put some sugar water in it and gently spray the bees with it. The reason this is done is because the bees will then be preoccupied with cleaning themselves off so when you are dumping the bees into the hive box the y aren’t as cranky.
Afterwards, I will then pry the can of sugar water out of the box, only enough to grab the smaller box that the queen is in and close it up again.
Remember that cork I had mentioned earlier that is in the side of the queen box? Here is where you will want to remove the cork, place your finger over it (so the queen doesn’t escape) and place a gumdrop in its place.
By doing this, the honeybees will eat away at the gumdrop while they get used to her pheromones.
When the gumdrop is eaten the queen will emerge and start to lay eggs.
After you have done this you will want to nestle the queen box in between two frames making sure the metal mesh is pointed downwards.
You do not want the metal mesh facing a frame or she will suffocate and die.
Next comes the exciting part!
Now you will want to gently remove the cylinder feeder. A bunch of bees will come out and start flying every which way.
You will want to act quickly and dump the bees over the hive box. I find that by shaking the box side to side the bees tend to fall out faster.
Granted other beekeepers have their own way of installing a package of bees. The way I have explained it is the easiest and quickest way that works for me.
Checking on the bees
After installing the bees you will want to wait about 3 or 4 days before checking on them again. At this point what you’re looking for is that the queen has left her little box. Also, what you will want to look for is if you see any eggs.
This is a good indication that the queen has been accepted and the sight of eggs is also another sign that the queen is alive and doing well.
During my last installment of bees, one hive still had the gumdrop left after about 4 days. At that point, I removed the candy and placed the box back inside the hive. Fortunately she is still alive and doing well. Long live the queen.
That’s how I install a package of bees. It seems like quite a process but in reality once you’re there to install them, it goes by so quickly!
If you have any questions or have any experiences of your own, please feel free to leave a comment below! I look forward to hearing from you!
18 comments on “How to install a package of bees”
StellaAugust 17, 2019 at 8:35 pm
This Is a very easy breakdown on how to install and handle bees hive. Putting bees inside seat back is a bit risky, I don’t think I can stand it. Well, you’ve given your assistance, so there is nothing to fear on. Rearing bees need extra orientation. Most people that rear bees in my area usually go to a place very far to the where people are living for safety purpose. I don’t really know much about bees. I need to ask a question. You said the queen will leave behind eggs which will show that it is still live. Can the egg also hatched into bees? This is an enlightening guides on how to install package of bees.
RandiAugust 18, 2019 at 2:00 am
Hello Stella! Thank you for your response! Excellent points you have brought up. Since honeybees are in such need of help, some cities have allowed bees within the city limits. In the state that I live in you can have up to 3 hives in your backyard. There are even beehives on top of tall buildings within the city too. Honeybees are very docile. It’s the wasps that will attack you. To answer your question, the queen bee is the one who lays eggs that hatch into other honey bees 🙂 Very good questions! Thank you!
WayneAugust 18, 2019 at 12:48 am
I’m so glad I found your post. I’ve been thinking about starting my ownI hives and have just started doing some research on the subjuct.
I didn’t know that bees came from different hives but what a smart way to get them used to the queen. Makes total sense. How long does that process take? A few days or a week or??
It’s a little unrelated but have you ever heard about how they catch monkies. Google it. It’s an interesting technique. There are some pretty smart people out there when it comes to figuring out how to “outsmart” the animal/insect kingdom.
You have explained this part so well so, I will “Bee” checking out more of your posts to learn more.
RandiAugust 18, 2019 at 2:04 am
Hello Wayne! I’m glad you liked the post! I hope that you do pursue your interest in honeybees! You’ll learn a ton and it also helps out the environment as well! To answer your question, beekeepers will usually gather other bees for packages as close to the date that they are needed as possible. This is because honeybees wouldn’t survive very long inside the box that they come in. Great question! And I’ll make sure to check out the monkey topic you brought up. Sounds interesting!!
MonalishaAugust 18, 2019 at 2:23 am
Thanks for sharing such an amazing and informative review on beautiful topic. In your article you have informed us that the bee’s living characteristics. You also have shared that How a beekeeper can keep the Bees in a hive. Bee is a very useful fly ever. It gives us honey which is full of nutritions. You have informed us that the entire processing from keeping bee to collecting honey.
Thanks again a lot. I will share the article with my friends and family.
RandiAugust 18, 2019 at 5:22 pm
Hello Monalisha! I’m glad you liked reading about bees. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have about them!
MariamAugust 18, 2019 at 5:42 pm
Wow wow wow, amazing read! I enjoyed every bit of it. I don’t have a plan yet for rearing bees but i would really love to have one after reading this. My mindset is that having bees flying loose and around would be extremely dangerous for anyone. I believe you are an expert on this?
I would love to ask, How long does the eggs take to mature and hatch? And how long before you start to get some honey?
RandiAugust 19, 2019 at 8:04 pm
Hello Mariam! I’m thrilled to hear that you liked my post! To answer your questions, honeybees really are docile creatures (unless you mess with their hives then they “sometimes” get a little cranky). The location where my hives are, the bees do not bother the people who live there and the hives are relatively close to their home. For the next question it all depends on which bee is trying to hatch. For the worker bee (the bees you see collecting pollen) it’s 21 days, a queen 15 days and a drone (the male bee) 24 days. Each hive is different on how long it takes for them to produce enough honey not only for them but for you as well. It also depends if their hive is already well established (wax comb is already built out) for them to store the honey. For an already established hive, the end of August is usually the time to collect honey. All very excellent questions!! Thank you for your response!
Joseph StasaitisAugust 18, 2019 at 11:04 pm
This is a very interesting article about getting bees into a hive box. I never gave it a thought before. It’s good to learn about this.
A box with a metal mesh makes sense, as well as the queen coming in a separate box so that the other bees can get used to her pheromones gradually. Your photos are great.
I can understand how gGetting the hive set up ahead of time with sugar water before installing the bees. It’s also interesting that beekeepers have different ways of installing. Checking on the bees in three (3) to four (4) days to make sure the queen has been accepted is another interesting part of this process.
Thanks for educating me on this. All the Best.
RandiAugust 19, 2019 at 12:11 pm
Hello Joseph! I’m so thrilled that you enjoyed my post! Honeybees really are fascinating. How they know to do half of the things they do blows my mind. Thank you for your response!
RoDarrickAugust 21, 2019 at 6:53 pm
Wow! This is a very simple breakdown as to how to install a package of bees and definitely, the details are precise and concise. Though the process has been well dissected but I don’t have the courage to keep bees. But I have a friend who wants to venture I to the beekeeping business, I will share this to him and definitely, I know this would be of immense help to him. Great post
RandiAugust 21, 2019 at 9:50 pm
Hello RoDarrick, I’m thrilled to hear about your friend who has an interest in bees as well! I’d be more than happy to answer any questions he may have! And thank you for your response, I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. Honeybees are an addiction of mine and it’s a pleasure to share it with everyone!
AshleighAugust 26, 2019 at 12:11 pm
This is such a great article, so informative! I have a friend who has honey bees, and she’s been having so much trouble recently with wasps getting into the hive and attacking and killing her bees. Would you have any advice as to how she should set up her hives to prevent this from happening?
RandiAugust 27, 2019 at 11:00 pm
Hello Ashleigh! I too struggled with wasps invading my hives last year. Entrance reducers definitely help with the raid of those nasty wasps. Also, I found that the hive that was heavily attacked was the one that had the highest levels of mites. Mites are these tiny bugs that will kill your entire hive! With that being said, if the hive is weakened due to mites, wasps will raid the hive. I hope this helps!
CAugust 26, 2019 at 12:16 pm
Hi thanks. Great website. I can tell that you have a lot of respect for the bees, the way you talk about taking care of them. I didn’t know how they transport bees. So they have to live in that box for their whole life? Is it still good for the bees to have to live in that little box or would they be happier if they could fly around wherever they want?
RandiAugust 26, 2019 at 12:34 pm
Hello! I’m glad you found the post interesting! Honeybees really are a very fascinating topic. To answer your question, the honeybees are placed in this box right before they are sold (give or take a few days) because it is such a confined space. Thank you for responding!!
PaulAugust 26, 2019 at 12:27 pm
Thanks a lot for the informative and insightful post.
I am planning to avoid white sugar and thinking of replacing it with honey.
We know the greatness of honey and it is really challenging to find pure honey. So I am thinking of becoming a beekeeper and preparing & harvesting honey. While doing some search came across your helpful post.
I am amazed to know that the package of bees will come in a box. Great walk-through and step-by-step instruction you provided on Installing honeybee packages is very helpful. Sharing from your own experience adds more value to this post.
This post is so thorough it opened my eyes to all sorts of information I wasn’t aware of!
RandiAugust 27, 2019 at 10:58 pm
Hello Paul! I think becoming a beekeeper is a great idea! Not only does it help out the environment but you’ll be surprised as to how much honey you can get from one hive! I have smaller sized boxes to aid in how heavy they can become, however, I still ended up with 23 pounds of honey this year! You won’t regret it!