Monday, April 18, 2011

Honey Bee Package Installation

A few weeks ago, we installed a new package of honey bees into a hive box at Temple.  A "package" consists of 3 pounds, or 3,000 bees, in a box along with a fertile queen and a can of sugar syrup.  Most of the bee packages are raised in Georgia and the sugar syrup feeds them during the long and stressful trip to their new homes... in our case, about 900 miles away in Pennsylvania.

It is fun and a little chaotic getting the bees to go from one to box to another.  First, you have to spray the bees down with sugar water.  This reduces their ability to fly.  Then, you remove the queen who is in her own separate cage called the "queen cage" and the sugar water can.
Queen Cage
Then you vigorously shake the box of 3,000 sticky bees into the new hive boxes which are filled with un-drawn wax foundation.  Then the queen cage is secured to one of the frames.  She isn't released just yet because these bees are not actually her daughters and would immediately kill her due to her foreign pheromones.  The queen cage has a hole plugged with "candy," a sugary substance.  After about 3 days, the bees have eaten through the candy, all the while getting used to the new queen's scent.  By the time they eat their way to her, they have accepted her pheromones and it is one big happy family!
Queen cage secured to the frame
Here are videos of a package installation that I performed last year...

Sometimes, the queen isn't accepted even if the beekeeper follows the rules.  Luckily, our bees accepted their new queen and she is successfully laying eggs and growing her family!

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