It’s that time of year when honey bee packages are arriving in our area (Northeast Ohio) and they need to be installed in hives (called hiving honey bees). The bees typically arrive in late April, and this year was no different. Once they arrive, they need to be picked up and hived pretty quickly or they’ll run out of food and die.
We currently have four hives, but ordered four additional bee “packages” that will bring our total number of hives to eight for the start of the honey season. The bee “packages” we ordered were three lb. boxes that contain a queen and about 10,000 – 15,000 bees. Each package goes into one hive.
Our beekeeping practices are pretty traditional, and hiving bees consists of the following steps for us:
The hive parts that will be exposed to the elements are primed and painted:
Hive stands are constructed to get the hives off the ground, and help protect the honeybees from predators:
Pick-up the boxes of bees (the picture below is of one 3 lb. box), we’re installing four this year:
The picture below shows the hive assembled – waiting for the bees. Note the “shoes” on the bottom of the stand legs – we’ll put oil in those containers to prevent ants from crawling up the legs and attacking the bees. The slanted front piece is a “bee landing zone”. The parts of the hive that are shown are (starting from the bottom) the hive stand, bottom board, lower deep (brood chamber), inner cover, top feeder, and outer cover. Pieces that are not shown now but would be added during honey season are an upper deep (food chamber), and supers.
Time to put the bees in, first the queen gets removed from the shipping container:
She comes in her own little individual cage; with her own workers. The end of her container is plugged with “candy” which the workers will eat through to release her into the hive. While they’re eating through the “candy”, the other bees shipped with her become used to her scent; and should then (hopefully) accept her as their queen when she actually enters the hive.
The queen in her little container gets placed into the center of the lower deep (her container is that little tiny square you see between the frames (divider looking things) below):
Now, the exciting part – the bees go in! First, the bees are sprayed down well with sugar water so they can’t fly away, and will fall into the hive. Then, a softball size clump of bees is added around the queen, and the rest are added in the opening between the removed frames.
The removed frames are carefully (so as not to crush any bees) added:
And finally the inner cover goes on, followed by the top feeder (the top feeder holds sugar water to feed the bees as they get established) and outer cover. The whole process was repeated for all four hives; and now we wait to see if the workers accept their queens and the hives are off to a good start.