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What to do after installing your package of bees

Removing the queen cage from a Warre hiveAfter installing a package of bees into your new hive, you can sit back and relax...for a couple of days.  Most beekeepers recommend that you reopen the hive after two to three days to make sure the queen has escaped from her cage, removing the cork from the non-candy end and letting her run out if not.  I've usually had to help the queen escape, so you probably will too --- just work over the hive and be extra careful that the queen doesn't fly away or fall into the grass.  After she's been released, take the queen cage away with you rather than leaving it in the hive (where bees will build funny comb Release queenoff it) or around the hive (where the queen pheremones still on the cage could make your workers think she's leaving the hive).

As one of our readers wrote, the other important followup task is to feed, feed, feed.  Even if you're trying to keep bees as naturally as possible, a new package is the one instance where you really do need to feed your bees since they require that sustenance to draw out comb and nurture babies.  I asked readers for advice on what to feed our bees, and the best answer I got was that it's safest to simply feed a new package sugar water --- only give Crooked frame of waxhoney to bees from the same colony that made that honey (which you clearly can't do with a package).  As for how long to feed, it sounds like the colony will need 6 to 8 weeks to get new workers flying around and searching for nectar, so you may want to continue to feed your bees for that long.  Other people stop feeding as soon as the bees start to producing capped frames of honey.

Finally, if you're using foundationless frames (nearly always in a top bar or Warre hive and sometimes also in a Langstroth hive), it's important to make sure those first combs are built straight.  Bees line up future combs of wax parallel to the first one they build, so if that one is crooked, your whole hive will be full of crooked comb.  Beekeepers will either cut out a bad piece of wax or correct its orientation to get the bees off to a good start.
Weekend Homesteader
Now you're ready for the really hard part --- leaving your bees alone!  We'll see how long I can go before the urge to look into my Warre hive becomes unbearable.


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This post is part of our Bee Package lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:





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