Please read through these instructions and watch the videos on how to introduce a queen, hive a package, and install a nuc.
Queens should be hived as soon as possible. If there are 3+ dead attendants the queen needs hived immediately. Never hold onto a queen to see if she ‘looks more lively’.
- Make sure your hive does not have a queen. Remove the cork from the candy end of the queen cage. Use a small
nail or like tool to gently open a small hole in the candy. Be careful not to poke through and stab the queen, or make the hole so big the bees can crawl through.
- Wedge the queen cage between 2 of the center frames with the screen on the cage exposed downward toward the bottom of the hive so that the bees can access the queen through the screen. The bees must also have access to the hole in the candy end of the cage.
- Make sure the candy end of the cage is slightly lower than the area of the cage occupied by the queen. Make certain the queen cage is securely embedded in wax or is secured to the top of the frames. If the cage falls to the bottom of the hive, the queen may not survive. The queen must be placed in the brood nest or the part of the hive where bees are clustered.
- Close the hive and wait 1 week before opening it. When you make your 1-week inspection, the queen should be out of her cage, and she should have eggs laid in 1 or 2 of the combs. Some queens can take a little longer to begin laying. If you see she is released but there are no eggs, check again in 3–5 days. If she is not out of the cage, release her into the hive by removing the screen and allowing her to walk into the hive. Be careful not to let the wind or her wings carry her away from the hive.
Hiving a Package
Packages should be hived as soon as possible. If you must hold onto a package due to weather or other circumstances keep them in a cool, dark location and spray the screen with sugar syrup.
- Prepare your hive before the bees arrive. We recommend a solid bottom hive without open air or a screen. Hives should be in a reduced space: single deep or modified langstroth box or about6-7 bars in a top bar hive. Packages are swarms: 3 pounds of bees (~10-12,000 worker bees) and a queen. They are vulnerable in the shipping cage. It is critical to hive a package immediately.
- Prepare a feeder with honey or sugar syrup (dissolve 6–8 lbs. sugar in 1 gal- lon water). We recommend closing the entrance so that the bees cannot fly for 24 hours after hiving. Use newspaper, an entrance reducer or similar material. If temperatures exceed 80°F, use a screen. Alternatively, you may reduce the entrance to 1–2 inches with grass, newspaper or an entrance reducer.
- Gently remove the feed can and queen cage from the package, and replace the can or cover the hole with cardboard. Can removal is made easier by tipping the package over slightly to loosen the can, or prying the can with a hive tool.
- Check the queen. If she’s not alive, take a picture of her and email us immediately (firstname.lastname@example.org) and hive the package with the dead queen in the cage – this will keep the bees from drifting away until a replacement queen arrives.
- Remove the cork from the candy end of the cage and hang the queen and cage, candy-end down, between 2 of the center frames in your hive. The bees must have access to the screen on the queen cage in order to care for her pending her release. There two options to proceed: 6a quickly dump the bees out of the cage; or, 6b place the package inside the hive.
- 6a Grasp the package at both ends, turn it upside down and shake the bees out through the hole where the can was. You may need to repeat the process until most of the bees have been shaken into the hive. Alternatively, tear or cut the screen off one side to make it easier to get the bees into the hive. Remember to remove the can so the bees can crawl out.
- 6b Remove 4 of the outside frames and set the package of bees into the hive, no more than one frame away from the queen cage and queen. Before placing the package full of bees into the hive, first tip the cage over and shake a few bees out to cover the queen. This step of shaking a hundred or so bees out to cover the queen is critical if tempera- tures are 60 degrees or less.
- Cover the hive and do not disturb for at least 5 days to one week.
- After a week, enlarge the entrance to 2–4 in. The queen should be out of her cage and eggs present on 1–2 fully or partially drawn combs. If you started the hive on foundation only, the bees should be drawing wax on 2–3 frames.
- Starvation is the most significant hazard for package bees. Give your new colony plenty of feed, regardless of floral resources. It is energy intensive to make wax for combs and quick comb construction facilitates rapid colony growth. Continue feeding the colony. Prevent robbing until the bees produce enough honey to sustain themselves.
Installing a Nuc
You can hive your nuc immediately or wait even a few days. Nucs can be placed near their new home with the entrance open. Once time and weather allow you can hive the nuc and any foragers will figure out they have a new home.
- Prepare your hive before the nucleus arrives.
- Prepare a feeder with honey or sugar syrup (dissolve 6–8 lbs. of sugar in 1 gallon of water). The entrance of the hive should be reduced to a width of about 1–2 inches by stuffing grass or newspaper into the entrance slot or by using an entrance reducer.
- Remove frames or combs from the hive body (you need to make room for 4 combs from the nuc).
- Wear a hat and veil, and light your smoker. Take the lid off the nuc and gently smoke the top of the frames.
- Carefully place the frames of brood and bees from the nuc into the hive. Be very careful not to mash the queen.
- Initially, the 4 frames of brood and bees should be no more than one comb of foundation away from the feeder (if you are using a frame feeder in your hive). Close the hive.
- In 4–10 days, enlarge the entrance to 2–4 inches, add feed and check for eggs. The eggs look like miniature grains of rice positioned vertically in the bottom of the cells.
- If you do not have any eggs, please contact us immediately. If a nuc fails to flourish or even dies, typically it is due to the queen not surviving transit or the hiving process.