This is the time of year every beekeeper looks forward to. The weather is getting warm enough for the bees to fly out collecting early pollen and new packages of bees are ready to be delivered to anxious midwestern beekeepers.
We ordered 80 3 pound packages of bees this year. For the first time, they are being sent directly to our apiary in a cargo van from Navasota, Texas. Last week we did some last minute preparation needed in order to be ready to install the packages when the bees arrive.
Since we had so many fewer hives last season we had to count and arrange screened bottom boards, hive boxes and top and inner covers. Then haul around several heavy concrete blocks that we use as hive stands to parts of the apiary where there were only empty spaces last year.
We got notice that the driver would arrive around late morning on Thursday and had the beekeepers, Michael, Rhonda and Rob and several volunteers ready to go. The most interesting thing to me was the method of installing the packages of bees. Most beekeeping books will tell you to shake the bees into the top of the hive. This is the method we used to use. We found that we ended up with a large number of confused bees flying in the air not knowing which hive they were supposed to go to. This leads to all kinds of confusion with some hives gaining massive amounts of bees and others almost empty. The result is a crazy apiary and several days of equalizing hives
This time, on the advice of our bee supplier, B. Weaver, we simply took out 5 frames from the top box, installed the queen in between two of them and laid the open package down inside the hive. A much more gentle method of introducing a package. The bees simply walk out into the hive and start their work.
The next day we started to take the empty boxes out of the hives. I got to help complete the job on Saturday. Open the hive, take out the empty package and replace the 5 missing frames. I used this as an opportunity to kind of spot check the population to see whether the bees had stayed put. Most hives had about 3 frames of bees which is just about right. We won't be checking for released queens for about 5 more days.
Just a quick note. We encountered an old metal shipping scale in the street late last summer and will be using it to keep track of the weight of one of our hives.
If you would like to see more Package installation pictures, click on "Here we are in pictures" in the right side column .