Installing Your New Bees

This has actually been mentioned before, but I know that at least one person who got bees tonight did not know…   The nucleus hives that many of you bought with our club order are made up with Deep frames – traditionally most nucs are – however many people now want to use all medium frames.  If you are using deep hive bodies then no worries, but what do you do if you have medium hives and discover that your deep nuc frames won’t fit?  All is not lost.

Start by putting one empty medium hive body on your bottom board then put enough frames of foundation in it to make up the difference between your nuc and the frame count of your equipment – in other words if you have a 4 frame nuc, and you have 10 frame medium equipment, put 6 medium frames in.  Push all of those frames to one side.  Set another medium hive body on top of that.  Now install your nucleus hive frames in the second box – they will hang down into the space you left in the bottom box.  Now reach down with your hive tool and push the medium frames over against the deep ones – you might have to space them out to match the bee space between the matching frames, but don’t leave a big space between them.  Now fill the second box with medium frames – also push them over against the deep frames.  Never leave empty spaces in your hives or the bees will build burr comb in it.

The deep frames do not go down as far as the bottom set of mediums, and the bees will build some natural comb on the bottom of them.  Don’t worry about it.  Inspecting the medium frames in the bottom box will be a bit of a pain – so as long as you see what you need to see in the second box don’t worry about them for a while.   Eventually the deep frames will be empty and you will be able to move them out – or if you get anxious about it you can move them above a queen excluder – in a few weeks any brood in them will emerge.  Once they only have honey or nectar in them you can take them out of the hive and either extract it (if it is good honey) or you can leave it out and let the bees remove it.

This is a bit less than ideal, but the bees really won’t care.

When to install your Package bees

I have done a little research on if there is a better time to hive your packages, and as JD mentioned in previous comments  late in the evening is probably best if possible, because the bees are less likely to drift or even just leave.   So, what I said at the last meeting was wrong – sorry about that.  From my notes and clips:

Installing Nucs

“… When you get the nuc home place it on top of the hive it is to go in and leave it be until the next day, making sure you have opened the entrance. Assuming the entrance has been closed. Then, sometime during the (following) day, transfer the frames from the nuc into the hive. I prefer working bees during daylight hours, not darkness.

… Folks should keep in mind that bees are quite flexible and handled properly won’t perish easily. (you) may even find it beneficial to leave the bees in the nuc box they come in for a few days or a week even, depending on the weather and whether the combs in the nuc box are completely filled out.  … in NY I wouldn’t install a nuc in a full sized box right now (April 6), unless I kept them in the same configuration as they were in the nuc box. Not until some nectar flow started. Then I would put one frame inside each of the two outside nuc frames, to be filled if comb or drawn if foundation.”

-Mark Berninghausen, Brasher Falls NY- Commercial Bee Keeper  former New York State Apiary Inspector, and frequent contributor on

Installing Package bees

There are lots of opinions (from equally authoritative sources) on the “best” way to install package bees – but people who do it a lot seem to agree that if you are installing multiple packages, doing it later in the evening can help to minimize drifting – a possible cause of problems when one hive becomes very strong and the other gets very weak.   Also, misting the bees with water or light syrup before/during the install apparently helps to prevent drift – which is new info to me, but makes sense, because it keeps them from flying while they clean off all the stickiness.   So I was incorrect to say at the recent meeting that you should install packages asap – although if you are just starting with only one package and no other hives nearby for the bees to drift to it is probably alright –  I did say that I had little experience at this.

The tried and true method of queen release in package installs is to hang the queen in her cage in the hive – and let the hive release her over time by eating through the candy plug (don’t forget to expose the candy though!) But If the package is at least 3 days old there has been ample experience among commercial bee keepers that directly releasing the queen is as effective as leaving her in the cage – if the package is newer than 3 days or of unknown age then the general consensus is that doing a candy release is safer.  The bulk of disagreement seems to come from people who have never really tried both methods.

If you are installing a package in any kind of foundationless configuration – top bar or otherwise – you must directly release the queen or the presence of the cage is almost sure to result in bad comb being built.

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12 Responses to Installing Your New Bees

  1. David Frounfelker says:

    Who let their Queens out?
    I checked my packages this afternoon, and found very little progress in releasing the queens.
    The candy in the queen cage was soft and stringy. I tried to pierce it but ended up just puling it out completely. Within a few minutes, the Queen exited! Almost immediately began to lay eggs in newly built comb! Interesting looking Queens! Almost totally red! What did we do we have here.

    • J. Hicks says:

      We experienced the identical situation to what you described…

    • Travis Walker says:

      I haven’t released my queen yet. I installed the bees mid-day Tuesday and will do an inspection tomorrow. Hopefully she will have been released by then, but if not I will directly release her. I probably would have checked already but I don’t get home from work until late in the evenings and figured it would be best to just wait until Saturday. I’m brand new at this so it has been hard to keep my curiosity in check and leave them alone for a few days.

      • Travis Walker says:

        Update: I checked both of my hives on Saturday, and the package of bees had drawn out a lot of comb considering it had only been four days. They had not touched the candy on the queen cage at all. According to what I had heard, I thought that the comb would be built near the queen cage. However, the comb they were building was on the other side of the hive (this is a top bar, no frames/foundation). I had to manually remove the candy and release the queen.

  2. Kim Phann says:

    What a great experience! Thank you for all your advice- I was a little nervous, but everything went so smooth, I got over it quickly!

    We live in harmony!


  3. rtrant says:

    WOW!!!! are these bees gentle or what…. installed and less than a hour they were bringing in pollen….. only had 4 dead bees… great job on delivery…. thanks guys…

  4. Matt Phillips says:

    Got both of my packages installed about 2hrs ago. Success!
    Ok… now just gotta survive the first night :-)

    Thx Dr. Greene for your help & mentoring. I’m learning tons!

  5. J. Hicks says:

    And if your queen in the package is dead?

    • David LaFerney says:

      You need a queen to install a package with or they will probably abscond – I assume that you are asking because you have a dead queen?

      • J. Hicks says:

        Correct.. (Dead Queen)

        • David LaFerney says:

          For anyone reading this comment thread Jill made a good call and just installed all of the bulk bees from her 2 packages in one hive – with the live queen from the other package. With 6 lbs of bees it should draw lots of comb pretty quickly, and in a few weeks she should be able to split it with a replacement queen. With a little luck she will get to about the same place, but by a different route.

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