How to Install a Package of Honeybees

Choose an evening and install them an hour or two before sunset. Lightly mist the screen on the sides with 1 to 1 sugar water, this gives them something to do and they get a little drunked up here.

The next trick is to remove the queen cage. Take care here and don't jostle her around too much and put your veil on. Package designs vary to some degree but most have a piece of masonite stapled to the top that covers the can of feed and the queen cage. The trick is to pull the staples from that cover, whatever it is and leave it in place while you’re pulling the staples.

After the cover is free, you want to slide it lengthwise on the top of the package until you see the queen cage, it will probably be hanging by some strips of metal or arranged some other way, ask your supplier to see how it's set up if it isn’t obvious.

If you see a feed can, slide the cover back and slide it the other way, just enough to see if you can see the queen cage or its hangers. The hanger straps may be stapled so remove the staples, pull the queen cage out and slide the cover back quickly over the hole to keep the bees in the package box, some will escape.

Place the queen cage aside in a safe place, DONT DROP HER!

The next step is to remove the food can. Slide the cover the other way exposing the food can but not exposing the hole that the queen cage came from. Getting the can out is tricky and finger nails go a long way here, a small screw driver or small pliers work well too. However you get a hold of the food can, lift it out and quickly slide the cover back over the big hole. Bees always escape when removing the cage and the can, no problems. Now you’re ready to shake and dump your bees in the brood chamber.

Take your package to your brood chamber and remove 5 or 6 frames from the center of the chamber, this space is where you will be dumping the bees in. Give them another light misting of sugar water and while you’re at it spray the visible foundation inside the chamber as well. Next while holding the cover on top of the package, moderately slam the bottom of the package on the ground and all the bees should fall to the bottom. Next, slam a corner of the package so they all wind up at one end, remove the cover and shake them in the space you provided by removing the frames. Lightly place the frames back in the brood chamber, they will slowly settle into the chamber as the bees move out from underneath them, don’t push them down!

Next you have to install the queen. One end of the cage has a cork ONLY!. The other end has a cork and a plug of sugar candy that the bees must eat through in order to release her in the next day or two. Remove the cork from the end that has the sugar candy plug, (it's usually the longer passage) DO NOT REMOVE THE CORK FROM THE END THAT HAS JUST THE CORK, OR THE QUEEN COULD ESCAPE AND FLY AWAY!

What you want to do next is hang that cage halfway down in between 2 frames with THE CANDY END (WHERE YOU REMOVED THE CORK FROM) UP! That's candy end UP! Use a string stapled to the queen cage or use a thumb tack to fasten the string to the queen cage, (don’t stab the queen) don’t block the hole with the candy, as the queen has to pass through that hole after the workers have eaten all the candy out of it.

When you place the cage down into the recesses of the frames, make sure that the one side with the screen on it is facing either to the front of the chamber or the back. The screen should never face the foundation as workers can't attend to her needs during her short confinement. Then tack the string to the top of one of the frames, squeeze the frames tight together and put your inner cover on and then the outer cover and your done. Begin feeding 1 to 1 sugar syrup immediately.

Check back in 2 days and see if the queen has been released. If she has, remove the queen cage, squeeze the frames back together and re assemble the colony. If not, you can help her by gently pushing a small wire or finishing nail through the candy (don’t stab the queen) to make a small hole through the plug, this makes it easier for the worker to finish the candy off and release the queen. Check the feed and replenish if needed. DONT LET THEM RUN OUT OF FEED!

It might seem complicated but it's actually pretty easy. Don’t be nervous or move quickly, wear a veil and move cautiously, take good care of that queen in the cage! I've done allot of installs and still sometimes make a mistake. The worst mistake you can make is installing the queen cage wrong, which is, candy end down and screen towards foundation, this is wrong. If my instructions aren't clear enough or you feel you need advice or help, call a club member for help.