Hill House, Birchover, Nr. Matlock, Derbyshire DE4 2BN. Tel: 01629 650457 Email: email@example.com
Installing a package
When you collect your 3lb package of bees it will be in a secure ventilated wooden box. It will have been sprayed with oxalic acid to kill varroa and it will have been fed a little sugar syrup before it is collected to ensure that the bees are well fed for their journey and good tempered on arrival. The queen will be in a separate cage with a few workers to care for her.
Your empty hive at home should have been prepared in advance. It is a good idea to put the queen excluder between the floor and the brood body for the first week the package is installed (if you are using a Top Bar hive I would nail some queen excluder over the entrance). Although this will prevent the drones from flying it will also stop any chance of the queen leaving the hive and the bees absconding. This can sometimes occur before brood is present. A reduced entrance block can also be inserted if one is available. Usually there will be drawn comb and eggs in the hive after the first week and the queen excluder can then be removed.
On arrival at home the queen cage should be prepared first, the plastic tab on the cage must be removed so that only the candy prevents the queen leaving - worker bees should chew through this in a couple of days. A length of wire should be inserted through the cage and this can be used to secure it to a frame inside the hive.
The package can then be opened and the bees shaken into the brood chamber (don't worry if some end up on the outside of the hive or on the ground they will go in soon enough). The crownboard can then be replaced carefully so as not to crush any bees.
The bees should be given a feeder of sugar syrup, a little of which should be dribbled onto the bees with a trail of dribbled syrup into the feeder so that they know it is there, the roof can then be replaced. Make the syrup up at a ratio of 1lb sugar to 1 pint of water. Check about 30 minutes later to confirm that the bees have found the syrup in the feeder and if they haven't then dribble some more syrup on them and leave another trail of syrup from the bees up into the feeder - they will get the idea eventually.
The bees should not be disturbed for 4 days (apart from topping up the feeder), after which time the queen cage should be checked to ensure the queen has been released. If she is still in the cage at this time she should be released by the beekeeper. As soon as eggs and larvae are seen in the hive the queen excluder can safely be removed. People often ask how much syrup a new package should be given and it is hard to generalise. However as an absolute minimum a package should be given 10lb of sugar made up into syrup. After this it may or may not require further feeding, this will depend on the weather and the area. Personally I would prefer to feed the bees a little more generously. Food fed to bees is never wasted and is usually repaid with interest the following year. Sugar syrup can be a very cheap form of insurance.
Please see the sub heading "optimising buildup" for an explanation of how I would go about feeding and caring for a new package or nuc in its first year in order to encourage its growth.