How to Put Your Bees in the Hive
8 of 11 in Series: The Essentials of Setting Up a Backyard Beehive
As a new beekeeper, one of your first steps is actually putting your bees in their new hive. Take your time and enjoy the experience. You’ll find that the bees are docile and cooperative. Read the instructions several times until you become familiar and comfortable with the steps. Do a dry run before your girls arrive.
Ideally, hive your bees in the late afternoon on the day that you pick them up, or the next afternoon. Pick a clear, mild day with little or no wind. If it’s raining and cold, wait a day.
To hive your bees, follow these steps in the order they are given:
Thirty minutes before hiving, spray your bees rather heavily with nonmedicated sugar syrup.
But don’t drown them with syrup. Use common sense, and they’ll be fine.
Using your hive tool, pry the wood cover off the package.
Pull the nails or staples out of the cover, and keep the wood cover handy.
Jar the package down sharply on its bottom so that your bees fall to the bottom of the package.
It doesn’t hurt them! Remove the can of syrup from the package and the queen cage, and loosely replace the wood cover (without the staples).
Examine the queen cage. See the queen?
She’s in there with a few attendants. Is she okay? In rare cases, she may have died in transit. If that’s the case, go ahead with the installation as if everything were okay. But call your supplier to order a replacement queen (there should be no charge). Your colony will be fine while you wait for your replacement queen.
Slide the metal disc on the queen cage to the side slowly.
Remove the cork at one end of the cage so that you can see the white candy in the hole. If the candy is present, remove the disc completely. If the candy is missing, you can plug the hole with a small piece of marshmallow.
Out of two small frame nails bent at right angles, fashion a hanging bracket for the queen cage.
Spray your bees again, and jar the package down so the bees drop to the bottom.
Prepare the hive by removing five of the frames, but keep them nearby.
Remember that at this point in time you’re using only the lower deep hive body for your bees. Now hang the queen cage (candy side up) between the center-most frame and the next frame facing toward the center. The screen side of the cage needs to face toward the center of the hive.
Spray your bees liberally with syrup one last time.
Jar the package down. Toss away the wood cover and then pour (and shake) approximately half of the bees directly above the hanging queen cage. Pour (and shake) the remaining bees into the open area created by the missing five frames.
When the bees disperse a bit, gently replace four of the five frames.
Do this gingerly so you don’t crush any bees. If the pile of bees is too deep, use your hand (with gloves on) to gently disperse the bees.
Place the inner cover on the hive.
If you’re using a hive-top feeder, it is placed in direct contact with the bees without the inner cover in between, so skip this step and go to step 12. The inner cover is used only when a jar or pail is used for feeding. The outer cover is placed on top of the hive-top feeder.
Place the hive-top feeder on top of the hive.
Alternatively, invert a one-gallon feeding pail above the oval hole in the inner cover; add a second deep super on top of the inner cover; and fill the cavity around the jar with crumpled newspaper for insulation.
Plug the inner cover’s half-moon ventilation notch with a clump of grass (some inner covers do not have this notch).
You want to close off this entrance until the bees become established in their new home.
Now place the outer cover on top of the hive. You’re almost done.
Insert your entrance reducer, leaving a one-finger opening for the bees to defend.
Leave the opening in this manner until the bees build up their numbers and can defend a larger hive entrance against intruders. This takes about four weeks. If an entrance reducer isn’t used, use grass to close up all but an inch or two of the entrance.