Honey Bee Genetics

Disease Resistant Bees

Installing your bees

The Day The Bees Arrive....


Your bees will be delivered in screened boxes via UPS Overnite or the US Postal Service mail, Special Handling. The boxes contain 3 or 4 pounds of worker bees (female), a handful of drones (male), and the plastic queen cage with candy release plug. This package with syrup can sustain the bees for about 7 days. Spray your package with water or syrup upon arrival. Avoid heat or direct sun. In case your colony isn't thriving, click here for instructions.

Installing your Bees


Every standard honeybee box contains 8 or 10 wooden frames complete with wax/plastic sheeting called foundation. These  frames should fit tightly into the deep bee boxes which are called supers. The honeybees build up the foundation into wax cells which are filled with, brood, pollen or honey. By placing the frames tight against each other, the bees will build out the wax while leaving a 3/8 inch walking space between the frames. This space is known as the bee way or bee passage.

Package bee installationshould be done late in the day. To start your new colony, just remove 4 frames from the super, remove the feeding can from the shipping box, take the queen cage out, and hang it from a wire between the frames. Then dampen the bees with water or light syrup, bang the package of bees on the ground and then pour the bees into the hive. Slowly lower the 4 frames back into the super. Some bees may remain in the shipping box. Just place the box on the ground, near the super and the stragglers will move into their new home the next day. The only thing left to do is set up a feeder bottle containing sugar syrup, so that the honeybees have a food source to stimulate comb building.

The most commonly misunderstood fact is the source of the wax. Wax actually comes from the worker honeybees body. The rear area of the abdomen (the striped area) contains plates which produce the wax. It literally falls off of the bees and is collected, chewed and formed into cells.

By the following day, the bees will make short orientation flights to familiarize themselves with their surroundings and then begin to forage.

What if I have more than one package?

There are benefits for a beginning beekeeper to have two hives.  The advantage of having two side by side colonies is that it enables the beekeeper to compare two different hives and one can be used to help the other in the event of a problem.  For example, if one hive is weak or loses its queen then brood can be transferred from the stronger hive as a tool to equalize both hives.

Two hives may be arranged one to three feet apart without any problems.

Installing two packages
Occasionally, in windy areas, adult bees from one colony may “drift” from one colony to another.  This drifting can be a larger problem when the number of packages to be installed is more than three and the bee equipment is brand new with new foundation.

If you are installing a larger number of new packages, we suggest, that the hives be placed in small groups of three or less in a shady area that is somewhat protected from the wind.  If drifting occurs after installation, the best solution is to reverse the position of the hive with the large number of bees with the hive with the least number of bees.  This manipulation can only be done during the first three or four days after installation.  Later when the queen has left her cage, this action could create a danger to the queen and thus the hive.

Do I need to replace the queen?

Queen photo from Michael Palmer permission granted Feb 1 2012


 To maximize a queen’s productivity, she should be replaced in the spring of the second year.  If a colony is not thriving then replacing the queen will often improve the condition of the colony. 

Some beekeepers will replace an aggressive, more defensive queen with a queen that has a gentler disposition.

Changing the queen will not remove disease agents such as; parasitic mites, Nosema, or viruses. 

If you believe that your hive is diseased, it should be treated before replacing the queen.Queens have a very unique and complicated biology. After mating, queens begin laying eggs; slowly at first then eventually reaching a normal rate; she can lay up to 1,500 eggs per day. 

Shotgun Brood Pattern photo from Michael Palmer permission granted Feb 1 2012 As the queen ages, the production of queen pheromone is reduced and her egg laying can become insufficient.  This will result in the colony having less brood and fewer bees.  When looking at a frame of brood, it can be described as having a more “shotgun” brood pattern.  These symptoms indicate that the queen needs to be replaced.

Another reason for beekeepers to re-queen is when a queen is lost during the spring because of swarming.   If this is the case, there will be no eggs or brood when the colony is inspected.  This situation is especially difficult to analyze because a virgin queen may have been left in the colony after the original queen swarms.  If there is sufficient quantity of capped brood left in the hive, then a new queen can be added.

(Photos by permission from Michael Palmer ©2012 Michael Palmer, All rights reserved)


Tips for handling queens

1.     Water your queens with a droplet of water after receiving them.

2.     Keep them out of the sun and away from any pesticides.

3.     The shipping containers are for shipment only. These queens should be used as soon as possible. If stored, they should be put into a bank hive.

4.     Be prepared for your queens. I do not recommend preparing your hives until you have received your queens. Delays can happen.

5.     If you plan on adding queens to a hive with a large population, we recommend that you slow introduction by adding additional candy, paper, or tape to the candy end of the cage. Or simply do not start the introduction until 2 days after putting them in a new hive.

Drone comb is common in any good hive. To keep your other frames with worker cells, place one drone comb to the edge of the brood nest all during the year. The bees will use it when they want it, and use it for honey storage the rest of the time.

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