Starting Our First Colony with Packaged Bees.......We were so green….we did not know anything. But the bees, and a very good mentor, soon taught us. We started our hive with “packaged bees”, and they are just that. We ordered what is called a “package of bees” They come in a wooden box with two screened sides, to the post office (or in our case they came to a business that ordered and sold bees).
If you order bees and they are sent through the US Postal Service, you can expect a call from the Post Office with an urgent request to, Please come get your bees!!!
You can also get bees from a local beekeeper. You will buy already established frames of bees. We decided late in the season that we wanted to become beekeepers, so the packaged bees were our only option. Which ever way that you obtain your bees, the work has only begun. Your quest is to keep them alive.
Getting the Bees into the Hive
The bees that are received are all female bees. The Queen bee is a female and all of the worker bees are female. The Queen comes in a small separate wooden box with screened sides with a few attendant worker bees. The Queen has already been mated. The Queens lays unfertilized eggs to be male bees (Drones) in the spring for mating purposes only.
From Package to Hive- Steps to Unifying the Queen and Hive.
We were following instructions from the “Bees for Dummies” book. We had the hive all ready for the worker bees and got them out of the larger box and into the hive. The book then instructed us to take the Queen bee box and remove the cork on one side. There is a candy plug under the cork that the attendant bees eat from one side and the worker bees in the hive eat from the opposite side, which releases the Queen into the hive.The Queen bee has to be introduced slowly so that the worker bees can get used to her pheromones or smell that she gives off. The pheromones of a Queen bee serves as a social “glue” unifying and helping to give individual identity to a bee colony.
Unfortunately, our first attempt to unify a Queen and our hive of bees failed because the Queen was released too quickly.
First Lesson Learned – Wait to Remove the Cork!
The book stated that the cork could be removed immediately. Some packaged bees come with the Queen strapped closely to the box of bees. In that case, the bees would already be used to smell of the Queen. The package bees that we received, however, did not have the Queen cage strap the package of bees. Being the "Newbies that we were, we did not know that we should have left the cork in the cage for about 3 days before removing it. We found out the hard way……the worker bees killed the Queen bee (called balling the Queen) because she was released too soon. So our hive was without a Queen. This is bad because the Queen bee keeps the hive populated by continually laying eggs. She can lay up to 1500 eggs per day.