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How to Install a Package of Bees in a New Hive

Robin has been keeping bees and harvesting honey for many years. She enjoys being a backyard beekeeper.

Two hives after installation of bees

Two hives after installation of bees

Advice for the New Beekeeper: Installing Your Hive

Installing your beehive is the first step in officially becoming a beekeeper. While there are different methods of installing bees, I found the method below to be the easiest and most successful.

If you haven't tended bees before, I recommend taking an installation class, if one is available. My first beehive installation was done in a class for five new beekeepers that were starting beehives. We met in a back garden and installed the bees there with a veteran beekeeper giving instruction and assistance. The experience was unbelievable, and that's an understatement.

My new package of bees

My new package of bees

Equipment Needed for the Installation of Bees

To get a new hive going, there are a few must-have items. You should not attempt to install your bee package without the following:

  • An assistant: Especially if you are a new beekeeper, you should always have someone on hand to help in case of emergency or just to have an extra set of hands
  • Bees: Of course, you need bees to begin!
  • A queen in a cage: Without a queen, your bees will leave your hive. If you can purchase a marked queen, even better. Marked queens are marked with a pen so they are easy to spot in the hive. This is a great benefit if you are new to beekeeping!
  • A hive body, frames, and foundation: Look for the following dimensions: 9 5/8" Hive body, 10 9 1/8" Frames, 10 8 1/2" Waxed Plastic Foundation. It's important to get the bigger hive body for the brood box—the place where the queen will lay her eggs. (You can use smaller hive bodies for the honey boxes.)
  • A beekeeper veil: You don't have to have a suit or gloves, although they are recommended. If you aren't going to wear a suit, make sure that you wear white.
  • A hive tool: You will need the hive tool to remove the sugar water container from the package.
  • Sugar water in a spray bottle
  • An entrance reducer: This prevents your bees from leaving the hive in large numbers (highly unlikely, but possible) and also reduces the amount of space they need to defend the hive from intruders.
  • An entrance feeder filled with sugar syrup: Most bees that you purchase are young bees, and young bees are not foragers yet. They will need the sugar syrup to survive and begin building the comb on the frames. See below for a sugar syrup recipe.
  • A pollen cake: One pollen cake on top of the frames under the hive cover is perfect.
Bee syrup and supplement

Bee syrup and supplement

How to Make Sugar Syrup for Bees

Making sugar syrup for bees is simple!

  1. Add one cup of sugar to one cup of water.
  2. For every quart of water, add one teaspoon of Pro-Health.

Quart mason jars make perfect entrance jars.

Bee Packages

I bought a three-pound package of Italian bees with a marked queen from Honeybee Genetics in Northern California. The bees came with a marked queen for $99. The bees so far have been very docile and healthy.

Choosing a Spot for Your Hive

Bees need sun, so make sure that you choose a sunny spot for your hive. A hive needs to keep its internal temperature in the 90s, so if your bees are not getting sun, they have to work too hard to maintain a higher heat. They are also at risk of illness if their hive is not warm enough. If you live in a very hot area, they need shade as well.

Bees also need a clear flight path. If you can, choose an area where they can get in and out of the hive without being in the way of people. I have heard of beekeepers placing their hive in front of a fence so that the bees have to fly up to get out of the way of people and houses.

Installing Your Package of Bees Into Your Hive

Now that you have your bees and all of your equipment, and you've put on your protective gear, it's time to install your bees! This process takes around two hours from start to finish. Give yourself time to move slowly and carefully. I have assumed that you have all of the equipment set up in a good spot for installation.

Step-by-Step Tutorial

Here's a step-by-step guide to installing your bees in your beehive.

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  1. Spray your bees.
  2. Spray your frame foundation.
  3. Use the hive tool to remove the sugar water container.
  4. Carefully remove the queen's cage from the package.
  5. Shake the bees over the hive.
  6. Be patient, add pollen cake and sugar syrup feeder, and cover.
Spraying packaged bees with sugar water

Spraying packaged bees with sugar water

1. Spray Your Bees

Spray your bees with sugar water. Use a new bottle so you don't harm your bees with unwanted chemicals, and mix one part water to one part sugar. When your bees are sprayed with sugar water they begin to eat the water, and full-bellied bees make quiet and calm bees. Plus, bees in a package do not have a hive, honey, or queen they are trying to protect. They are usually docile.

Spraying the frame foundation with sugar water.

Spraying the frame foundation with sugar water.

2. Spray Your Frame Foundation

Pull out every frame in your hive body and spray each side of the foundation with the sugar water. Replace the frames when you have finished spraying them down; a few squirts of sugar water per side is sufficient.

3. Use the Hive Tool to Remove the Sugar Water Container

This is your first real contact with your bees! The key is to be calm and move very slowly. Bees are like any wild animal—sudden and scared movements are alarming. Think zen! If it's been a while since you sprayed the bees with sugar water, you may want to do that again. When you remove the canister, be careful not to drop the queen's cage inside the package. Once you have removed the sugar syrup canister, you can place it on top of the frames. There will probably be a few bees stuck to the canister; you can brush them off into the hive.

Remove a small portion of the sugar paste from the queen's cage

Remove a small portion of the sugar paste from the queen's cage

Hook the queen's cage onto one of the hive frames