How to Install a Package of Bees in a New Hive

Two hives after installation of bees
Two hives after installation of bees | Source

Installing your Hive for the New Beekeeper

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, and a class is available, I recommend taking an installation class. My first beehive installation was done in a class for five new beekeepers that were starting beehives. We met in a backgarden 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 | Source

Equipment Needed for 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.)
  • Beekeeper veil. You don't have to have the suit or gloves, although they are recommended. If you aren't going to wear the suit, make sure that you wear white.
  • Hive tool: You will need the hive tool to remove the sugar water container from the package.
  • Sugar water in a spray bottle
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Pollen cake: One pollen cake on top of the frames under the hive cover is perfect.

Bee syrup and supplement
Bee syrup and supplement | Source

How to Make Sugar Syrup for Bees

Making sugar syrup for bees is simple! Add one cup of sugar to one cup of water. 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 market 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 have 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.

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

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 packaged bees with sugar water
Spraying packaged bees with sugar water | Source

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.

Spraying the frame foundation with sugar water.
Spraying the frame foundation with sugar water. | Source

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.

4. Carefully Remove the Queen's Cage From the Package

Different companies use different methods of releasing the queen. Honeybee Genetics has a capped tube containing sugar paste that leads to the queen. Remove the cap and scoop out a portion of the paste so that the queen can eat through it and be released into the hive in a few days.

It is important for the queen to remain in her cage within the hive for a few days so that she can release her pheromones and let the other bees know that she is their queen. If she is released too soon, her bees may either kill her or fly away. Hook a wire around an opening in the cage and hook it onto one of the frames in the hive. In three days, you can remove the cage by unhooking the cage from the frame and see if she has been released.

Other companies don't provide a paste. If you purchase from one of these companies, remove the cap from the tube containing the queen and place a miniature marshmallow inside. The queen and the other bees will chew their way through the marshmallow in a few days.

A Great Beekeeping Book

The Beekeeper's Handbook
The Beekeeper's Handbook

This is the beekeeping book that I use religiously. It has a lot of information for new beekeepers. I highly recommend reading about keeping bees and taking a class before you begin.

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

5. Shake the Bees Over the Hive

Now that your queen is installed in the hive, you can add her bees to the mix. Hold your package firmly with two hands and shake your bees over the hive. If your bees are sticking to the sides, you can hold your bees a couple inches off of the ground and drop them gently to get them moving. Continue to shake your package over the hive until a good majority of the bees are out. Place the package angled toward the hive entrance and allow the rest of the bees to leave the package to go to their queen. Don't worry about your bees flying away—they have already bonded with their queen enough to be drawn to her in the hive.

Installing bees into a hive
Installing bees into a hive | Source
Bee installation
Bee installation | Source
Bee installation
Bee installation | Source

Bees Recently Installed

Leave bee box next to hive so any bees left in the box can go in the hive
Leave bee box next to hive so any bees left in the box can go in the hive | Source

6. Be Patient, Add Pollen Cake, Sugar Syrup Feeder, and Cover

After about an hour, most of the bees will have moved inside of the frames. You can then add one pollen cake on top of the frames, and place your hive cover and telescoping cover on the hive. Your hive cover is wooden and your telescoping cover is usually metal. If you are leaving your hive where you installed your package, give your bees their sugar syrup through the entrance feeder and tape it down. Add the entrance reducer and you're ready!

If you are going to move your hive, as I did because I went to a class to install it, tape down the entrance and cover, and carefully move the hive to your car. We had a few bees that were hijackers in the car but they didn't cause us any problems on the drive. Carefully move the hive to the desired location and untape the entrance. I have left the top of the hive taped down and added bricks to the top of my hive to deter raccoons and skunks.

Our spot for my hive.  We live on a creek, so we had to secure a safe spot that kept the bees away from the kids, but also had sun.
Our spot for my hive. We live on a creek, so we had to secure a safe spot that kept the bees away from the kids, but also had sun. | Source

Would you consider having a hive on your property?

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What to Do After You've Installed Your Bees

About three days after you have installed your bees, remove the queen's cage. If you can do so without removing the hive cover, all the better. I accidentally dropped my queen's cage down to the bottom of the hive when attempting to remove it! Ugh! I assumed that she was out and okay, which was confirmed when I went in to do my first hive inspection a week later.

Be sure you continue to monitor the sugar water syrup. It should be available for the first month. The bees can drink it quickly, so be sure to check often!

After ten days you should do a formal hive inspection to see if your queen is laying and if the bees have built out their comb. Good luck!

I have to give a special thank you to fellow Hubber, Wib Magli, for inspiring me with his amazing Hubs on bees, along with his advice (he recommended the book above). If you haven't read his work on HubPages, you should definitely check him out. He's an expert beekeeper!

The Importance of the Honeybee

The honeybee is the best pollinator on our planet. Bees in one hive alone can visit 100,000 flowers in a single day. While other bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies are important pollinators, none is as efficient as the honeybee. Honeybees make possible one in every three bites of food that we eat. From the clover that feeds our livestock to the vegetables and fruits that fill our plates, honeybees help make it happen.

Backyard beekeepers play an important role in the survival of honeybees. Colony Collapse Disorder as well as the varroa mite are having devastating effects on the honeybee population. While it's not an easy job, it's definitely worth the work! If you aren't up for being a beekeeper, you can help bees in other ways. Plus, the other benefit of beekeeping is the honey. Within the first three months of installing my hive, I harvested around two gallons of honey!

Honey Harvest Three Months After Starting Bee Hive

Honey being extracted
Honey being extracted | Source

What To Do If You Are Stung by a Bee

It is not very likely that you will be stung while shaking your bees into your hive, as most of the bees are young bees and they aren't defending a hive yet. But if you are stung, I have created a guide on treatments. Unfortunately, I was stung in the eye several months after installing my hive. I chronicled the progression of the sting reaction and treatments in my Hub What to do for Bee Stings on the Eye. (Don't let it dissuade you though—it looks a lot worse than it was.)

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Comments 43 comments

Akriti Mattu profile image

Akriti Mattu 19 months ago from Shimla, India

Read three of your posts. All of them were concerning bees/apiculture. My mum dad are going to be so happy reading your posts ( They being Entomologists )

Looking forward to read all your posts as and when i get time. Awesome job :)


Robin profile image

Robin 2 years ago from San Francisco Author

I feel very clumsy with gloves. You can try using surgical gloves. A sting will get through, but it won't be as bad. I read your Hub about your hive. Congratulations. It's a fun hobby!


mgeorge1050 profile image

mgeorge1050 2 years ago from West Georgia

Great article, I am still too nervous to go without my gloves.


Robin profile image

Robin 3 years ago from San Francisco Author

It's good to hear there are beekeepers near you. We actually have them on our deck! It is amazing to me how little space they actually need (in case you are ever interested). :) It sounds like you have a water source near by which is actually a bigger need than the space.


sallybea profile image

sallybea 3 years ago from Norfolk

No, we have insufficient space here but funny enough there are several hives just down the river from here. I was lucky enough to see them being put into a boat and taken down the river to their new abode. Quite funny to see a rowboat with some bee hives precariously placed on one of the benches. At least someone around here is doing their bit for the bees.


Robin profile image

Robin 3 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks, Sally! I love my bees. Have you thought about taking up your dad's hobby?


sallybea profile image

sallybea 3 years ago from Norfolk

Robin - I so approve of this Hub - it is so important for us to maintain our Bee Hives - not just so that I can photograph them. I remember seeing photos of my father dressed up in a whole bee hive keeper kit - this looks more like talking with the bees - such a valuable Hub.


Robin profile image

Robin 3 years ago from San Francisco Author

You should try keeping bees. It is such an amazing experience. I would definitely start by finding your local bee guild and take a few classes. I have taken a lot of classes and they were really helpful. It's actually a quite complex endeavor - chickens are MUCH easier! But watching your bees and extracting the honey is amazing. I wrote a Hub on harvesting honey, if you're interested. Let me know if you'd like any guidance. I'm only in my second year and am still learning, but I am happy to help in any way that I can. :)


LongTimeMother profile image

LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

Fascinating hub. I live off the grid and my goal is to become self-sufficient and sustainable. A bee hive would bring me a little closer to the ultimate goal. :)

I already have gardens that attract lots of bees. I just need to become brave enough to be able to access their honey. Thanks for the inspiration.

Voted up +.


SAM ELDER profile image

SAM ELDER 3 years ago from Home

Thank you for this article....


whonunuwho profile image

whonunuwho 3 years ago from United States

Thank you for this vital information and how important it is. whonu


Robin profile image

Robin 3 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks, Esme! I think you will really enjoy it, and it's a great idea to take a few classes before getting bees. Your bee guild should be able to help you get bees, too. A local swarm would be a great option because they are local bees and are more resilient to your weather. Your local bee guild should be able to help you with that.

Unfortunately, my bees died this winter. It was a complete mystery to me, but I'm planning on getting a swarm in the spring and changing my location. I don't think the spot of my hive got enough sun in the Fall. I'd recommend checking out Wib Magli's Hubs about beekeeping. He is very experienced (much more so than I!) Best of luck and let me know how it goes!


EsmeSanBona profile image

EsmeSanBona 3 years ago from Macon

Thank you so much for the information! You answered a lot of my questions in that response. I had always wondered what the smoke was for.

I think I may just go ahead and look into a bee guild and take some classes. I have a good bit of land--don't know how much bees need, but my place seems like it would be an ideal bee setting.

Your article is really one of the best I've read here. Thanks so much for writing it!


Robin profile image

Robin 3 years ago from San Francisco Author

Hi Esme,

There are a lot of factors that should be considered when a beekeeper goes into a hive. You should always go in during the middle of the day when it's hot or warm outside because most of the bees that will sting are the older foragers and they should be out foraging during this time. The younger nurse bees are extremely docile. There are guard bees around the hive and they will sting you if provoked. Smoke is incredibly important because it tells the bees to go consume honey as they think their hive is on fire and it mask any pheromones that the guard bees may emit telling the hive to be on alert. It's also important to not hit or knock the hive. Bees are extremely sensitive to this. Making slow movements that cause the least amount of disruption possible is the best way to do an inspection.

Bees are extremely fun to have and the honey is amazing, but it takes a lot of patience and research. I read a lot and took numerous classes. I also joined our local bee guild- something I highly recommend. It's a fantastic hobby, but one that shouldn't be taken lightly. Best of luck! I hope that you consider it!


EsmeSanBona profile image

EsmeSanBona 3 years ago from Macon

I have a question regarding beekeeping. I have read that honeybees are particularly docile, attacking only when defending their hive. What prevents bees from identifying the beekeeper as a predator? I am familiar with bees from the mythological and folklore side, not a practical one, but even there it seems like the bees have some sort of link with a beekeeper. I am curious because since I was a child, I have had romantic notions of keeping bees--one of those pulls I have that usually pans out into something worthwhile. However, I have an irrational fear of stings, not allergic, just fearful of stinging insects, so I have no idea why I'm so attracted to beekeeping, but your article makes me think I might be able to take it up.


Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks, whowas for the comment. Your wife is welcome to ask me any questions about beekeeping. I'm very new, but am happy to help if I can. It's a wonderful project and surprisingly peaceful.


whowas 4 years ago

Hi Robin,

That is a truly wonderful hub and one that I must share with my wife as she has decided that we should keep bees. I agree with her but I'm all tied up with goats and chickens and the wildlife, so it will be her domain!

Beautiful, clear writing and exquisite photos that are beautiful and useful at the same time.

On top of that, you seem to have covered everything! I especially appreciate your bit on the ecological importance of bees.

Fantastic stuff, I'm so glad I read it. :)


Melis Ann profile image

Melis Ann 4 years ago from Mom On A Health Hunt

I really enjoy the bees while I'm gardening, but I haven't been brave enough to attempt bee keeping yet. I'm glad to know that you're sharing this information so we can all consider the possibility, especially in light of colony collapse issues. I've shared this across the board...


Johnkadu123 profile image

Johnkadu123 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

This hub is a gem and I will be installing a hive on my farm. The only concern I have is that about the gloves. It could end up being very painful indeed.


Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks for the comment, Randy. Swarms are really common from April through August. Fortunately, the swarms are very docile as they aren't protecting a hive. It is amazing the misconceptions that people have around honey bees. They really are very docile unless you step on them or disturb their hive without knowing what you are doing. Many people mistake wasps for bees and they are completely different. Cheers!


Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

I haven't been that nervous until the last time I went in to the hive. It was my first sting since April and the bees seemed more active. We live in California so wintering them isn't that difficult, but it can also be done in the snow. I think many people cover them as they don't leave the hive during the winter when it's cold outside; they use their reserve honey during the winter (you have to make sure that you leave them enough for the entire winter.) As for the laws, it depends on your city ordinances. Our city only allows one hive within 200 feet of a residence, so I can't have more than one, unfortunately. They say it's best to have at least two hives when you start.

As for the honey, I haven't harvested yet, but probably will do my first harvest in the next month. I will be sure to take a lot of pictures and write a Hub about it! Your location would be perfect for bees and you have 9 months to prepare as you begin beekeeping in the early spring. Wib Magli, another Hubber, has written some amazing Hubs on beekeeping. You should check him out.


Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

It is a lot of fun. If you ever decide to do it, I'm happy to help the best I can!


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 4 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

This is fabulous! You hub is such a good example for how I want to make mine look. I am so enticed by the idea of having my own beehive now. Hopefully, I can find some property and have one of my own. Thanks a lot!


melbel profile image

melbel 4 years ago from New Buffalo, Michigan

Oh wow! This is sooooooo cool! I would be really nervous about doing this, but it seems really awesome. Are there any rules/laws about keeping bees? Also, is there anything special about keeping them in can the winter? I live in SW Michigan and it can get fairly cold here. Also, how do you harvest the honey?

So many questions, sorry, but this is seriously SOOOO cool. I really want to try it! I live in the woods by the lake and there are a lot of flowers around here... we're mostly known for our blueberry and clover honeys around here, though. I bet if I kept bees around here, it would make for some pretty tasty honey!


iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

This hub is fascinating, bizarre, and scary at the same time! I never knew people installed their own hives! Did you ever get stung! Wow, this was so cool to read this morning! Very original too! Voted up and shared without getting stung!


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

Because of the many vegetable fields in this rural area, beekeepers are numerous and so are their hives. Seldom does a year go by that I don't find wild bees swarming somewhere on my farm, either on a tree limb or perhaps on a piece of farm equipment.

Fortunately, my cousin lives close by and is usually glad to come get them for his apiary. Great hub and voted up!

Randy


summerberrie 4 years ago

I have always wanted to start bee keeping. For many years we let someone keep his bees on our farm and he gave us honey....but the hives were destroyed in a storm and he never replaced them. You have convinced me to look for a local bee keeping class and replace those hives. Thanks for all the information and I will visit wib Magli's hubs, too!


Sherry Hewins profile image

Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

I would love to have a bee hive, and we really need the pollinators around here. I really had no idea what was involved, thanks for this introduction to beekeeping. I hope you will write more hubs about your hive once it is established.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

So interesting. Love this hub. I love bees not their sting but them. I think it would be great to keep bees. Voted on your hub.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

I think it is so cool to keep bees. Would I? Maybe, with some help. But I am glad others do. I'll bet taking the class was a good idea, and a lot of fun. I think that would be the best way to go, and along with the book!


Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

What an awesome hub Robin! I love it. Great information and pics too. But I would never be able to do it. Unfortunately, I tend to get anxiety attacks when bees or wasps get anywhere near me. A good friend of mine on HP, sholland10, just wrote a great hub on the Benefits of Local Raw Honey for Allergies. Both of your hubs would benefit each others.

Sharyn


prasonline profile image

prasonline 4 years ago from Sri lanka

Great hub. I remember in my country..

Bees do not live alone. They live with other members of their large family.

Thanks for sharing, Voted up


gredmondson 4 years ago

Robin,

That was so interesting. I think your interest in bees is innate, and speaks to the generations before you who were farmers. This is the same as wanting to plant tomatoes in the spring. You are programmed to do it! Anyway, that is my uneducated opinion.

When I was in my late 20s I had a big desire to have a garden.


Corie profile image

Corie 4 years ago from San Luis Obispo

Hi Sweetheart,

Great Hub on Bees ... very interesting and well done. I love that you are doing this!!!! I have sent it to my hiking group and others that might be interested. I just talked to someone that was helped with their allergies because of eating local honey...You are my local HONEY. Mom Muriset


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

GYAH! I can't believe one just SHAKES the bees in front of the hive! Yikes!

This was an absolutely fascinating read. Your photos are gorgeous. I was really hoping you would write a Hub about this process, and I'm so glad you did!


Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

I was surprised about not using gloves, too. One beekeeper said that it makes you more clumsy with gloves, which makes sense. I've had no problems not wearing gloves, but it's personal preference.


Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks, jellygator!


Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

Yes, honey in the office will be coming shortly!


Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks, Lynda. It is a lot of fun and not as scary as many people think. They are fascinating creatures.


Lynda Pepper 4 years ago

Wow! I give you a lot of credit. With the honeybee population going down, we NEED more bees.


Maddie Ruud profile image

Maddie Ruud 4 years ago from Oakland, CA

Wow, Robin, this is so cool! I can't wait until you bring some of your homegrown honey to the office. Local honey is so delicious, and good for your immune system too!


jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA

Great hub! Voted up, shared, and included a link in an article I wrote on bees that's on another site.


livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco

Awesome! :) I can't believe you were able to do all of this without any gloves, and not get stung. Your bees love you already!

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