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Getting Started: Installing Packaged Bees

You can start keeping bees by buying packaged bees and queens and transferring the bees into new equipment. Bees are routinely shipped in two to five- pound packages of about 9,000 to 22,000 bees (Fig. 1).

Once your packages arrive, keep the packages cool and shaded. Set up a bottom board with one hive body and remove half its frames (Fig. 2). Make some sugar syrup (one part sugar:one part water) and spray the bees heavily through the screen; bees gorge themselves with syrup and become sticky, making them easy to pour. Pry off the package lid, remove the can of syrup provided for transit, find and remove the queen suspended in her cage and re-close the package.

The queen cage has holes at both ends plugged with cork, and one end is visibly filled with white "queen candy." Remove the cork from this end and suspend the queen cage between two center frames in your hive (Fig. 3). Workers will eat through the candy and gradually release the queen.

Next, take off the lid and shake the bees into the hive on top of the queen (Fig. 4). As the bees slowly spread throughout the hive, gently return the frames you removed earlier (Fig. 5). Carefully place the inner and outer covers on your new colony and feed your bees sugar syrup continuously until natural nectar flows begin.

After two days, check to see if the bees have released the queen from her cage. If she was released, you will probably find her slowly walking on one of the center combs. If bees have not yet released her, return the queen cage to the hive until she is released.

A week after the queen's release, check the colony again. By this time, you should find white wax combs under construction with cells containing syrup, eggs or young larvae. If you do not find eggs, the queen may be dead and she must be replaced immediately. Order another queen and introduce her as before.

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