We are often asked how to install a package of honey bees. We have already written a tutorial for the "shake method" and another article briefly describing our preferred method, the "no-shake method", and linked to a corresponding video.
Here we present a third, somewhat alternative, method of installing a package of honey bees.
"First find yourself a suitable tree..."
Ha! Yup! You guessed it! We are going to show you how we just recently installed a package of bees in an "alternative hive"—i.e., a tree! And the technique used is really an adaptation of the "no shake" method. We're going to install a package of bees into a bee tree!
Honey bees naturally live in cavities of all sorts: Trees, rocky outcroppings, and sometimes in between two joists in a building. The often pictured hive of bees hanging from a tree is really a situation that never, or rarely, happens. Plus, in those illustrations, the hive almost always looks remarkably like a bald-faced hornet nest. Honey bees want a dark place protected from the elements that is cozy and dry. A hollow tree is perfect!
HOWTO: Install a Package of Honey Bees into a Tree
Installing a package of honey bees, no matter the type of hive, is really the same 3 day exercise, with a focus on the same goals for each of the three days.
Actual install should be done in the evening in order to keep the bulk of the bees relatively close to the hive.
- Prep location and hive.
- Get feeder in place.
- Get queen in place.
- Get package of workers in place and opened.
- Close up the hive -- we skip this step for this type of install. :)
Step 1: Prep location and "hive"
- First find yourself a suitable tree... (see above)
- Patch up any holes that will funnel water into the tree cavity.
The "any hole" in our case was a rather large gaping hole towards the top of the tree: To patch this, roofing was needed. We used scrap 2x2s to make a ceiling-like structure for the bees to build comb upon. Then we built a weather resistant roof of 1x2s, tar-paper, topped off with shingling made from 1x6s (clapboard-esque). On some other day, we will come out and oil-treat the roof. We didn't use tin, or asphalt shingling, because we wanted the apparent human involvement to be minimalist and complementary to the natural look of the "hive".
Step 2: Get feeder in place
- Fetch package of honey bees (3lbs in this case).
- Remove syrup can and prep feeder.
- Set feeder in place.
Step 3: Get queen in place.
- Remove queen from package
- Remove cork from "candy end" (or "the fuse" as we like to say).
- Tack the queen securely into the "hive" where the workers will be able to eventually get to her.
Step 4: Get the rest of the bees (package) in place
In normal circumstances, you would place the package inside the beehive, or shake the workers into the hive. In this case (a tree), we simply strapped them to the tree with the opening of the package facing the opening of the tree. Once in place, we slipped the cover off the package and set the workers free.
- Remove the package container.
- Dump any remaining bees near the entrance.
- Check that the queen cage has not fallen.
In our case the queen cage did fall. We had to fetch the queen and devise a better way to secure her. We took a screw and firmly attached her to a stick (tomato stake, actually) and propped the stake up, deep into the hive. The photos show a removed box, bees flying (hard to see), the feeder was checked, and you can see the stake used to tether the queen back high up into the hive).
- Check that the queen was released.
- Ensure the honey bees are fed.
- Clean up your area, because YOU'RE DONE! :)
And there you have it. On day three or four if that queen is not released, pick up her queen cage, pop the other cork, and set the cage so that she can walk out, walk onto the hive, and join her compatriots. That's it!
Wish us luck with this "B Tree!" We're really excited.