Installing Packaged Bees into a Top Bar Hive

Packages of worker bees w/a queen; One of these is mine

The queens came in individual cages, and ran $20 each if you just wanted to re-queen your hive. The whole family was along with me when we got them, and we all got to see how they were delivered.

The queen that I bought was in a tiny wooden box like this, only it was hanging inside the box of worker bees.

Nurse bees tend the cages of single queens waiting for a hive

Nurse bees tend the cages of single queens waiting for a hive

I ordered a new package of honey bees this year through the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association.  For $75, I got 3 lbs of bees (about 12,000 insects, but I didn’t count) along with a queen.  I picked up my new bees on noon Sunday, which turned out to be a nice spring day. 
After we got home, ate lunch, and had our usual afternoon Siesta, they were ready to go into their new home.  I put the finishing touches on our new top bar hive (, and moved it out to a good sunny spot in our back pasture.  Although I had aspirations to build one out of recycled pallets, I was pressed for time, and used the scrap plywood instead.  (that still counts as recycled wood in my book)  The biggest change to the construction plans was the addition of a viewing window to make it easy to follow what happens inside.  

New top bar hive ready for bees

This hive is 15” wide at the top (inside dimension), 6” at the bottom, and 48” long.  There are 34 bars are 17-½” long and 1-3/8” wide, one of which has a divider attached so I can adjust how much space the bees have.  This is my first top bar hive, and I do not have bars with drawn comb.  That means there is a risk that the bees may choose to draw comb in the wrong direction.  To help them choose wisely, I’ve notched the bars so there is a bit of wood hanging down about 1/8” for the bees to hang onto.  

These top bars have a bump so the bees hang straight comb

Installation was pretty simple.  I just opened the box and dumped the bees in.  Because packaged bees don’t have a hive to defend they are quite gentle.  I’m wearing gloves in this picture because it keeps me relaxed when working with the bees, and a calm beekeeper makes for more docile bees. 

The queen cage is in my pocket

I gave the bees 12 top bars of space to get started.  As they increase, I will move the follower down the hive and give them more bars to hang comb on.  Until they have enough stores built up, they need supplemental feed too.  The can of syrup that came with the package is sitting inside the hive on a couple of short sticks as a feeder.  I will remove it in a day or two and feed dry sugar after the syrup is gone.  

A towel keeps the queen from flying away when I open her cage

These bees have spent the last 3 days in a box together with their new queen, so they will accept her without more delay.  That means that I was able to do a “direct release” of the queen into the mass of worker bees.  She could still fly away if she wanted to, so I draped a towel over me to prevent her from escaping.  Once that job was done, the last of the top bars went back in place, the roof went over them, and I left them to their new home.

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