You have your bees, you have your queen, and now it is time to make your hive come alive. The first step, of course, is to find a spot to install your bees. You know how to put the bees and the queen in the hive, but what do you do next? If you are uncertain what to do after installing a new package of bees, read this article to learn the major steps moving forward.
Do Not Disturb for a Few Days
Your number one objective with your new hive is to get your bees acclimated to their queen. To accomplish this, you want to disturb them as little as possible. Once you put your new package of bees in their hive along with their queen in her queen cage, you should leave the hive closed for several days.
With minimal distractions, the bees can eat through the candy portion of the queen’s cage and, over time, get used to her smell. The bees will hopefully accept her within that time. While you wait to see how they have progressed with their new leader, there is still a lot to be observed outside the hive.
Keep the Bee Feeder Full
Although beekeepers would almost always prefer to see their bees provide their own food, when a hive is just beginning, you have a responsibility to keep them well-fed until they can capably handle the responsibility themselves. Even while the hive is kept shut, you should continue to fill their feeder.
You should never feed honey to a hive unless it came from that hive specifically, which is obviously impossible when the hive has not been around long enough to develop its own. Therefore, when it comes to what to do after installing a new package of bees, feeding them sugar water is the best option. You can fill it once you’ve set up a watering station for your bees.
You will also need to fill the feeder several weeks after the queen has been released. Although you are only waiting a few days to open the hive, it would be a good idea to continue feeding the bees through the feeder for six to eight weeks after the queen has been released, long enough for the workers to grow and prepare for long flights in search of nectar and pollen.
Look Out for Undertakers
During the few days that you leave the bees to their business, you can observe certain behaviors outside the hive to see how well they are progressing. Though it may initially appear disturbing and disheartening to see bees carry and leave their dead siblings out of the hive, this is actually a good sign.
If the hive already has well-attuned undertakers, meaning the bees responsible for removing the dead from the rest of the brood, then they have developed some of the primary functions of an operating hive. So, if you start to see several dead bees pile up around your hive, do not panic: this is the first sign of success.
Look Out for Bees With Pollen
Similar to how the emergence of undertakers can signal a stronger, more attuned hive, if you spot worker bees with pollen stuck to their legs returning to the hive, then that should be a major boost of confidence. When worker bees are completing their tasks—finding and collecting nectar and pollen—you know they are doing the work needed to create a healthy, operational hive.
When pollen goes into a hive, you can be certain that a healthy, well-fed brood is sure to follow. While you cannot be completely confident of anything until you open up the lid, if your bees are hard at work collecting pollen, then that is a sign that they have accepted the queen and are ready to build a hive together.
After a Few Days, Inspect the Queen Cage
Now a few days have passed, and the event you have been waiting for has finally arrived. It is time to open the lid and see if your queen has been accepted by the hive. There may have been signs of her acceptance leading up to this day, but now you will know for certain.
Lightly smoke the bees at the entrance and under the cover. Look for the cage to see if the queen has been released. If she has been set free, you can remove the cage. If not, then you should look in the cage to see if she has died.
If the queen is still alive and in the cage, you should remove the cork while the queen is still encased and put the cage back in the hive. Hopefully, the queen will be accepted, and this will encourage her to leave the cage.
You may also find signs that the queen bee has died. If this happens, do not let it bring you down. It simply means this queen and this hive were not meant to be. You should purchase a new a queen bee and start the process all over again.
Straighten the Combs
Lastly, when you return to examine the hive for your queen, you will also want to look at the state of the combs. Bees build future combs parallel to the first ones they make. If the first combs come in crooked, they will continue with that pattern. To avoid a whole hive of crooked combs, remove the ill-formed ones. Continue with this regularly until the combs are built straight.
A beekeeper’s job is never really over. Even when you have set up your hive and give your bees time to get comfortable in their new home, you still must think about them often. You still must observe from a careful distance to see if their undertakers are at work or if their workers have collected pollen.
Beekeeping is a hobby that tests your patience, your observation skills, and your intelligence. As you work to cultivate your new hive, it could be helpful to return to this article every now and again. Here you will find helpful information on what to look for and what problems you may face in your new project. There are also bee nucs for sale in Billerica, MA for the next time you decide to get a hive started. Contact us at the B Farm at 978-667-2337 when you need new bees or more information!