Hiving your first package of bees can be a daunting task. Here are some commonly asked questions to help with undaunting.

 Will varroa mite treatment be required when we receive them?  

Western Australia is currently still considered a “mite free zone”. However, this is rapidly changing and may not hold true for much longer. Currently, no treatment is needed at time of hiving. However, checks should be done once the colony is established and growing. Check monthly through out the season and treat if necessary.

New Zealand package bees will need an initial treatment. Since beekeepers should not do a mite test (alcohol shake) on a new package, we advise that an Apivar or other treatment is started ASAP. Taking advantage of the initial broodless period will increase Apivar or OAV efficacy. Check monthly through out the season and treat if necessary.

 Should I treat with Fumagilin-B? 

Fumagilin-B can help decrease stress levels after a long travel period. Alternatively, probiotic products such as Strong Microbial’s DFM HoneyBee can be used along with essential oils like Honey-B-Healthy and HiveAlive to aid in travel stress recovery.

 What breed are the bees?  

The worker bees will be a mix of italian and carniolans. The queens are usually carniolans.

 Do I need to feed them?  

YES! We feed and keep feeding them sugar syrup and pollen patties until the end of June. Do not let your new package of bees go without feed (both carbs and protein) or they may begin cannibalizing some larvae to sustain others. This will not be evident at first, but can lead to drastically reduced growth or even colony failure.

 What about that feed jar they are shipped with? 

Remove any bees and throw it away. It is poor quality feed that the bees don’t really like.

 Should I hive them into a single or double? 

We hive our packages into a single brood box with 3-4 frames of honey/pollen and 6-7 frames of open drawn comb. Place pollen frames in positions 3 and 7 with open comb in between. Never install a package on undrawn frames! It is far too cold and there is not enough time or bees to produce the wax comb needed for the Queen to lay her eggs.

Do not put the second box on until they have filled up most of the first brood box with bees. Best practice is to “under super” to keep the colonies warmth in the box with the brood.

 Can the Queen be released right away? 

Australian packages - NO! Australian package producers ship their Queens separately from the worker bees. Because of this, a “slow release” method is required. We suggest that the Queen is placed inside the cluster of bees with the hard plug intact for 48 hours and then a candy plug is used for the workers to release her. Leave the colony undisturbed for at least 5 days to increase acceptance rates. Removing attendants is optional and should be done carefully.

New Zealand Packages - Yes. The Queen can be released right away because she has traveled with the package and they are already used to her.

Occasionally you can get a dead queen inside of your package. If this happens, DO NOT PANIC. It is very likely that there is another queen in with the workers and that she has killed the Queen in the cage. Wait 3 to 4 days and then go check for eggs. Be patient; putting another queen in is expensive and she will just end up dead if there is another Queen in there.

 When should I hive my package? 

It is best to hive the bees when they are less likely to fly. This can be late at night, in the dark or when it’s cold. Night-time release gives them all night to get used to their new home and they won't venture out until the next morning. If they are installed during the day, many will fly away and become lost or “drift” to other hives.

If you must hive during the day, provide sufficient ventilation and screen the entrances to prevent them from flying. Use good judgment on warm days and full sun locations. Remove the screen after dark. Although overheating is a possibility, a new package in a 10 frame box, with a syrup feeder, in April, in Calgary should be fine.