Saturday, I was asked to serve as the equipment vendor of at the University of Illinois beekeeping Short Course in Champaign/Urbana, Illinois. Here's our equipment being displayed. The University Bee Lab is led by Prof. Gene Robinson and it was very enjoyable spending time with Gene and his team.
Here students are in the flight chamber and learned how to operate a smoker, inspect individual frames and became familiar with the basic fundamentals of working a hive.
When package bees arrive, it is ESSENTIAL that you spray your package with 1:1 sugar water, that is one part sugar and one part water. Your package of bees actually only carries enough on board sugar water to last 4 days after being packaged. That means if your bees are packaged on Monday, by Friday they will be out of sugar water.
I experimented with two packages last week. The packages were shipped to me from Georgia on Tuesday and I received a call from the post office Thursday morning they were in. My wife picked them up around 4pm that afternoon. I then kept them in their packages the full 4 days that they are expected to live. I sprayed them with sugar water regularly once I received them. There were normal amounts of dead bees on the bottom of the cage, and I assure you, it is not at all unusually to see a layer or two of dead bees on the bottom. They are packaged to allow for this amount of dying bees. These dead bees may have been injured when shaken from their hive into the box, or they may have simply died of old age. Remember a bee only lives around 30 days.
In my experiment I found that sure enough, the can of sugar water was empty at the end of day four. Yet, the weather had turned cold, damp and very windy. There would be no way I could install these packages for another three days. This may also happen to you. So if it does, let me explain what I did and what you can do to keep your bees alive until the next warm day.
The first good day to install the bees would be in three days. If I continued to spray them with sugar water, they may have made it. However, I did not want to take this chance. This may also happen to you. So if it does, let me explain what I did and what you can do to keep your bees alive until the next warm day.
This scenario may happen to you too because spring weather is very unpredictable. So, what do you do when you can't install your package of bees due to adverse weather conditions but they have been in the package for over 4 days?
First, spray them with sugar water, 1:1 at lease 3 times a day. Breakfast, lunch and supper. You eat three meals a day, so should your bees. This should give them several more days to survive. However, it is the queen that you must also be concerned about. She is in a separate cage and her attendants in that cage will soon die and be unable to feed her.
If you find that you cannot install your package due to a week long of cold rainy days, here is a last resort effort. I did it Saturday and it worked fine. Choose a room that can be made completely dark and kept around 50 degrees. Anything warmer may cause the bees to fly around the room too much. This room should not be inside a house or building where people live in case the bees should escape. An outside garage or shed would be the preferred building.
Next, with the lights on, take your package into that room along with the hive you wish to install it into. Just before you install your package, spray it with sugar water again. Always where your protective gear. Now, shake your package into their new hive.
After you have installed your package removed the queen plug place your queen cage between the frames in the middle of the box. Replace all 10 frames and place the lid on the hive. Turn off all lights and wait a couple of hours. Then, go back and place a screen over the entrance so no bees can leave the hive.
Now your package is installed and sealed in their new hive. This works better if you are using a screen bottom board because bees need air. If you do not have a screen bottom board, then you may want to use only your inner cover as the lid, and place a piece of screen securely over the inner cover oval shaped hole. Now, place an entrance feeder in the entrance with 1:1 sugar water. But be sure the screen securely blocks the entrance, even next to the entrance feeder. This will give them the sugar intake they need to produce wax for comb building.
This has gained you some valuable time. Your bees are installed, they cannot fly out, the queen will be released by the bees in a few days and this room provides them extra warmth from the below freezing temperature outside. If you keep the room completely dark very few bees will attempt to fly out of the hive. You could even drop the temperature down to around 40 degrees now, and the bees would cluster together and be happy.
As long as the temperature is not below freezing at night outdoors, you can place the hive where you want it outdoors and remove the screen from the entrance. So, if tomorrow night's low is 38, you can go ahead in the morning or afternoon and carry your hive to its permanent location. Just be sure all hive pieces are securely fastened to each other. I place a tie-down strap around the entire hive and tighten so the hive becomes one solid hive as the strap holds all pieces securely together. You DO NOT want the hive to fall a part while you are moving it!!
If the temperature outside is still cold, you can keep them in this dark room several more days until the nightly low temperature is above freezing.
If light leaks into the room or someone accidentally turns on the lights, then it will cause the bees to fly out of the hive up to the light. Turn off the light and they should return to the hive if the room is kept cool.
Here's a video of one of our customers installing their package of bees. This was a job well done for a first timer! Though it was 80 degrees the day before in Georgia, this package is installed when the temperature drop to around 50. And we strongly recommend that you wear protective clothing while installing your bees.
Five days later he goes back to inspect to be sure the queen is released from her cage. Watch the video to see if she has or hasn't bee released.
It's finally here...package bee time, nectar time, honey bee time...this is what we've waited all winter for!!!
Also, we are still cranking out tons of hives!! If you still need to purchase your hives, give us a call at the above number. Please keep in mind that it will take 2 full weeks for your hive to be shipped after payment is received. We also carry every beekeeping item you need. Just give us a call.
This year has been unbelievable with the amount of new beekeepers, hive and equipment sales and general interest in beekeeping.
Here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms we are here to help you get started keeping bees. We are down to earth, ordinary folks, a family business that turned a hobby into a business. We take great pride in our work and do all we can to keep our customers satisfied. I was born and raised in Tennessee, a hard work family that believes honesty and hard work is rewarding. Indeed it is. I want to thank all of our loyal customers who have treated us so kindly and also welcome all new customers as well. Thank you.
If you call us and you receive our voice mail feel free to call back or to leave a message. We are busy working our own bee yards, coordinating package bees, raising my own special queens, building hives and enjoying the spring. But we will get back to you.
Finally, please let others know about our business. Our website is: http://www.honeybeesonline.com/
Until next time, remember to BEE-have yourself!
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms