A Tale of Two Hives: Following the progress of two new hives created from package bees – post 1, April 12, 2012

A new series of posts for new beekeepers
This is the first in a series of posts designed to assist new beekeepers who are installing package bees this year. Thanks to Jim Coss of The Honey & Bee Connection, who provided the package bees and hives for this project, on April 8th I installed two packages of bees in new hives in my home apiary. Over the course of the 2012 beekeeping season, I will maintain and care for these hives in the same way as new beekeepers throughout the United States are doing. I will report on their progress at each step along the way – through the best of times and the worst of times. The posts will be accompanied by photographs to allow new beekeepers to compare the progress of their hives with mine. One of the difficulties for beginners is knowing whether or not their hives are developing normally, since they don’t yet have a sense of what normal is. This series is designed to help them with that question. When you read the next post, you will learn about the problem I faced on the first day, and how I handled it.

In addition to following the two hives begun from package bees, I will chart the progress of two nucs which I will be starting this weekend. That series of posts, to be called “A Tale of two nucs: Following the progress of two new nucleus hives”, is intended to assist more advanced beekeepers who are starting nucs for the first time. (For readers who do not know what a nuc is, see the first post in the series which should be up in a couple of days.) That series will also be of value to beginners who are buying nucs for their first hives. While I have always encouraged beginning beekeepers to start with purchased nucs, it’s a situation of buyer beware. Nucs are existing hives, albeit small and new. Unfortunately, I have known beginners who purchased nucs of poor quality and value which later became problem hives. By following this series, beekeepers will have an opportunity to see what a good quality nuc should look like and the steps needed to create one, and to follow its progress as it develops into a full sized, healthy hive.

I won’t be neglecting more experienced beekeepers this year. In addition to these two series for newer beekeepers, I will continue to post about news, issues, and events that will be of general interest. Here in Kentucky and elsewhere (I was in Tennessee this week), this is looking like an interesting and, I hope, a profitable year for beekeepers. My hives are loaded with all the drawn supers that I stored last fall, and I wish I had more. It seems as though everything is blooming at once this spring. It will be interesting to see how this plays out as the season progresses.

9 responses to “A Tale of Two Hives: Following the progress of two new hives created from package bees – post 1, April 12, 2012

  1. Hi Phil-
    Yay! Thanks for this- I just installed my first 2 packages yesterday, so I’ll be following you closely…

  2. I installed my package last week. I have just one deep hive with a top feeder. When do I put on more hive sections and supers? Do I keep feeding? Do I need to medicate?

    • Dennis

      Let them draw out about 7-8 frames in the first deep brood box, then add the 2nd brood box. After they draw out 7-8 frames in the second brood box you can add a honey super.

      See my earlier posts on medicating & feeding. I do recommend the feeding of ½ gallon to 1 gallon of sugar syrup containing the antibiotic fumagillin. I recommend no other medications at this time. I’ll discuss other disease and pest issues in future posts.
      Keep feeding as long as they will take syrup while drawing out the brood frames. But I’m finding they are not taking syrup as readily as in past years due to the VERY strong nectar flow we are having.

      But once you add a honey super you must stop feeding sugar syrup. You only want pure nectar in the honey super frames, sugar syrup does not become honey.


  3. Thank you for your help. I put in a hive entrance restrictor. Is this necessary?

    • Dennis

      I assume you are refering to newly installed package bees?

      Suppliers often suggest using entrance reducers when installing new packages. I think it is okay to put them in for a few days. But I don’t use them when installing package bees and did not with these new packages.



    • Robbie

      As I said I really don’t have much experience with top feeders, they cost too much and I’m cheap! But jim Coss gave me this one.

      This is a type with floats that cover all the syrup in the feeder and I have seen no evidence of bees drowning. Some types have wire mesh to keep the bees out of the syrup, those you have to watch and make sure the bees do not find a way into the syrup.


  5. I opened up my new hive for the first time to check on things. The have 3 frames pretty well filled out. One has larvae in the cells so the queen must be at work. I went ahead and put another hive body on top. Still using the top feeder. What should I be looking for? I don’t think I should open the hive too often. How often is about right. with all the cool weather they have been staying in a lot.

    • Dennis

      I can tell from your previous comments that you installed your hives about two weeks ago. I installed our “tale of two hive” packages two weeks ago and their progress sounds similar.

      You should be looking for, and obviously are, eggs & larvae, which is the most important things. You should also be seeing drawn comb (which you must be seeing if you’re seeing larvae), stored nectar/sugar syrup and pollen. Are you seeing pupae (capped brood)? It sounds like your hives are proceeding normally.

      If you only have three frames drawn out your bottom box. adding a second box at this time is a little premature. I suggest adding the second box when the bees have drawn out about 7-8 frames in the box below.

      It does not hurt to add the second box early, but the bees will not normally move into the upper box until they have drawn out and are using most of the bottom box. And we really want them to draw out and fully use the bottom box before using the upper box. Adding the second box early also forces the bees to go through the second box to get at the feeder, perhaps reducing their interest in the feeder. And each time you check on the lower box, you will have to remove the top feeder and the upper box to do so. I’m a lazy beekeeper and rarely do anything to increase my work load.

      Feel comfortable with checking on your every 3-4 days, this time frame also allows you to see progress and catch any problems plenty early.

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I encourage other new beekeepers who are following these posts to tell us how their new hives are doing.