Category Archives: Education

So you want to install a package of honey bees?

What is a BEE NUC and what is a BEE PACKAGE?

A bee nuc (nuc is short for nucleus) is a small colony made up of bees taken from a larger colony. It’s normally sold in a box with five frames standing side by side. A couple of those frames usually already have honey stores.

A bee package is typically sold in wooden frame boxes with screens on two sides. They are sold by the pound, and it takes approximately 3,500 bees to make a pound. A three-pound package, therefore, contains about 10,000 bees.

Inside a bee package is a can full of a sugar syrup mixture. The bees feed from this during transport. Bee packages can be mailed to you via USPS.  Each package also contains its own small wooden box covered on one side by a screen. This tiny box holds the queen and a few worker bees to tend her.

The Differences

Bees in a package can come from different hives. The bees in a nuc are generally from the same colony. Bee packages also tend to be less expensive than nucs. However, with a package, you’ll need to build the colony by transitioning the bees into your existing hives. This requires a greater education in beekeeping. For that reason, using nucs is typically less stressful than using packages.

Which one should you get?

Beginners would do well to begin with a 5-frame nuc rather than a 3-pound package of bees.   If you are a beginner, starting with an already established colony is going to increase your success rate immediately.  Beekeeping has a huge learning curve. Starting with a 3-pound package introduces a whole new set of elements that you have to learn before you start keeping bees.

Not only are you new at this but now your package bees are starting from scratch too. They have no foundation, no comb, no brood, no nectar and no pollen. And although you have a mated queen in a cage, she’s technically not laying because she has nowhere to lay yet. A nuc already comes with all of those elements.

So you’ve got your honey bee package, now what?

A few things before talking about installing your bees.   

  • Make sure your bee yard is all set up and all of your equipment is ready to go.
  • Make sure you have prepared 1:1 sugar water.
  • Picking up your bees can be a bit intimidating.   It is recommended that you bring your bee suit and gloves because most likely thousands of bees flying will be flying around.
  • Ideally, you want to install the same day. A couple day delay will not harm your bees.
  • When transporting the bees make sure they are secure.  Recommend placing a sheet or mesh bag over the bees and use duct tape to ensure the cover can’t come off during transport.  In the event you had an accident you don’t want bees to be flying around in a vehicle to make matters worse.

Installing a Package into the Hive

  • Place an entrance reducer on hive opening.
  • Remove 5-6 Frames from hive box where you will be installing the new bees.
  • Remove the cover over the hole in the top of the cage and place it to the side.
  • Spray the package with sugar water.
  • One shake to cause the bees to fall to the bottom of the cage.
  • Remove the syrup can from the package and queen cage, cover opening with the cover you just removed.
  • Check the queen cage to make sure your queen is alive and well.   
  • Remove the cork, cap, and/or metal cover from the end of the queen cage.  Do not remove the candy.
  • You will find white candy separating the queen from the hole.
  • Poke a hole in the candy (use a paperclip or small nail).   Make sure you don’t harm the queen.
  • Place the queen in a safe location out of the sun.  We often put her in our jacket or shirt pocket if it is cool.
  • Place the queen cage between two middle frames at the top of the frames.  We like to use a paperclip to hold the queen cage in place so she doesn’t fall to the bottom of the box. (The Candy side should up)
  • The bees must become acquainted with the queen before she is released (bees will eat through the candy in order to release her once she is accepted). This can take several days.
  • Remove cover from package.
  • Shake bees into the gap in brood box.
  • Replace the previously removed frames – Gently. The bees will move out of the way.
  • Place the mostly empty container in front of hive and the remaining bees will work themselves into the hive.
  • Feed the bees with a 1 x 1 sugar syrup.
  • Put on the inside cover and place the telescoping cover on top with extra weights if you use them.
  • Remember to come back in 2-3 days to make sure the queen is out of the cage. If she is still in the cage, release he.
  • If it is very cold when you get your bees you can use the No Shake Method as discussed in the video.

Want to know how to install a Nuc of bees?

What is a BEE NUC and what is a BEE PACKAGE?

A bee nuc (nuc is short for nucleus) is a small colony made up of bees taken from a larger colony. It’s normally sold in a box with five frames standing side by side. A couple of those frames usually already have honey stores.

A bee package is typically sold in wooden frame boxes with screens on two sides. They are sold by the pound, and it takes approximately 3,500 bees to make a pound. A three-pound package, therefore, contains about 10,000 bees.

Inside a bee package is a can full of a sugar syrup mixture. The bees feed from this during transport. Bee packages can be mailed to you via USPS.  Each package also contains its own small wooden box covered on one side by a screen. This tiny box holds the queen and a few worker bees to tend her.

The Differences

Bees in a package can come from different hives. The bees in a nuc are generally from the same colony. Bee packages also tend to be less expensive than nucs. However, with a package, you’ll need to build the colony by transitioning the bees into your existing hives. This requires a greater education in beekeeping. For that reason, using nucs is typically less stressful than using packages.

Which one should you get?

Beginners would do well to begin with a 5-frame nuc rather than a 3-pound package of bees.   If you are a beginner, starting with an already established colony is going to increase your success rate immediately.  Beekeeping has a huge learning curve. Starting with a 3-pound package introduces a whole new set of elements that you have to learn before you start keeping bees.

Not only are you new at this but now your package bees are starting from scratch too. They have no foundation, no comb, no brood, no nectar and no pollen. And although you have a mated queen in a cage, she’s technically not laying because she has nowhere to lay yet. A nuc already comes with all of those elements.

So you’ve got your nuc, now what?

  • Place an entrance reducer on hive opening.
  • Open the nuc hive and gently smoke your bees.
  • Remove 6 frames from your bottom deep so you have room to place the nuc frames in the deep. You removed one additional frame to provide some space to more easily slide your frames of bees into the box.
  • Transfer frames of bees from the nuc to the middle of your hive in the same order as in the nuc.   Gently place a frame of bees in a box without rolling them against bees on another frame by putting the frame in an open space and then using your hive tool to gently push the frame next to the already in the box.   
  • Gently place the last frames at the outside of the box.   
  • Place the container next to the hive entrance and any remaining bees will work themselves into the hive.
  • Feed the bees until the bees have drawn out all the frames of foundation.
Nuc loaded with bees sitting on top of a hive.
Bees installed from a nuc with the empty nuc next to it.

Lighting and Using a Smoker

Why use a smoker?

The use of smoke causes to things to happen, both of which are beneficial to the beekeeper. First, the smoke masks the alarm scent bees emit to warm other bees about dangers to the hive (like a human taking the roof off their house). Without the warning bees will be less defensive. The second thing smoke does is make the bees believe there is a fire nearby and that the hive may be in danger. The response in the bees to go gorge on honey, as they may have to fly away and create a new home somewhere else. So a number of the bees are busy eating honey and less defensive.

What can be used a smoker fuel?

There are many types of fuel that can be used in your smoker. Here in Northeast Wisconsin there is an abundance of fallen pine needles which work very well. Other materials include pine cones, newspaper, cardboard, pelleted fuel, cotton waste, etc.. You can use pretty much anything that is combustible. Just don’t use anything that might be toxic-to you or your bees.

How does one light a smoker?

First, gather your materials. The smoker, an ignition source, flammable materials, hive tool, and fire extinguisher or water. Start by lighting something easy, like balled up newspaper or a used egg carton. Put it in the smoker and give it a few puffs. When it is burning well add more materials over it (pine needles, pellets, etc) and give it a few more puffs to get the material lite. Use you hive tool to gently press the materials down in the smoker. This packs the materials for a longer burn and can sterilize the hive tool if hot enough. Add more materials, pack, add more materials until full-all the while puffing away to ensure it stays lit. You are looking for a cool, white smoke and, for sure, no flames or embers flying out the nozzle which could injure your bees or start a fire.

So now, how does one use the smoker?

Start by giving a few puffs at the entrance to the hive. Remove the top cover and give a couple of puffs through the hole in the inner cover. Crack the inner cover and give a few more puffs. That should be sufficient to initially open the hive. Smoke the bees again if they are getting aggressive or the sound changes. There are times when the bees are just all wound up and no amount of smoke will calm them down. In that case, it is best to put the hive back together and come back another day

An article that is a bit more in depth on smoking bees.

A cursory overview of using a smoker from Mann Lake.

Using smoker in Kenya – almost identical to using it in Northeast WI.

Introduction to Beekeeping – Basics For Someone New to Bees

Bee Biology by Sara and Dave

The Brown County Beekeeping Association is happy to present INTRODUCTION TO BEEKEEPING. Learn the essentials of beginning beekeeping!! The class will be presented in three sessions described below.

When:
Prior to January 14th, 2023 — view three video to prepare for the in person class. No more than 2 hours of video to watch
January 14th, 2023 — 8:00am to 2:00pm (in-person, location: TBD, near Green Bay Botanical Gardens)
and May 20th, 2023 8:00am to 10:00am (at the hive, location: Green Bay Botanical Gardens)

How Much:
$50 for an individual, $40 for additional family members

What: An understanding of:

Continue reading

Preparing for Winter

At the September club meeting, which was held both in person (socially distanced) and virtually, Richard Schneider from Capital Bee Supply was our remote guest speaker. He did an excellent job presenting the steps beekeepers can take to get ready for our Wisconsin winters. Capital Bee Supply is a Wisconsin based company out of Columbus, WI. The YouTube presentation is presented below. It is 57 minutes in length.

If you would like to see these presentations live or in person you should consider joining the club.

Mite Management

At the May 2020 meeting of the club April Kustov, Wisconsin State Apiary Inspector joined our meeting via Zoom to present Mite Management. The video is over an hour long but is very comprehensive about mite management and treatments.

In the video April refers to different mite treatments and the Wisconsin recommended treatments. Here is the sheet to which she refers. If you would like the Power Point presentation click here. You will need Power Point to view the slides.

BCBA Educational posters now available

BCBA now has educational posters available for club events or programs. These posters cover important topics such as whats in the bee hive, bee anatomy, how honey is made and the life cycle of bees. Other posters available cover basic pollinators and seeds and endangered pollinators. These posters will make it fun and easy for us as we explain the importance of bees and bee biology.

Baggie Feeding

During one of the club’s virtual meetings about installing and feeding nucs and packages the question came up about feeding using a zip top bag. No one in the meeting had any feedback so Carl Fisher has done some internet research and come up with the following.

  • A very cost effective way to feed the bees. No extra equipment to buy except for zip top bags and a sharp knife but you probably already have those.
  • Most folks use a gallon zip top freezer bag. Don’t see any reason a quart size wouldn’t work.
  • Mix sugar water just like you would for other types of feeders. One part water to one part sugar (or 2 x 2).
  • Fill the bag half way with the sugar solution.
  • Gently lay the bag directly on top of the frames taking care not to smash your bees.
  • Use a sharp knife to slice several one inch slits in the bag so the bees have access to the mixture. Don’t press too hard when cutting or you will have a sugary mess.
  • Place a spacer on the hive.
  • Replace the inner and outer covers.

Installing a Nuc and Package

Join Brown County Beekeepers Association President Dave Elsen and Vice President Julie Mazzoleni as they demonstrate how to install a nuc and a package of new honey bees. They also take questions from club members on lots of related topics to include feeding the new bees. The presentation is an hour long but well worth it.

Powdered Sugar Mite Test

During the April 15, 2020 virtual club meeting the subject of performing a sugar roll to check mite load came up. The Minnesota Bee Squad does a lot of good work in the area of mite testing and controls. The only issue with this video, in the club’s opinion, is the person is only wearing head protection. She is not wearing gloves or arm protection. The club always recommends taking the level of personal protection you are comfortable with.