Many new beekeepers get their first colony of bees in the form of packaged bees that they have ordered from a supplier. The package will include a colony of bees, a queen, and a feeder containing sugar water to sustain the bees during their journey. Once they arrive at your location, you may wonder when is the best time to install package bees in a hive.
The best time of the day to install a package of bees into a new hive is late in the afternoon. The closer to sundown you do the installation, the better for the bees. The coming evening will calm the bees down, and the nighttime hours will allow them to settle into their new home.
Packaged bees are a convenient way to get started keeping bees, but getting the new colony safely installed in a hive takes a little finessing and some guidelines to improve the chances of the bees taking up residence in their new home rather than absconding. The timing of the installation is an important consideration when installing your newly arrived packaged bees.
What Time Of Day Is Best To Install Bees?
Your new colony of bees has finally arrived on your doorstep in their nice neat package, and you are excited to get them settled in the new hive you have already set up and waiting for their arrival! But when is the best time to tackle the delicate task of transferring bees from the package into the hive?
When bees are packaged and shipped, it is an unnatural environment and experience for the colony. The bees become stressed, and if the release is not done correctly the bees could abscond the hive and leave you with an empty box, wondering what went wrong!
The best time to install package bees into a new hive is in the late afternoon, as close to sundown as you can get.
There are several reasons that this time of day is the best time to install the bees.
- Bee activity reduces. The bees sense the day is beginning to wane, and they naturally start to calm down and reduce their activity in preparation for the nighttime hours. The bees will be naturally calmer at this time of day, less likely to want to fly, and easier to manage.
- The night gives the bees time to settle in. The bees will cluster in the hive during the night and calm down, reducing stress levels in the colony. They are no longer being shaken around in transit and have had the night to realize that they are in a secure location where they will not be disturbed.
- Bees orient themselves in the morning. When the morning dawns, the bees will do their orientation flight around the hive to get their bearings and establish the hive’s location as their new home. Bees installed early in the day will not do an orientation flight and could remain angry and stressed the entire day until nightfall. They could also lose their bearings and not realize that the hive is their new home and become lost bees. This increases the risk of the bees abandoning the new hive.
These advantages are some of the nuances that a new beekeeper needs to be aware of when installing their first delivery of package bees.
If your bee package arrives early in the morning, it is best to keep the package in a cool, dark building such as a shed or a garage until the late afternoon. A cool dark location during this waiting time will help the bees to calm down and reduce the stress levels in the colony before the installation into the hive.
Spray the bees with a 1:1 sugar water solution three times during the day while you wait for the late afternoon to arrive. The sugar water provides them with food to eat and settles them further. The darkness of the room and the sugar water will also discourage them from wanting to fly around.
What is The Best Weather For Installing Package Bees?
Sometimes the weather does not play along with your plans to install your package bees in their new hive. What should you do if your scheduled installation time comes around and inclement weather arrives at the same time?
Can package bees be installed in the rain?
Light, gentle rain is not normally a factor that should deter or delay the installation of the bees unless it is combined with cold temperatures.
In this case, it would be better to delay the bees’ installation until the next day when you can do the transfer without the risk of cold rain causing an issue from the bees.
However, if the temperatures are above 57-Fahrenheit, you can install the bees in light rain without too much risk to the colony’s health.
You should not attempt to install the package bees in a heavy downpour of rain. The rain will soak the inside of the hive, promoting wood rot of the hive and the development of mold if the hive does not dry out properly.
Bees also do not like a damp environment and may be reluctant to remain in the new hive if it is damp. Heavy rain can also kill a large number of the bees, reducing the colony even further and placing stress on the swarm.
Can package bees be installed in cold weather?
Sometimes the bees you ordered for spring have arrived, and spring itself has not quite arrived, and the temperatures are still cold. What should be your course of action with your package bees in this instance?
Your packaged bees can be safely installed in the usual way if the outside temperatures are above 50 Fahrenheit. A better temperature would be 57 Fahrenheit or above, which is when bees would normally start to become active after the winter cold.
But what do you do if the temperatures are considerably lower than this or even below freezing? The installation can still be done, but your methods will have to change somewhat to give the bees a better chance to survive the extreme cold.
We have an article dedicated to this topic called “How Cold is Too Cold To Install Bees?” which gives the details for installing bees in cold weather.
How To Install Packaged Bees – Conclusion
Package bees are a great way to get bees to fill your new hives, but it does require some knowledge to install them correctly that is safe for the bees and will encourage them to stay.
It would be a sad occasion when you install the package bees that you paid over $100 for only to have the colony weakened by losses, die out, or abandon the hive because the installation was not done correctly.
Installing package bees is not hard, but it does need to be done right, taking factors like time of day and current weather conditions into account for success.