Bees Are In – How Not to Install Bee Packages

In Uncategorized by Alastair OngLeave a Comment

Bees Knees

So when I originally thought about starting a small working farm, the first animals I decided on were bees.  Bees are ideal because of their work to product ratio – the bees do all of the hard work.  No hoeing, no weeding, no watering.  There was the issue of honey harvesting, where I thought I would have to invest in a centrifuge to separate the honeycomb from the honey.  Although I hear that it is sticky laborious work, most beekeepers I spoke to love harvesting time of year.  Nevertheless, for those that know me, I am all about efficiency and reduction of work.  This is a guide on how not to install bee packages!

Introducing the Honey Flow System of Harvesting Honey:

The patent pending frames are the genius behind this idea.  You have to watch the video to see how it works (fast forward to 2:10 if you want to see how these magically frames work).  Basically, its a frame with hundreds of split honeycombs.  With a turn of a key, the honeycombs split and the honey drains into jars.

Benefits of the Honey Flow System

  • Harvesting honey with little disturbing of the honeybees;
  • Less mess;
  • No expensive equipment to buy;
  • Gimmicky and gadgety, something that I’m all about!

Downsides to the Honey Flow Systems

  • Much more expensive than a standard bee hive;
  • Honeycombs are plastic and bees tend to like their own wax better;
  • Less communion between human and bees;
  • Expensive gimmick.

After giving it a fair amount of thought, I decided on buying three Honey Flow systems with bee houses.  The kit came in two very flat but heavy boxes.  I opened them up and saw what seemed to be a jig saw puzzle of pieces of wood.  I needed help, and recruited Felix, who readers may remember from my chicken coop building post.  He built the first one, and left the remaining two for me, which I put together much faster than I thought (~30 minutes each).  Like Ikea furniture, once you understand what you are doing, things moved quickly.

Receiving the Bees

Packages of bees

Packages of bees

My three bee packages arrived in three plastic containers.  I ordered mine from a flyer posted at my local feed store.  On the photo to the left, you can see me holding the three packages of bees. Each one has a queen, worker bees, and drone bees numbering in the thousands.  I had heard that since the bees do not have a hive, they are not overly aggressive, and will not attack a handler.  Accordingly, you can install bees without a bee suit.  I got two colonies of Italian bees, and one of a strain called Carniolans.  Click this link to learn the differences between the popular Italian Bees and the Carniolans bees:

After opening up the package by removing a can of sugar water and removing the queen (who is in a small cage plugged with a piece of sugar candy).  You are supposed to place the queen in my lower brooding box and then proceeded to dump the bees into the hive.  I forgot to do this and some other key steps also.

How Not To Place Bees

The mistakes I made (and I only made these once) were:

  1.  I neglected to place the queen in the lower hive first.  This is important, because in shipment, the bees are getting acquainted with the queen and naturally want to protect her.  I think it is more natural to pour the bees on the queen than pouring the bees into an empty home and then placing the queen.
  2. I forgot to strike the plastic cage on the floor to get the bees on the bottom.  When I tried to pour out the bees, rather than being dumped into my hive box, they flew EVERYWHERE.  Bees are pretty curious, and several of them explored my head and got stuck in my hair.  As a result, Bang, bang, bang, within 10 seconds of opening up the bees, I got my first three stings.  Not painful, but not pleasant either.

In contrast, for the other two hives, I decided to don a beekeeper’s veil and gloves to prevent against stings.  I’m unsure whether it was the veil or if it was correcting the above mistakes that prevented me from getting stung.  Probably a bit of both.  Here is a video of me placing the bees – its pretty funny.  If you want to have a good laugh enable subtitles.  If you want to just watch me getting stung, jump to 0:50 seconds in.


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