In recent years there has been a growing concern about harmful chemical residues finding there way into the wax and pollen in the hive. Beehives are exposed to these chemicals by many past and present treatments for varroa mites, as well as the bees returning to the hive carrying pollen laced with pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. It’s not known how long this contamination will last in the frames and to what extent it hinders the health of the bees. Many beekeepers are adopting the practice of yearly comb rotation, thus gradually removing the contaminated frames from the hive.
One recent survey, however, has shown that being too aggressive with comb rotation can increase the chances of winter loss by as much as ten percent.
We’ve all been there. While checking each hive in the bee yard there is often one or two hives that just aren’t performing like all the rest. You decide to dig a little deeper in the hive by pulling out multiple frames from the brood box. Your frustration grows as you can’t find any eggs, or worse, frames full of scattered, bulged out drone brood. You ask yourself “what happened to the queen?”
I have made three follow up visits to check on my package hives that I installed mid-April and discovered that they are greatly varied in their progress. It don’t help much that the week following the install was mainly cold with very little foraging time, even though there were plenty of blossoms to work. Knowing that this was a possibility, I prepared my equipment with one frame of granulated honey in each of the package hives. This kept them alive while they waited for the weather to warm up.
I have mixed emotions when it comes to package hives. Some of the most pleasant days working bees have been when I installed packages. It’s exciting to see the old equipment filled again with young, healthy bees. On the other hand, I only get package bees when the winter hive loss reaches devastating levels as it did this winter.
50 Package Hives in Cherry Orchard
Two days ago I, along with four other family members, installed 220 package hives in eight different orchards. It took us about eight hours to get the work completed. When I first woke up and looked outside, I was concerned to find two inches of newly fallen snow. Fortunately the weather worked in our favor by staying cool, dry and cloudy all day. The bees kept calm and didn’t fly much, which will help them settle into their new hives nicely. The last time I purchased package hives six years ago, the temperature got too hot and the bees drifted a lot.
Below is a short video of how I install package hives.
Installing Package Hive