gardening/ Gardening Tips/ Honey Bees

Honey Bees Starting a New Hive

April 20, 2016 (Last Updated: October 18, 2020)

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How to install a new package of honey bees – Honey Bees starting a new hive!

Adding new honey bees to a wooden hive.

I am still new to honey bees and am still learning the ropes.  We just received two new packages, or colonies of bees.  This is how we installed the bees into their new hives.

Several boxes of honey bee nucs.

We ordered our bees and pick-up day was this weekend.  We had to travel 100 miles to pick up our bees.  The bees come in a screened box with a can of sugar water and one queen bee contained in a smaller screened box. We were so excited to pick up our bees…but then we had to drive 100 miles back home….in a car….and hope the bees wouldn’t get out!  Luckily, the boxes held tight!

A wooden hive with the lid off and a bee hat and veil next to the box.

I’ve had honey bees before.  At the end of last summer, my bees swarmed (flew away and found a new home) and I was left with empty hive boxes.  My bees left behind beautiful honeycomb on the hive frames.  We pulled out the frames, examined for mold and removed any that looked pretty heavily covered with mold.  The rest of the frames went back into the boxes.  This is a head start for the new bees. The frame below was good to go back into the hive for the new bees.

A frame filled with honey comb.

Once our hives were ready, it was time to get the bees out of their box!  The first step; prying the can of sugar syrup out of the box.  Directly to the right of the can is a metal tab.  This tab is attached to the small box holding the queen!

Removing the syrup can from a new package of honey bees.

Next, remove the queen!  She’s in that little box.  The bees are trying to get to her.  During transport she is in a small screened box with a cork in one end.  We gently brushed off the bees and used a pocket knife to dig out the cork.  The trickiest part is not letting the queen out!  She has to stay in.  The queen determines what happens to the entire bee hive.  She has to be in the hive long enough for her scent to be there and for everyone to determine it’s a good hive.

As soon as we pull the cork, we plug in a mini marshmallow. The marshmallow is a stopper to keep her in. The other bees start eating the marshmallow. After a day or two, they will have eaten through and release the queen. That’s enough for the bees to know this is their new home.

The queen bee in a small box surrounded by worker bees.


Placing a marshmallow on the end of the small box with the queen bee.

The final step is shaking the bees out of the box.  Yep, this is a little scary!  The thing to keep in mind is the bees aren’t aggressive at all right now. They aren’t trying to protect their hive or their honey, because they don’t have any yet. They are disoriented and trying to release their queen. Still, just before we shake we take a deep breath and hope all goes well.

Shaking the package of honey bees into a hive box.

You try to get most of the bees out of the box and into the hive. Some stay in the box though. We just place the box in front of the hive. They will slowly start to crawl or fly out and into the hive. Ours finally all vacated the box the next day.

Pouring honey bees into a bee hive.

The bees do fly all around.  The hardest part for me is when they get in my hair! Zachary was wearing my veil so my head was uncovered. You can see in the picture above several landed on Rod. Luckily the only one of us that got stung was Drake, the pup. We figured it was because he is black and looks like a bear cub. Although maybe it’s because he put his snout right into the box of bees!  Poor Drake!

Three days after we installed the bees, I went back down to open the hive and check to make certain the queen had been released.  Both of the marshmallows were gone and the queen was out of the tiny box!  I know she’s in the hive somewhere.  In about two weeks I will go back down and inspect the hive to make certain the worker bees are forming comb and the queen is laying larva. In the meanwhile, I am helping them out by giving them sugar water. Although luckily for the bees our cherry trees and plum tree are in full bloom right next to the hives.  They don’t have to go far right now to find pollen.

A wooden hive with the lid off the hive an d a new box of bees next to the hive.

With any luck and success we will be harvesting honey in no time at all!

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  • Reply
    karrie @ Tasty Ever After
    April 24, 2016 at 9:17 am

    I’ve always talked about getting some bees but haven’t done it yet. Your post is so encouraging and I’m thinking I might actually be able to do this! I’m surprised to read that your other bees flew away because I didn’t know they do that. Very interesting and you continue to amaze me Kathy with everything that you do ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      April 24, 2016 at 6:28 pm

      Bees can be quite fickle. Sometimes they swarm because they need more space and only 1/2 of them will leave. Sometimes they all leave…and that’s quite depressing.

  • Reply
    Geraldine | Green Valley Kitchen
    April 23, 2016 at 7:47 am

    I love these posts, Kathy. So interesting. I’m jealous that you have your own honey farm! Love learning about the marshmallow – I wonder who thought of that first!

    • Reply
      April 23, 2016 at 6:13 pm

      I’ve heard of people using a jelly bean or a gum drop too. I think anything sugary would work.

  • Reply
    April 22, 2016 at 9:33 am

    This is so interesting!!! And um I would be way too chicken to be around that many bees!!! haha Happy Friday!

    • Reply
      April 23, 2016 at 5:29 am

      I do get a bit nervous too when they are really swarming around my head! I think experienced bee keepers get used to them.

  • Reply
    April 21, 2016 at 8:38 am

    I find this whole process fascinating. A neighbor down the street has bees. I never knew you ordered bees like that. Cool.

    • Reply
      April 21, 2016 at 4:36 pm

      The packages is just one way to get bees. Some bee keepers collect swarms and collect bees that create a hive where people don’t want them, like in an old building.

  • Reply
    Laura ~ Raise Your Garden
    April 21, 2016 at 4:14 am

    Wow, now you have bees! And chickens. I must say, my neighbors have actually given us verbal warnings against getting either. It’s like, um, isn’t that what the property line is for? Great post!

    • Reply
      April 21, 2016 at 12:07 pm

      Darn…maybe they will move away and then you can get chickens and bees!

  • Reply
    Cheyanne @ No Spoon Necessary
    April 20, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    Oh wow, you never cease to amaze me, Kathy!! You always have the most educational posts and you make me wish I lived on a farm! So neat you guys have your own honey bees!! And can I just say you are one BRAVE lady!! I can’t believe you guys drove 100 miles with those in your car! Kudos to that!! Thanks for sharing this, dear! Cheers to bees and honey! <3

    • Reply
      April 20, 2016 at 6:09 pm

      Here’s to hoping I get some honey from these bees!

  • Reply
    David @ Spiced
    April 20, 2016 at 4:24 am

    Wow, I found this post so interesting, Kathy! My neighbor almost started a hive a couple of years back, but he decided against it. I know honey bees are declining in numbers, so it’s awesome that you’ve got this one going in your yard! I’m not gonna lie…I’m a little jealous! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      April 20, 2016 at 4:52 am

      Thanks, David! I’m just hoping these stick around. I need the bees for pollination and I want some honey. They are a fascinating insect.

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