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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Union County, Ky, USA

    Default Opinions on starting packages, please..

    In a few weeks I will get two package bees from BeeWeaver, whom I have never got packages from. I did get some queens from them last year, that I have been pleased with, by the way. I have never really had good success with package bees. I have been beekeeping for about 5 years or so. They just never seem to build up very fast. I have read all the stuff. Over and over and over. Any way, I would like some opinions, please, on your preferred method for getting your package bees off to a good start. I am here in Western Ky if you were wondering.

    The first 3 years I started them in 10 frame deeps. After seeing so many people going to mediums or 8 frame boxes, I switched to 8 frame stuff. They seem to start better in the smaller 8 frame deeps than the 10. In my experience. So, I use 8 frame deeps, wooden frames with a mix of plastic & wax foundation. I use inner covers with jar feeder holes in them. I usually feed with two jars & dont let em run dry, because they will fill in the holes on the jar if I do. Put another hive body to conceal the jars & telescoping inner cover. I feed with 5lb bag of sugar in a 1 gallon jug mixed with water the whole first year & those foam hive top feeders through the winter. I have never had a moldy hive, summer or winter. I have had problems with the hive dwindling and shb, or wax moth trouble though.

    I have no trouble installing packages, they just dont seem build up as well as I read that they should. They really seem to struggle to fill the frames with comb. I think the weather around the time that packages arrive have had an important role in their success, but I may be mistaken on that. The first few years I was advised to get em early. It seemed to me, early was cold and crappy rainy weather, so I switched to getting them about 3 weeks later in the shipping range, which has been a bit better imo. But again, I may be mistaken on that too. I have had success with a few packages though, not all of them have been bad. For the most part it seems that most of the packages I have purchased, the queens havent been all that productive. By the end of the summer, the colonies dwindle, and she is there, just stops laying or is very spotty. I dont get clipped wings, just marked.

    I do somewhat regular inspections, about 1 time a month so I dont disrupt them any more than I have too. In a new colony that isnt building much comb, and inspection is fairly straight forward & quick. With out a bunch of hives, my resources for combining or raising replacement queens is not really an option right now. So, if there is an issue with a queen I am sol pretty much. I have given them a boost with a few frames from strong hives, but I havent had any luck with them having enough time to raise a new queen on their own. I have had bad luck ordering queens & getting them in a timely manner to actually be effective.

    My most successful bees have been from nucs or splits that I made. They just seem to already have a jump start & have no trouble adapting to a new hive.

    Packages arent getting any cheaper, and shipping costs are going up. How about some tips on what you do with your first year packages? Let me know if my method is not all that great too. I love beekeeping, but buying two packages every year & not really making an addition to my numbers is getting tough to do. So, I am looking for some help if ya dont mind....


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Westford, MA

    Default Re: Opinions on starting packages, please..

    This is my second year with packages. Last year's package with Italian queen made it through the winter but the queen died. Not sure when but most likely during the peak of the winter. They had plenty of stores going into winter.

    The package was fed syrup mostly 1:1 in the spring and fall. They were treated for mites with hop guard in the fall (it was a little late) and after I noticed deformed wings. The egg laying was spotty but they did manage to build 2 deeps about 8 out of 10 drawn comb in each deep.

    The new packages are one Italian and two from BeeWeaver coming middle of May. Also want to raise my own queen by making a split from one hive, so will have a nuc going into winter.

    This is what I plan to do:
    1) Feed syrup for at least a month.
    2) Treat for mites in 6 weeks (not sure about the BeeWeaver hives since they claim to be free of mites).


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Default Re: Opinions on starting packages, please..

    First question, are all teh packages from the same supplier? if so time to switch. Second, you don't mention mites or treatment of.

    As for raising queens, check out Mel dissolkens system... It will work well for you if you use it. Normaly I do a lot of mine late june By july the new queen is going to town for the fall flow. (I am just a bit north of you) By mid june the flow is under way and the workers your old queen are producing will not be mature in time for the flow, so its a good spot.

    The biggest problem in my opinion, is most people give packages to much space right off the bat. keep them crowded and when you add space teh queen will respond better.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Reddick, FL (Ocala)

    Default Re: Opinions on starting packages, please..

    From a discussion on another thread here,

    You may want to up your sugar/water ratio a bit.
    Water is 8.4 pounds per gallon (thanks Radar, I was very tired and wrong!)
    A 5lb bag per gallon would be approximately 0.6:1 sugar to water.

    Just got off the phone with my mentor and discussed upping my ratio to closer to 2:1.

    A ten pound bag minus 2 cups or so to 1 gallon of water would put you pretty darn close to a 1:1 ratio.

    Most opinions seem to favor a heavier than 1:1 ratio for nucs/packages from what have gathered. They seem to build out comb faster whether or not nectar is flowing.

    Will be trying a ten and a five pound in my 2 gallon(little over half full) feeder bucket and let you know how it goes. Popping top on the nuc tomorrow and putting out new feed also.
    Last edited by crazylocha; 04-18-2013 at 12:34 PM. Reason: measurement clarification

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Calhoun Co, Texas, USA

    Default Re: Opinions on starting packages, please..

    If you can come up with it at all, even just 1 frame of brood would go REALLY far to help your packages get off to a better start...give 'em some "fresh meat" emerging while the package bees are starting to age & dwindle, before the first round of brood from the package queen has fully developed & emerged.

    TBH, I've never ordered a package yet (all my hives are from cut-outs, or splits from my other hives), but I have used the above approach to "help out" a couple colonies I got from cut-outs where I wasn't able to save any of their own brood comb for them (I won't use any comb from a hive that I find out has been sprayed with Raid), and it worked well.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Monroe County, Pennsylvania

    Default Re: Opinions on starting packages, please..

    Try sticking with one type of foundation....wax OR plastic. 1:1 is fine up until October, then switch to 2:1. You must feed all summer long on package bees. I don't use the styrofoam feeders. I have had much success with the wooden top feeders. Try adding a teaspoon of Honey B Healthy to your sugar water. It may entice them. Also sounds like your queens could be weak. Try ordering packages from another supplier and see if this helps. Some are better than others.


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