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Last Saturday I installed twenty packages of bees, each in a ten frame Langstroth hive body with a division board feeder (filled and with floats) and 8frames of HSC. The weather was unseasonably cold and rainy that day and every subsequent day until Thursday; we had frosts every night and highs in the low fifties.

On Tuesday morning I went out to check on them and found that while some had significant activity at the hive entrances others had almost none. When I peaked under the cover of the hives which were not flying, I found the bees clustered in the center of the hives several frames away from the feeder starving and almost too cold to move (the bees which were sending out foragers were all clustered next to the dbf). In a panic I brought these hives (8 total) into a small barn and closed them into the hives with a screen entrance closure and turned on the heat to try and warm them enough that they would move over to the feeder. They stayed in the barn until Thursday morning.

Early on Thursday I moved these eight hives back outside as the forecast predicted it would reach the mid 60's and be sunny. That afternoon I inspected all twenty hives to make sure that the queens had all been released and to assess the damages. I found 15 hives in good shape with queens that had been released and an adequate number of bees remaining. Four hives had not clustered around the queen cage although she, and her attendants, had been alive at the time of installation. Those queens were dead and the remaining bees had severely depleted populations. One hive had successfully released its queen but also had lost a large number of bees. I decided that the next day I would combine the five weakened colonies into two hives and introduce a new queen to one. The following day when I returned two of the four queenless hives were completely dead and the other two queenless hives were almost gone (about 1 frame of bees remaining)
I combined these two hives with the weakened queenright hive and added a frame of capped brood and bees from another established colony for good measure.

So while a week ago I had twenty packages I now have only sixteen new colonies. What I want to know is what went wrong; was there something I could have done differently to have avoided a 20% loss in the first week? Was it just the unfortunate consequence of circumstances beyond my control (i.e. weather)? Looking back I think had I painted the packages with sugar syrup prior to installation perhaps they would better have been able to move within the hive once installed. With the last several packages I made a greater effort to gently push them towards the feeder when installing the frames on top of the bees that had been dumped onto the bottom board; that seemed to have helped, as those packages all seemed to have survived. Any other suggestions?
 

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Perhaps you need to change the way the game is played. Your weather is "iffy" and the temps are cool. You did not specify the size of the packages. But with those conditions it might be better to hive them in Nucs with a baggie feeder and pollen patty directly on top of the frames.

That way, they don't have a choice, they are crowded enough to keep warm, and cannot abandon the queen. After 3-4 weeks, they should be full of capped brood and be ready to be moved into a larger hive.

I have found that swarms moving into old Nucs do much better than the ones moving into full size hives. Apparently they can do a better job of covering the brood in the smaller structure.

Fuzzy
 

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Thanks Fuzzy. They were three pound packages.

I think you are right that they would have done better in the set up you described, for the reasons you stated. The disadvantage would be the need for almost double the equipment and the extra work involved in transfering them. As far as I know installing packages directly in the hive body is standard practice up here.
 

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As for the disadvantage(s) think of them as investments. You paid good money for 3lb packages. I suspect that your losses would have covered the cost of the nuc bodies. You don't need frames for nucs, you already have them. As for the transfer, I speak from experience, it takes 2-3 minutes ( 5 minutes if you have to bring the 10 frame deep and put it in place) per box.

I just set the nucs on top of the 10 frame boxes until ready to transfer. Then move the nuc to the rear, pop the top, and move the frames into the deep -- DONE.

But it's your hives -- Good luck
 

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If you use a clean fruit tree sprayer you can spray syrup into the combs. This puts the syrup right where the bees can use it.

You can also give each package hive a frame or two of honey.
 

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In Maine we always get packages when the weather is bad.
Just the way it is here in Mid april. Often the packages come (April 10 or so) and then it snows. stinks.

we recommend feeding over the inner cover with a jar or pail protected by a hive box. this allows the bees to cluster in the center of the hive and access the feed 24-7/

anything that is not in actual contact with the cluster is essentially useless to the bees.

Nucs are a lot more flexible if you can get good nucs in your area.

Best,
-Erin
 

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You can cut out and use follower boards in your full sized boxes which will turn them into nucs. The issue is in a full box the bees can't cover enough frames. They do much better if they are in a space that they can cover and defend and cluster. Once they get established with some brood and stores and need more space, all you need do is move the follower board over and add a frame or two into the bees space and them scoot the follower back up against the last comb. This expands the space they need as they get strong enough in numbers to need it.
 
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