Installing a Package in Cold Weather? AKA: Will we ever get a break?

I’ve been waiting to post about package install. Our packages were due last Thursday, the weather was beautiful, and I had my camera ready! Well, in keeping with the trend of this most recent bee season, things did not go as planned.  The packages were delayed because of hot weather in California and then, in true Michigan form, the weather took a nose dive.  If you are not from Michigan, you might not appreciate the state’s bipolar disorder. It was in the 70’s last Saturday and Sunday, in the 50’s Monday morning and 35 by Monday afternoon. Last night we gained an additional, heartbreaking 2-3 inches of snow! Today is supposed to be cold as well, but tomorrow back into the 50’s.  After today, it *appears* that we can expect normal spring temps for the rest of the week at least.

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So when we picked up the bees yesterday, the weather was a perfect storm of all things unfriendly to bees: cold, wind, rain/snow.  Installing a package in this weather is a little dicey.  So I did some research and here are your options should you ever find yourself in this kind of situation.







1. Let them remain in the package a bit longer.

When we picked up the bees, they were beautifully clustered around the queen cage and the can of sugar water.







They’ve been in these boxes since Friday and the fact that there are very few dead ones on the bottom, suggests that they are doing pretty well.  They have plenty of sugar water, so we simply moved them from our bee club’s garage to our own.  If yours are low on sugar water, or you aren’t sure, you can mist them lightly 3 times a day with a 1:1 ratio of sugar water.  We opted for this option because we knew we’d be able to get them in the hive tomorrow.  If there wasn’t nice weather on the horizon, we’d probably try option #2.

2. Install the package into the hive in a shed or garage.

I’ve never tried this option, but found a great explanation at What these guys did, is install the package into the hive like normal, but the hive was in a garage or shed. So you dump the bees and insert the queen as normal, then turn off all the lights and wait a few hours. When you come back, the bees will have all entered the hive for warmth and to be near the queen. You can then close up the hive. If you’ve included honey or a feeder and maybe a little already drawn out comb, then your bees can hang out in here for as long as you need them to.  You can still place them outside without worrying about them getting confused about the hive location because they haven’t been flying.

3. A hybrid of the two?

Our plan was to try option #2, but as we looked at the weather and talked about it, we decided that it wasn’t really necessary. Basically we just needed to wait a day for the weather to warm and then we could install like normal. So we left them in the garage. However, in an attempt to mimic the feel of a hive as best as we could, we placed the packages inside a makeshift hive.

Each package is inside two shallow boxes:







Then we surrounded the packages by some honey frames that we have left from our dead outs this winter. We figure that honey provides some natural insulation for hives in the winter, so hopefully it will work the same way in this case. Also, since smell is so important to bee communication, we figured the earlier their lives start feeling and smelling like life in the hive, the better?  I don’t know. Makes sense to me!







Then we covered the top to help keep some heat in.  Our hope is that it will be cold enough in the garage to keep the bees in a cluster and from wanting to fly, but warm enough that they stay alive, of course! Our addition of the hive components and honey, were really more for psychological value!

Anyway, we are hoping to install these packages tomorrow afternoon, so I’ll put some pictures of that process up as soon as the weather cooperates!

Bedtime bee lesson

Bedtime bee lesson

On a personal note, this has been the first year my four-year-old (almost 5, eek!) has really started get into the things that make up our lives. He claimed a few of this year’s chicks as his own, he’s in love with the new puppy, and he eagerly went with us to pick up the bees. Thanks to a kids book about bees that I found at a local library book sale, he’s been peppering us with questions about bees at bedtime and bees are even showing up in his artwork! I couldn’t be more proud!



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