The spring of the year is the time when honey bees expand their colonies and branch out to new territory. Since beekeepers have to follow the life patterns of the bees, it is also the time that we expand our colonies. Today I helped beekeeper and renowned potter, Agnes Stark, set up two hives using packaged honey bees. Using packaged bees is one of the several methods in which beekeepers establish new colonies. A package of bees is made up by a bee breeder by physically shaking the bees from the frames of established hives into a wooden box with screened walls. The box is about the size and shape of a shoe box. A typical package of bees will contain three pounds of bees, about 12000 bees. The package will also contain one queen bee, confined in a cage. To keep the bees fed and hydrated during their trip from the bee breeder to the beekeeper, there is a can of syrup with tiny drip holes inside the box.
Here, you can see Agnes pouring the bees from the package into the hive that she prepared for them. She placed the queen cage inside the hive, exposing a candy plug to the bees. It will take the bees a day or more to eat through the candy and release the queen. This candy plug acts as a delaying feature for the release of the queen, allowing the bees to get accustomed to her pheromones. Once the queen is released from her cage, she will begin laying eggs; and the packaged bees will function as a colony. These bees were fortunate to have landed in the bee yard of Agnes Stark. Be sure to visit the artist’s web site: starkpottery.com.