We can thank the postal service for helping in the proliferation of honey bees. Every spring live honey bees are distributed across the country in small screened wooden boxes by postal workers. These packaged bees are used to establish hives, replace winter colony losses, and expand beekeeping operations. Packages of bees include a number of worker bees, usually three pounds, or around 12 thousand bees. The package also includes a mated queen bee housed in a small cage. The package of bees cannot be considered a colony; it is comprised of bees removed from numerous hives. When the bees are packaged, they are not familiar with the included queen, which was raised separately. It is only after the bees are exposed to the queen’s pheromones that the group organizes as a colony.
During the spring, beekeepers across the country use packaged bees to expand their colonies. Procedures for installing packages of bees are taught at local beekeeping associations. In today’s picture, Richard Hillis assists Agnes Stark install packaged bees in Agnes’ Arlington, Tennessee bee yard. Melissa Bridgman also assisted Nobuko Igarashi install bees at her Midtown Memphis home. Each group was successful in establishing their colonies using techniques they learned from the Memphis Area Beekeepers Association. They protected the bees when they received the packages by storing them in a cool, dark area until it was time to install the bees. They kept the bees from dehydrating by spraying a little sugar water through the packages’ screens. The beekeepers were careful to place the queen cages in the hive so that workers could access the screen around the queen to feed her until her release, and they positioned the candy plug so that the workers could access it. The time involved for workers to eat away the candy plug allows the bees to become accustomed to the odors and pheromones of their new queen. The beekeepers will wait about five days to check for the successful release of the queen.