Packages, they’re all about that queen

Packages aren’t primarily about the bees in the package

Buying bee packages has been done for so long now that most people in beekeeping think it’s always been that way.  In the history of beekeeping, it’s actually still a relatively new thing.  Ultimately though, all of those bees from different colonies aren’t there to build a new, cohesive colony among themselves necessarily.

They are there to help build a strong colony.  They are there to provide a high population to gather resources and build a nest that is conducive to establishing a genetically cohesive colony.

The Queen is bringing her own colony with her

Queens are often shipped with bee packages, but not always.  It’s not necessary to ship a queen with a package because any queen that is sent along is almost guaranteed to not be the same genetic line as the bees in the package.

The queen, whether purchased with the packaged or obtained some other way by you, is going to establish a new colony of her own genetics using the bees in the package as the startup team.  The mated Queen you choose will get busy laying eggs to establish her colony while the package bees set up shop, so to speak.

Selected traits make your Queen more valuable than a package

Apiarists who are focused on establishing a line of selected traits that will be highly successful in their area will likely be raising their own queens or purchasing from a breeder they have investigated and trust for the traits they desire.  Those selected queens will be the real beginning of the colony that “owns” the hive you place them in.

After the larvae emerge and begin taking over duties, they will raise any new queens from the eggs laid by that Queen.  Eventually, every bee in this hive will be of the same genetic line as the selected queen.

Packages are about a strong start in a small box

What the initial package bees are is the startup crew.  They essentially exist solely for the purpose of providing a large enough workforce to forage, build the nest and care for the initial eggs and larvae of the selected Queen.  After a certain point, that hodge-podge crew will die out entirely leaving only the offspring of the selected Queen.

The package bees play a vital role in establishing the new colony.  Keep in mind though that they are not themselves ultimately the end result colony.   This places even more importance on the qualities of the Queen you obtain that into the hive with the package bees.

The package bees pave the way and never get to see the the end result

After the new package is installed into a hive, they will get to business right away.  It’s usually a good idea to feed a newly installed package heavily with 1:1 sugar syrup as soon as possible to help them get started on nest building and getting energy to go out foraging.  Depending on the quantity and quality of nectar available at the time of hiving a package, it’s est to continue to make sugar syrup available until they stop taking it.  They know what they want and when there’s enough of it to stop bothering with the “fast food” you provide.

If you have some relatively clean and drawn out combs, using a few of those in the initial hive box at installation of the package will also help the bees get a more successful start and make them more efficient.  Also know that you shouldn’t add too much space to the hive stack right away until they expand to the point of needing more boxes added. keeping the space as manageable as possible also increases the bees efficiency in building and maintaining the new nest.