How to Install a package
There are several different ways to install a package. Here is one way that works well for a small beekeeper.
Before you get your package(s), make sure that you have all the equipment on hand. You will need one deep or two medium brood boxes with frames, a bottom board, a feeder or empty deep super and bucket for sugar water, an inner cover and a top cover for each hive. Make sure that you have the area for the beehives prepared before you get the package. Don’t place the bottom boards directly on the ground; use a wooden hive stand with an alighting board for the bees to land on when they come back from foraging. This really helps heavy-laden foragers get back into the hive. If the wooden stand is placed on bricks, concrete or landscape fabric it will last longer before it rots. If you decide to use a pallet be aware that it’s easy to get your foot stuck between the slats if you take a wrong step.
Place the bottom board on the hive stand with the entrance pointing toward the east or south. Place one deep or medium box full of drawn comb or foundation on the bottom board. Cover the box with the top cover to protect it while you’re waiting to install the package. Mix up granulated sugar and warm water in a 1:1 ratio (weight or volume) and put it in the feeder to feed the bees. If you don’t have a feeder, poke five or six holes in the lid of a ½ to 1 gallon plastic container (deli containers work great; ask for some at your local grocery store) and have an empty deep box on hand to put around the bucket.
Just before sunset, bring the package out to the hive. It’s very important to install packages in the evening because if you do it in the middle of the day the bees will fly all over and get confused. Using a hive tool, pry the plywood cover off of the package and remove the sugar can. The queen cage will be on the end of a plastic strip which is stapled to the top of the package. Carefully detach this strip and pull out the queen cage. It will have lots of bees hanging onto it; that’s good because it means the bees like their queen. The queen cage will have a cork on each end and has three round compartments, one of which is full of sugar candy. Remove the cork from the candy end of the queen cage and make a little hole in the candy with a nail. Lay the queen cage horizontally with the screen side up on top of the frames.
Place the feeder bucket upside down toward one edge of the hive and put the empty deep around it. Shake a few of the bees out of the package onto the queen cage. Lightly stuff a few sheets of newspaper around the sugar bucket to keep the bees from building comb off the inner cover and put on the inner cover and the top cover. Now shake the rest of the bees out of the package right in front of the entrance to the hive (this is where the alighting board on the hive stand comes in handy). The bees will march right up into the entrance to the hive as soon as they smell that the queen is in there. The advantage of emptying the package in front of the hive is that any dead bees will stay outside the hive and won’t have to be hauled out by the house bees. Bang the package on the ground if necessary to get the last few bees out. If there’s still a couple in it, it’s okay to leave the package by the hive for a day or two so that all the bees get in the hive.
Come back in three days to see if the queen has been released from the cage. If not, use the hive tool to remove the cork on the other end of the cage and gently shake the queen out onto the frames. Make sure to replace the newspaper if the bees haven’t drawn out the foundation yet. Wait a week or two after the queen is released to check the bees again; too many inspections may cause the bees to supersede the queen. When the bees have drawn out 8 frames in the brood box, add a second brood box. With medium brood boxes add a third after the bees have drawn out 8 frames in the second. Don’t check the bees more frequently than every three or four weeks. They really do better left to themselves.