Min menu


How To Install Bees In A New Hive


It's springtime, and you've placed an order for fresh bees. You must now learn how to set up your bees and begin preparing for their arrival.

Your bee delivery will determine how to place bees in a new hive. Transfer frames containing bees from the nuc into your hive using a nuc. Place the queen cage on a frame with a bee package so that bees may feed her as they eat sweets to liberate her. Add frames and cover the colony after shaking it into the hive.

As a novice beekeeper, we recommend starting with a nuc. Nucs are easier to set up and less daunting for newcomers.

Installing a bee package is not difficult, but it does need additional bee handling, which increases the risk of a mistake. Slow down and maintain your composure.

This article explains how to set up a new hive with bees in great detail.

Prior to the Arrival of Your Bees

Before your bees come, get your hives ready. You'll want to get them settled in their new place as quickly as possible, so plan beforehand. You don't want to keep your bees in a shipping box for longer than is absolutely necessary.

Make certain you:

  • Make a decision on an appropriate place. From the beginning, you'll build the hive at this position. Your bees will orient themselves to this location, and you don't want to throw them off by moving too soon.
  • If you wish to paint your hives before putting your bees in, do it well ahead of time. Allow enough time for the paint to dry and off-gas to protect the bees.
  • Set up the bottom board, brood box with frames, entrance reducer, inner cover, and outer cover of your hive. You just need one deep box to get started if you're utilizing them. (If your bees arrive in a nuc, a deep box will almost certainly be required.) You may start with one medium box with medium boxes, but you'll need to add a second hive body sooner.
  • Prepare a 1:1 sugar syrup solution and a bee feeder for the bees. The assistance may help package bees get started drawing comb. Even if a nuc already has some drawn comb, it might still need some help. If you receive a bee gift, save some of the syrup in a sprayer.
  • Pollen patties may also aid in the establishment of your colony. Have some on hand.
  • Always remember to put on your safety equipment. We've found that bees are often docile at this point, but you should still be cautious. How to begin your new activity after being stung by a bee.
  • Despite the recommendation to wear protective gear, if you are comfortable doing so, you may wish to forego gloves. It's simpler to handle the frames and other items if you don't use your hands. Remove any jewelry if you're going barehanded in case you are stung and your hand swells up.
  • Make sure you have your hive tool on hand. It will be used to separate and raise nuc frames, as well as to open your bee package.
  • Although you are unlikely to need your smoker, make sure it is lighted and ready before you begin working with the bees. On our first nuc, we utilized a smoker, although it was definitely excessive. If you decide to use it, a few puffs into the nuc when it's initially opened should be enough.
  • A little nail or toothpick, together with some marshmallow or fondant, may be utilized to help liberate the queen (as explained below).
  • Rubber bands should be on hand to secure the queen cage to a frame.
  • The bees will be installed later in the day. As night falls, they will retire to the hive.

Installation of a Nuc

A nuc is a temporary mini-hive made up of 5 frames containing a comb, pollen, nectar, and bees, as explained in another article (workers and queen).

Installing bees from a nuc is straightforward, which is why we recommend starting with a nuc. The queen has already been introduced into the hive body, and the bees have accepted her.

Because the nuc contains frames, all you have to do now is remove the frames from the nuc and place them in the center of the hive. Then, on either side of the first cluster, add enough extra frames to make a 10-frame or 8-frame box.

Use the entrance reducer with the smallest opening as the setting. The little entrance will be simpler to protect if thieves attempt to take advantage of your colony's weakness.

This is a video of our first nuc setup. (The video was sped up, so it's a little wobbly and we sound like we're sucking on helium balloons...but you get the point.)

Putting a Bee Package in Place

You'll get a box full of bees, a caged queen, and a can of syrup with your gift.

Queen cages come in a variety of sizes. Ask your provider how the cage is set up so you can appropriately release the queen.

You'll most likely get one of the two boxes seen below: a wooden cage or a plastic "Bee Bus." They are comparable, however, there are a few benefits to taking the Bee Bus:

  • The wood boxes have solid sides, but the Bee Bus is completely vented. Your bees will have an easier time traveling because of the additional ventilation.
  • The syrup can is placed via an aperture in the wood box. A Bee Bus can open entirely on one end in addition to the container opening. This wider aperture allows shaking the bees out and into the hive much simpler.
  • The syrup container must be removed in order to collect the queen. With your hive tool, pry the can out from the wood box. The Bee Bus will feature recessed apertures where you may hold the can and pull it up with two fingers.
  • The queen cage construction may also be affected by the wood vs. plastic material debate.

 Regardless of the structural variations, both boxes may be installed in the same manner. There may be minor differences, like how the queen cage is accessible.

We'll go through a couple different strategies for getting your bees inside the hive.

Take your time with an option to make sure you understand the instructions. Take a hard look at your package. Depending on your bundle, you may need to make small changes to the procedure.

Shake the Bees

This is the strategy we demonstrate in the video below.

Step 1: Remove the hive's outer and inner covers. Remove 3 or 4 frames to create an area where the bees may be dumped.

Step 2: Lightly spray the bees with sugar syrup. If their wings are wet, they will not fly as much.

Step 3:Shake the package to get the bees to fall to the bottom. Many of the bees will be separated from the syrup container and queen cage, making both simpler to remove. To shake them loose, give it a strong jolt on the ground or on top of the hive.

Step 4 – Remove any wood or plastic lids from the syrup can with your hive tool, but keep them accessible to cover the opening when you remove the can.

Step 5 – A strap is most likely used to hang the queen cage from the top of the box. The strap is attached to the syrup can via the same aperture. The strap may be fastened to the box's top. If this is the case, release the strap, but be cautious not to let the cage fall into the box's bottom. (If it collapses, it's not a tragedy; it simply means more effort.)

If required, use your hive tool to remove the can. Keep the queen cage from falling by holding the strap.

Place the can on top of the feeding openings and set it aside. The syrup will not spill on the ground or into the hive as a result of this.

Remove the queen cage and cover it with the lid you placed aside in Step 4.

Step 6: Check to see whether the queen is still alive. It's possible that she'll have a few companions in the cage with her. A cork or equivalent stopper should be inserted into one end of the cage. Sugar candy should be placed in the opening underneath the stopper.

If there is sugar candy, make a tiny hole in it with a little nail or a toothpick. Make sure the queen on the other side of the sweets isn't hurt. This will give the bees an advantage in their quest to release the queen.

If you don't have any sugar sweets, you have two options:

  • Fill the hole with marshmallows or fondant.
  • For the time being, replace the cork. After this instance, you'll have to return in a few days to remove it and set the queen free.

NOTE: While handling the hive, keep the queen cage on top of it. The queen may fall out if you remove the cork and there is no candy below. You want her in the hive body if she slips out. (I've been there and done that!)

Step 7 – With the screen facing outward, attach the queen cage to the center of a frame. If the queen is accompanied by servants, you may wish to slant it upward. This will ensure that a deceased attendant does not block the exit.

You may be able to use the strap that secured the cage in the container to secure it. Even so, I'd fasten it with a couple of rubber bands.

If you're going to use a top feeder, don't put the queen beneath the inner cover hole where the feeder will be. You don't want the queen to get soaked if there's a leak.

Step 8 – Attach some pollen patties to the frames' top bars.

Step 9 – Shake the bee box vigorously to dislodge the bees from the entrance. Take off the lid (or in the case of a Bee Bus open one end). Place the aperture over the hive where the frames were removed and shake the bees in.

You may need to shake and move the wooden box from side to side to get the majority of the bees out through the little entrance.

There will always be those bees that refuse to leave the box. With the entrance facing up, place the box in front of the hive. As they catch up on her pheromones, the bees will make their way to the queen on their own.

Step 10: Replace the frames in the hive.

Step 11: Attach the inside cover.

NOTE: When changing frames and the inside cover, use caution. To prevent crushing bees, a tiny bit of smoke may be utilized to get them out of the path.

Step 12 – Place your feeder over the inner cover's aperture. Turn a feeding jar or bucket away from the hive while turning it around. Before a vacuum seal keeps it in place, some syrup is certain to leak out. Robbing is less likely if the drips are kept away from the hive.

Step 13 – Cover the feeder with another hive body to completely surround it. For this, you'll need one deep or two medium boxes. The outer cover is placed on top of the inside cover. The lid may be secured with a stone, brick, or ratchet strap.

Step 14 – Allow time for the bees outside the hive to find their way in. Put on the entrance reducer with the little aperture accessible to the bees after the majority of the bees have entered.

Changes to the ShakeOut

The bees may be installed without being entirely shaken out of the container. This approach is gentler on the bees and maybe more pleasant for you as a beginner.

This strategy appeals to us. It's possible that shaking the bees may lead them to swarm all over the place. This may be really alarming if you're new to beekeeping. It's more enjoyable to be with calmer bees.

It differs from the shake-out approach in the following ways:

Follow Steps 1–8 above, but shift all of the hive's frames to one side. The remaining area in the hive should be large enough to accommodate the shipping box.

Step 9: Shake some bees out of the box and onto the frames' top bars. In the vacant hive area, place the box containing the remaining bees with the aperture facing upward. Following the queen's smell, the bees will make their way onto the frames.

Steps 10 through 14 should be repeated.

Advice for beekeepers:

A fresh package should be started in a nuc box, according to the American Bee Journal. The width of a nuc box is merely 5 frames. As the colony works on drawing comb where the queen may lay eggs, the limited area keeps the hive warmer and more compact.

Following the Installation

Allow the bees to settle within the hive for seven days. During this time, keep an eye on their behavior outside the hive.

Open the hive after a week to check on the queen. If you have a candy plug, the cage is likely to be empty, indicating that the queen has been released into the hive.

Remove the cage if it is empty and re-close the hive. This day's job is completed.

Check to observe how the bees are gathered in the cage and if the queen is still inside.

  • You may presume they've accepted her if they're softly connected and docile. Carefully remove the plug and insert the aperture into the hive entrance. This will keep the queen in the hive and prevent her from fleeing.
  • If the bees are firmly gathered on the cage and seem to be biting it, the queen has not yet been accepted. Return the cage to its original location and wait a few days before testing again.

Remove the cage from the location after the queen has been freed. It will still be scented with the queen's perfume. You don't want the bees to be attracted to it.

To liberate the queen, why do the bees have to chew through candy?

Before the queen can be released among the bees, she must be given time to adapt and accept her. The queen may be murdered if she is freed too soon.

You have no clue how long the queen cage and the bees have been together in a bee package. Forcing the bees to consume sugar for a long period should give them ample time to accept her.

Following the Queen's Release

Your hive is full of bees. You're aware that the queen has been liberated. Allow them to rest for 10 to 14 days.

I know you're itching to go in there and look around and see what's up. During this period, only go inside the hive to replenish the feeder or add a pollen patty.

You must supply food for the bees to draw out comb for the queen to lay eggs since you are a rookie.

It will be time for your first inspection in roughly 2 weeks. Light your cigarette, put on your beekeeping gear, and take out your hive tool.

Into the entryway, puff a little smoke. Remove the outer cover, any additional hive bodies, and the feeder from the hive. To pry open the inner cover, you may need to use your hive tool.

Wait a few seconds after puffing a little smoke beneath the inside cover. After that, take off the lid and you'll be in the hive.

It's likely that the bees haven't yet made it to the outer frames. There may be a few bees on it, but no comb. Remove one of the end frames to provide a way for additional frames to be readily removed.

Place the removed frame on its side or, if you have one, on a frame hanger.

Pull out the next frame for examination starting from that end. You're checking to see whether it has any comb. Look for eggs, nectar, pollen, or capped brood if there are any.

Replace the frame and go on to the next one. Work your way throughout the hive, inspecting each frame as you go. Replace the frames with caution. Allow enough space to raise and reinsert the bees without rolling them.

With a fresh hive, some of your frames are likely to be empty, while others may just contain the beginnings of the comb. You're searching for evidence that the queen is producing eggs and that they're drawing comb. Keep your eyes peeled for the queen. If she's been tagged, she'll be simple to find.

You may notice a decrease in the colony's population during this time. Older bees are dying off, and fresh brood isn't yet replacing them. In a few weeks, you should see the colony increasing and the hive expanding.

You may remove the entry reducer as the population grows and the season continues. With lots of foraging material available, your colony is better prepared to defend itself, and robbery is less probable.

Bees may quit utilizing sugar syrup when natural food sources grow increasingly available. As soon as you see this decline, I would stop feeding.

In the first year, some beekeepers like to feed continually. If we cease after the colony is formed, we haven't experienced any issues. We want to release them into the wild.

Additional Suggestions

The bees will be drawn to the frame foundation if it is lightly misted with sugar syrup. Some beekeepers believe it assists the bees in acclimating to the plastic.

Lemongrass oil, which resembles the pheromones of a queen, is used in swarm traps to attract bees. Because you have fresh new equipment, a few drops of lemongrass oil may assist the bees to adjust to their new home more quickly and prevent them from fleeing.

If you've chosen to go without a foundation, check the frames carefully. A comb that is not securely fastened to the frame on all sides is prone to falling. Hold the frame upright for examination if the comb is only partly connected. (For a visual representation, see the image below.)


Installing bees from a nuc into a new hive is a breeze.

Packages for bees are a bit trickier. For a beginning beekeeper, handling a bee package might be scary. Stick to our instructions, be cool, and move gently. It isn't nearly as complicated as it seems.

This post is part of a series on how to get started beekeeping, which includes a step-by-step approach to help you get started.

Find out more! Check out our series on maintaining beehives, a beginner's guide to fundamental, year-round beekeeping duties, once you've successfully installed your first bees.