How To Start A Colony

Starting A Colony In The Keeper's Hive: Options and Tips

Starting a colony is an exciting venture, and you have several options when it comes to acquiring your colony. Each choice has its advantages and considerations, so let's explore them:

  1. Nucleus Colony (Nuc):

    • Most nuc colonies come with 5 frames of bees, including honey, pollen, and brood frames.
    • When installing a strong nuc, consider the following steps:
      • Place 1 frame of honey/pollen in position 8.
      • Add a blank frame in position 7.
      • Distribute the 2-3 frames of brood across positions 4-6.
      • Insert a blank frame in position 3 and another honey/pollen frame in position 2.
      • Use the follower board next to frame 2.
    • Feed the new colony 1:1 syrup via a mason jar above the queen excluder for about a week.
    • After a week, inspect the brood frames to ensure the queen is laying effectively.
  2. Bee Package:

    • A bee package typically contains around 10,000 bees and a queen.
    • The queen is often enclosed in a queen cage within the package.
    • Here's how to install a bee package:
      • Remove the queen cage from the package and verify that the queen is alive.
      • Remove the cork on the side of the cage with the candy plug, leaving the cork on the other side in place.
      • Carefully poke a hole in the candy plug using a thin nail.
      • Place 5 frames in the brood chamber in spaces 4-8, with the follower board next to frame 4.
      • Hang the queen cage between frames 6 and 7.
      • Mist the bees in the package with 1:1 sugar syrup, then shake them into the medium spacer box (which has no frames).
      • Bees will find their way through the queen excluder to surround the queen.
      • Feed the colony 1:1 sugar syrup using a mason jar above the queen excluder, replenishing it daily.
      • After 72 hours, check to ensure the queen has been released from her cage. If not, remove the remaining cork.
      • Inspect frames in one week to confirm the presence of eggs and young larvae, indicating the queen is laying.
      • If your frames have no comb, continue to feed sugar syrup for the next 3 weeks.
  3. Swarm:
    • Catching a swarm is an exciting opportunity.
    • Open the roof, remove the observation window, and shake the swarm into the hive.
    • Consider adding a frame of young larvae from another hive if available.
    • In addition to the brood frame, include up to 5 blank frames (spaces 4-8) to encourage comb building.
  4. Split:

    • You can create a split with as few as 2 frames in the Keeper's Hive using the follower board.
    • Feeding 1:1 sugar syrup in mason jars above the queen excluder is generally advisable for splits.
    • Depending on the queen source, monitor the brood frames to ensure successful egg laying.
    • Add additional frames as the split population grows. Remember that bees prefer to be wall to wall in the hive.
    • For more detail, read our guide about making splits.

Regardless of your chosen method, it's essential to leave the medium frames out of the spacer box until the colony establishes itself and starts growing. This period can vary from a relatively short time for a nucleus colony to up to a month for a package of bees. Only add frames to the brood chamber once the bees need them. Too much space in the hive can increase the risk of robbing and pest issues.

A few key reminders:

  1. Always use the follower board when starting a new colony in the Keeper's Hive to create the brood chamber's outer wall.
  2. Consider feeding the bees 1:1 sugar syrup when installing a new colony, except for swarms.
  3. Inspect your new colony in about a week to ensure the queen is laying eggs.
  4. Use an entrance reducer on your bottom board until the colony grows.
  5. Regularly check on your bees by flipping open the roof and using the observation window.

Starting your Keeper's Hive can be a rewarding experience. Remember that each colony is unique, so be attentive to their needs and adapt your management accordingly.

Happy beekeeping! 🐝🏡🍯