When a beekeeper wants to get started with bees, there are five ways to get bees: a nuc, a package, a swarm, an established hive, a cut-out from a building. Most go with the first or second. I've only bought nucs up until this, my fifth year. This year I bought two packages.
Let's consider the package. A package of bees is in a sense an imitation swarm. However, the bees in a package are not necessarily sisters - usually they are shaken from a number of hives to get the pounds needed in the package. A pound of bees, FYI, contains about 3500 bees. So a two pound package has about 7000 bees in it. Also in the package is a queen who has not yet met her hive. She is contained in a queen cage. All of these unacquainted bees are dumped in the hive with the queen remaining in her cage until they eat through the candy and release her in three or four days.
If you have ever shaken bees off of a frame, you know that there are always a number of bees who cling to the frame and won't get shaken off. When harvesting I have to use the bee brush to get these girls to leave the frame. The clingers are usually younger bees. The younger bees in the hive are the ones who make the wax from the glands on their thorax.
A swarm, on the other hand, represents the reproduction of the hive. When a swarm leaves the hive, the bees comprising the swarm are engorged with honey for the journey. In a swarm about 70% of the bees are 10 days old or younger, ready and developmentally at the stage to make wax. The queen is known to all - for she is, in the first swarm out of a hive, their mother. The swarm is staged for success because, after all, success of the swarm equals successful reproduction of the hive.
I'm finding that it is quite difficult to learn how to successfully pull off installing a top bar hive. And I'm also now worrying about the package installed in Rabun County on foundationless frames in a Langstroth box.
Since the girls in a package are possibly past the developmental stage of making wax, is the hive doomed from the beginning if you are using foundationless frames?
I don't think I am going to look favorably at the idea of purchasing packages again.
I like the nuc because it is a mini-hive, already started. And while you can make mistakes with the nuc (such as enthusiastically putting too many boxes on before the bees have built out their first box, as I did), the chances of success are greater. They are more likely to swarm like our recently installed nucs at Blue Heron, but they don't usually abscond.
I love to get a swarm and although my friend gave me the swarm that I hived in the top bar hive a while back, I didn't catch it. I would like to get one this year just for the satisfaction of starting a hive that wants to get up and running fast as it is developmentally driven to do.
But I'm not anxious to install another package.
Welcome - Explore my Blog
I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.
Need help with an Atlanta area swarm? Visit Found a Swarm? Call a Beekeeper. (678) 597-8443