The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861


There are many variables in beekeeping. You can talk to 10 beekeepers about a question and receive 10 different answers. It is advisable for the beginner to find a local beekeeping club to join. The group will be able to help the beginner with many of his/her questions. The state bee inspector is also a good source of advice. Many of the answers below have been taken out of the First Lessons, Classroom, and Beginning with Bees. And many of these topics are touched on in issues of The American Bee Journal.

  • When do I order package bees?
    It is best to order package bees for spring delivery. The bees should be delivered after the date of the last hard freeze for your region. The package honey bee suppliers will be able to help you determine the best delivery date.

  • When should I hive my new package of honey bees?
    The best time to hive the honey bees is late afternoon or early evening. Spray the honey bees with sugar water while still in the shipping container. This will make it easier to put the honey bees in the hive.

  • What do I feed the honey bees in the spring?
    It is best to feed a mixture of sugar and water in a one to one ratio by volulme in the spring. Half fill your container with sugar and add water to completely fill the container. You can mix the syrup by stirring the one to one sugar/water mixture for the spring feeding. The bees will use the sugar syrup mixture until natural sources are available. You can also stimulate the honey bees to raise brood in the spring by feeding them Dadant’s Brood Builder.

  • What do I feed the honey bees in the fall?
    Use a two part sugar to one part water sugar syrup mixture if the bees do not have adequate winter stores. Fill your container to the half way mark with water. Pour the water into a pan to place on stove to warm up or boil. Completely fill your container with sugar. Add sugar to hot water and stir. Hot or boiling water will help to dissolve the sugar better. Allow mixture to cool before feeding your bees.

  • Where do I place my hive?
    If you are in the city, you should put the entrance of the hive facing a high fence. This will force the bees to fly in a high flight pattern, avoiding neighbors. It is good to give the hives a wind break to protect them.
    You can also place the entrance facing the sun to allow the bees an early start in the morning.
    The hive can also be placed on concrete blocks or a wooden pallet to keep it off of the ground.

  • Do I paint the inside of the beehive?
    No, paint the outside of the beehive only. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly before installing the bees.

  • How often should I check my new hive?
    You can open the hive after a few days to see if the queen has been released. Look in the Queen Cage to see if the Queen has been released. If the Queen has been released you should check for eggs and larvae to be sure she is active. If the Queen has not been released, enlarge the hole in the candy in the Queen Cage. Three weeks after you have hived the package you can examine the colony again. Be sure to keep feeding the colony sugar syrup
    during this time to stimulate comb building. You should see sealed brood in the colony at this time.

  • Can I keep bees in a straw skep?
    No, honey bees are required to be kept in a beehive with removable frames. This is to allow inspection for diseases. It is the law in all states.

  • When should I add a second hive body or super?
    You should add the second hive body or super when the majority of the frames in the first hive body are fully drawn out, (8 or 9 frames). A second super should be added after the first super is about one half full.

  • How much honey should I leave on the hive to over winter?
    As a general rule you should have a full super or second hive body and 20 to 30 pounds of honey in the brood nest. This will amount to a total of 60 to 70 pounds of honey for winter and early spring consumption.

  • What should I look for in spring in the colony?
    You should check for evidence that the Queen is laying eggs. You should also check the honey stores and pollen supply. If the honey stores are low you may start feeding sugar syrup in a two to one ratio of sugar and water. The bees may consume about 10 pounds of sugar syrup in a one-week period.