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Installing A New Package Of Bees

Mike has suited up in protective gear before opening the hive and smoking the bees (Annie Corrigan/WFIU)

Mike Bennett keeps bees in his backyard in Bloomington Indiana. In the spring, beekeepers may need to install a new package of bees into their hives, if the bees didn't make it through the winter, or if they're establishing a new hive.

Mike has ordered bees in the mail in the past, but this time he picks up a package from Hunter's Honey Farm in Martinsville.

A bee package contains about 3 pounds of worker bees (between 9,000 and 10,000 bees) plus one queen. The queen is isolated in a small cage suspended inside the box of bees. The queen is new to this collection of bees, and they need time to get used to her scent. If they don't have time to acclimate, they may attack and kill her, which would mean the death of this particular colony.

Once the bees are installed into the hive box, the beekeeper will remove an outer cork from the queen cage, revealing a candy plug. The worker bees will eat through the plug, to release the queen, and hopefully, by that time, the workers are ready to accept the queen, and she can get started laying eggs and building the colony in their new home.

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