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Advice for first installation


Hello all. I have my Beethinking top bar hive set up, and am scheduled to pick up my bees from Beeweaver here in Texas soon (I don’t think I am ready to catch a swarm yet), but have a few questions. Matt, I saw a post where you recommend installing on one end of the hive, and expanding toward the other end as the colony grows. Is that still recommended, or should I start in the center? I have an initial space of 10 bars. I have seen it recommended to hang the queen cage between the bars, but I saw something on Michael Bush’s website suggesting that this often results in bees building comb from the cage, and advising somehow releasing her into the hive. Lastly, would you recommend feeding them right away? I have the Beethinking feeder, and I have also read about simply putting sugar in the bottom of the hive and spraying it with water to dampen it. If I use the feeder, should I set it within the initial colony space, or on the other side of the follower board with a small hole? If I put a hole in the follower board, will I need to plug it later? Any suggestions for my first installation are appreciated. Thanks for your help!



Hi, Larry!

Welcome! I’m like you, have hives set up and am waiting for my first packages. I just attended my first evening of beekeeper school, as well, so I’m now an expert! :lol: Or not… the focus was entirely on Langstroth hives, of course.

As I said, I’m new, but I’ve been reading a lot and surfing a lot. As it happens, there’s an ongoing thread about releasing the queen at Beesource.com which Michael Bush has been contributing to, though I doubt he’s saying anything different from what he’s already said online or in his books. The thread is http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?279091-Releasing-the-Queen/page2

For what it’s worth, I plan on placing my queen cage at the bottom of the hive. I will likely play it safe and let the bees release her rather than go for a direct release even though I expect the queen to have been in the package with the bees for a few days by the time I get it.

Regarding where to start the bees, I’d go with Matt’s recommendation as it’s the same as every other one I’ve read on the subject. You want the brood comb to be at one end of the hive with the honey at the other end. The reason for this is that come winter you don’t want the bees to be in the middle with honey on either side as they will move in one direction only as they consume their stores. In other words, they may consume the stores of honey on the left side of the hive, but due to the cold they won’t be able to move the distance back to the right side of the hive to get to the rest of the honey. They’ll starve instead.

Matt did recommend to me, and the instructor at the class I just attended stressed, that packages of bees need to be fed in order to give them the nourishment they need to be able to start drawing comb. In the class they said you need to feed for about a month, but I think that it’s more like feed until they stop taking it as they’ll stop once they’re on a good nectar source. You do pose a good question about placement of the feeder; I assumed we put them into the hive on the colony side of the follower board. I look forward to Matt’s answer on this one.



P.S. As always, Matt, feel free to correct me or contradict me as needed! Thus far I’m basing everything on what I’m gleaning from reading and opinions do differ a lot out there.


Thanks, Tom! I had read something from Phil, the moderator on Biobees.com, about starting in the center, but starting on an end seems to make more sense. I still have a week to sort everything out before I get my bees.



Hey Larry,

I’m about 3 weeks ahead of you, my bees arrived the day before our heavest snow fall of the season in centeral VA. In to the hive they went and thank God they are doing really well. I built my own hive and like you I’ve read everything I could get my hands on. I would reccomend having your opening at one end and cut an extra follower board that you can fix your feeded to inside the hive if there is any chance of cold weather. One of the mid 70’s books I found also recomended that you put a jar lid of honey on your landing board that the bees can eat during the warm part of the day. So far they are alive and drawing comb, knock on wood, and it looks like my queen has been laying. Best of luck to you.



You’re welcome, Larry! As I said, I’ve been reading a lot on the subject. I’m looking forward to getting some hands-on experience myself. I’ll be a couple of weeks behind you as I get my first package of bees on the 19th. That package is being bought from a beekeeper in the association we’ve joined, but they’re not local. He goes down to Georgia and hauls back packages. The second package will be coming from Gold Star Honeybees in Maine, a top-bar hive and treatment-free apiary, so I’m looking forward to comparing how bees from the two different sources do here in southern Ohio. I’m expecting that the Gold Star bees will do better as they will be better acclimated to winters and they won’t be regressing (in cell size) from standard foundation to foundationless comb. It should be interesting!

JD, sounds like you’re off to a good start!

I’m looking forward to comparing notes on how everyone does this year.




Another question. I have also read different things about whether or not to close the hive when first installing a package. Bee Weaver, the reputable apiary where I am getting my bees this weekend, recommends closing off the hive entrance with screen (especially a top bar hive) for 24-48 hours after installing the package. Then they recommend beginning with a reduced-size opening. What do y’all think?

So, Tom, you plan on just putting the queen cage in the bottom of the hive? Are you concerned about problems with hanging her between top bars?

Also, any other thoughts on how to set up the feeder? JD, do you mean extending the follower board to make room for the second follower board/feeder inside the colony area? I have the BeeThinking feeder, which I think is just meant to place in the bottom of the hive.





I would not close the hive. I’ve installed at least 30-40 packages in the last few years, and I’ve not once closed the hive. I’ve had 2 packages abscond (leave) that I can recall. Do start with a reduced opening, however. If one of our hives, use the provided bung that has a 1" hole in the middle.

Never hang the queen cage on a top bar hive, as it will lead to crooked combs to begin. As well as a cage fused to the first bar of your hive. Either lay it on the bottom of the hive and pour the bees on top (if it’s not too cold out), or directly release the queen. I usually directly release if she’s been in the package a couple days. This means I dump in the bees, then put in half the bars to create a cave-like setting, and then reach in and let the queen walk out into the clump.

You can do either with the feeder: 1) Put it on the same side of the divider as the bees or 2) put it on the other side after drilling a hole or cutting off the bottom 1/2" of the divider. If you have a window and you are monitoring them frequently enough, option 1 works fine. If you can’t be there to monitor, then they may begin building comb around your feeder. In this case, do option 2.

Do start at one end of the hive – not the middle.




Hi, Larry,

Matt laid out what we plan to do. I’ve already had to insert the entrance reducers to keep birds out while the hive is sitting out there baited and waiting for either a swarm or a package. His experience matches what I’ve read about not hanging the queen cage in a top-bar hive. I don’t think I’ll direct-release the queen unless I can find out how long she’s been with the package, and I may wait an extra day or so even then.

I do plan on installing my packages in the evening if the weather and temperatures are good, to encourage them to stay in the hive until the next day. I figure that by then they’ll have settled in a bit and called it home. With the “normal” package that I’ll be getting as my first package (by normal I mean typical package brought up from Georgia, not treatment-free, from Lang hives) I may use one of Christy Hemenway’s “anti-absconding kit”, which is a piece of brood comb that you wire to one of your bars. My thinking is that this might help not only with keeping them in the hive, but that it may also give them a starting point on regressing back to smaller cells. I could be wrong, but worth a try.

My second package will be from her apiary, so it will already be treatment-free and regressed to small cells.

We get bees a week from tomorrow! Last night was second night of beekeeper school, tonight is the monthly association meeting, and on Saturday we’re going to a historical farm where the association has demonstration hives to work with the bees a bit. All Lang-based, but good stuff.




Success! We installed our bees a little over a week ago, and they seem to be going gangbusters. I ended up placing the feeder directly in the space with the bees, and adding about 5-6 bars of space to accommodate it (total 15-16). Also, based on Matt’s advice and something I read from Michael Bush, where he states that he doesn’t see any advantage to waiting on releasing the queen, I directly released her by removing the cork on the side without the candy, and placing the cage on top of the feeder, before dumping in the bees. They went through half of the first two jars of syrup within a day, and took a week to finish it off. They have built comb on all of the first bars, almost to the feeder jars. Today I replaced the syrup and moved the feeder over, adding another 3-4 bars. I guess I am going to need to check the combs soon, to make sure they are straight and not crossed. Thanks to all for your help, and good luck, Tom!



That sounds great, Larry! Very encouraging!

I just found out that our package of bees from Gold Star Honeybees will be shipped tomorrow; we’re also supposed to be picking up our other package on Friday–that one got slipped a week as we were supposed to get it last Friday. So it looks like we’ll be hiving two packages this weekend. The weather looks like it will be perfect for it, too. :D

We are just a tad excited!!! :lol: