Hiving Honey Bee Packages in Cold Weather
Gary S. Reuter, University of Minnesota
If you are hiving packages hopefully they will come in mid April. If it is still cold when your packages come, here are a couple cold weather tricks.
Remember in most cases the colony is better off in a hive than in a package. But, if the weather guessers are predicting warmer weather in the next day or two hold your packages until then. Spray them twice a day with light sugar syrup (1:1) and keep them in a cool (70 dF) dark place.
If you must hive them take them to the hive and remove 4 frames from the center of the box and place the package of bees (without opening it) into the space. Put the cover back on the hive and leave it for a couples hours. This will warm the inside of the hive a little before you dump in the bees. Keep the syrup you are going to spray on the bees warm (80 dF). Bring along warm water to keep it in or tuck it inside your jacket. If you leave your sprayer in the snow for 20 minutes then spray the bees you will freeze them. Then when you hive the bees use less spray on them than you might if it is warmer. DO NOT let the queen get cold, put her in your shirt pocket! When you dump in the bees try to dump them all together in the box. Bees that are dumped to far away from the rest will probably get to cold to join the group. After dumping the bees and releasing the queen slide the frames in the box to the center and put the 4 frames you took out at the edges. This puts warm frames where you want the bees to cluster. Be sure to check the next day to be sure the bees are under the feeder. In cold weather the bees cannot go very far to get food.