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How do I safely transport tube packed bees? Box design??
The main issue with any bee package is air flow so space for air to get to the bees is always key. Box packages are "ganged" together to ensure space between them but when you place them in your vehicle for transport or in your shop to store them it is important to keep separation between the ganged boxes to keep that airspace. The same holds true for the tube package. Tube packages are designed to allow the bees to draw air into the tube from the bottom, or top, and exhaust stale air out of the other end, much like a chimney. This means they always need air space around the bottom and top. the best way to ensure airflow is in an upright position. See our package hiving video on our YouTube channel Bee Matter, to see what we mean. Another very important reason to store tube packages in an upright position is to keep the queen alive. The queen is in a small square cage without attendants. The cage is stapled to a green mesh strip about 18 inches below the top of the tube with the screen facing into the tube so the bees can attend her and get used to her. This means they are ready to go when hived with no introduction time needed. To keep her from being isolated in storage the best position is to hang down in the cluster. If the package must be laid down horizontally, it is imperative that the green mesh strip is at the bottom so she will be on the bottom side and still accessible to the bees. This is discussed in our video on hiving tube packages as well.
How soon do I have to hive the bees after receiving my order?
Ideally, bees should be hived the same day as delivery. Since bees are best hived at dusk or dawn, never in full daylight, it is not always possible to hive them the same day they arrive but should be done as soon as possible.
If I can't hive the bees immediately should I feed them? If so, how often do you feed the packed bees? What do you feed them? How much do you feed them?
Definitely. The Arataki Tube package is gorge fed after being placed in the tube package but has no food container within the tube. They will last up to 10 days without feed and arrive within three to four days of packaging but the added stress of travel will increase their metabolism rates so feeding them is a definite plus. it also helps them settle after transport. A thin sugar syrup similar to what you would feed a spring hive is sufficient and easy to apply. We use old restaurant style ketchup bottles then simply squirt about one table spoon at a time into the top cup of the tubes upper cone. A quick two rounds and you're done. if they do need to be stored for more than a day they should be fed twice per day.
What temperature do I need to store the bees at while they are still in the package?
Keeping them cool and in a dark place is ideal and helps slow down their metabolism as well which helps to keep them calm and happy. An eight to ten degree Celsius room like a garage or shop is excellent, as long as there is sufficient airflow. A fan can help with that, especially if the room is small.
There are dead bees at the bottom of the package cone, is that normal?
Very normal but it depends on the number of dead bees there. The cone makes the dead bees a bit deceiving and one to two inches is really only a small hand full of bees. Most packages come through with less than half an inch of dead bees which is about 50 -100 out of 8000-10000 bees. For reference, the bottom cone will hold one third of the entire package in packed dead bees so that will help gauge how many bees are there.
Can a package be split into two hives?
It certainly can but the best way to do so is to hive the package and allow it to grow for a few weeks, then split it up using equal number of bees and frames of brood and feed and adding a second queen to the extra split/hive. Keep in mind this will slow the growth of your hive significantly and needs to be done with the time of your crop in mind but it is one way some beekeepers prepare for the next year and cutting the cost of new packages and bees substantially in the process. It's not a free package though as you still need the added feed and queen plus care that is involved and the risk associated with any over wintered hive but it is a viable option for building your hive numbers for growth while leaving your over wintered stock to pollinate and produce honey at full strength this year. If your crop is later and you can hive your packaged bees safely it is possible to have both halves of the package (both hives) production ready for the same year. Timing is the key.