I performed my first package bee installation today. It was a three pound package with a Carnolian queen. I used the method where I shake the bees out of the box and stuff a mini marshmallow in the queen cage so it can be chewed out over a few hours.
9 frames were used and the queen cage was wedged between frames 3 and 4. The cage will be removed and the tenth frame added in 3-4 days.
One deep 10 frame was used for the new colony.
A feeder was added with 1 gallon of 1:1 syrup and a pollen patty was added above the queen cage.
A wooden entrance reducer was used with the small hole. It was not ‘locked shut’ with grass.
This package of about 10,000 bees will slowly shrink until the queens’ eggs hatch in 21 days. Bees die for all kinds of reasons and there is no way to replace them until the first eggs hatch around June 1st (based on eggs laid on April 11).
A young, healthy queen can lay 2,000 eggs per day under good conditions.
It takes about 15,000 bees to run the hive and in colonies of 60-80,000 bees, all of the extras are out gathering nectar, pollen, or scouting.
The nectar flow in Wisconsin Dells runs from June 15 through August 1st. I expect this first year hive to reach full strength around July 15th, so first year honey crop is expected to be low. I may only pull 1 frame for my rent this year… They will be stronger next year if I leave excess honey in the hive this year.
University of Wisconsin, Madison has studied this and found that excess honey left this year will be replaced next year with interest! With a healthier hive in the spring, more bees are able to get to work earlier in the spring and throughout the nectar flow season, while weaker hives are still trying to build their numbers.
Larger colonies are also better able to defend against robbing, leaving more time for foraging.
By investing this years harvest (leaving the honey in the hive), I hope to have a strong harvest next year of more than 5 gallons from a single hive.
It takes 1 gallon of honey to brew 5 gallons of mead (honey wine) which breaks down to 20 quart-sized bottles of wine. I could expect 100 bottles of mead that could conservatively sell for $5… Or $500 for one year from 1 hive. That would cover my startup costs for this hive.
5 gallons yields 40 pints of honey that could easily sell for $10…. Or $400 from one hive in one year.
Of course a real business plan would take a whole lot more into account like licensing, containers, bottling equipment, marketing, etc but this should give some idea of what to expect.
My estimates on the harvest are also conservative. It would be quite easy to outperform those numbers if everything goes right. There is never a guarantee when keeping bees, but it is nice to have a guideline to begin with.