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I am not a beekeeper, so I looked online. This article proposes to wrap your hive in black tar paper and ensure proper ventilation, because dampness can kill your bees.
Jennifer, I hived my first package on April 3rd and my bees seem to be doing well, but I'm not really sure as I don't know what to expect. At 3 weeks i have at least 2 full frames of capped brood with honey. There is couple frames of drawn out comb with nectar and pollen and one or 2 more almost fully drawn out. I have some pictures and videos on my blog EastVanBees I t would be great to get some comments on how my hive is doing.
To start a new hive, you can order a package of bees, which is just as it sounds...a box or container shipped to you that contains up to 3 pounds of bees and a mated queen in her own little cage. You simply empty the package into a prepared hive, liberate the queen and voila! You have a hive.
Update from three weeks ago: I have been feeding my new bees non-stop and they are continually emptying what I provide. Lots of new comb, and on last inspection, there were so many eggs laid in there it was unbelievable, but not that much capped brood. Guess the queens just finally got revved up, looks like it will all be hatching at once though! The orchard is blooming a full 4 weeks behind last year, but it's full of bees. Like Steve I've seen enough numbers to add a second super on both, and I decided to blend my very very weak overwintered hive with one of the new packages. After pulling that one through to April I'd thought we'd made it, but it was still dwindling, down to 500 bees or so. I used the old newspaper trick and after three days, pulled the chewed remnants out from between the two supers.
I think it was a weak queen that did in my overwintered hive, 'cause they sure didn't starve. There was so much honey in there, I wondered if it was taking up too much room and not leaving enough comb available for brood. I removed two of the 6 full frames of honey and substituted with empty comb, but no dice. Oh well, those 500 joined the New Zealand bees and I've been busy getting my honey into jars without an extractor (messy but effective.) All is well at the Horse Drawn Farms apiary!
Good to hear that your bees (at least some of them) made it. Hope the season continues with good growth.