Replacing Dead colonies
If you kept bees last year you are probably in the same boat I am and have dead hives to fill. You need to order replacement packages ASAP and prepare your hive for a new colony. When preparing a dead out for new bees it is necessary to strip the hive down to the bottom board and put it back together. First make any adjustments to the stand that the bottom board rests on. Now is the most convenient time to make adjustments tilting the hive slightly forward to allow water to run off of the top and bottom boards. If the hive tilts toward its back the bottom board will flood with rain water.
Next scrape the bottom board and place it on the stand. I just use my hive tool to do this mostly to remove dead bees and hive trash. After replacing the bottom board, position an empty hive body that has been scraped clean. Working from the center out, place drawn out frames first and any frames with last year’s honey toward the outside of the hive. The best scenario is to have 4 drawn out frames in the center surrounded by frames of honey. If you don’t have frames with honey you will just have to be more vigilant on feeding. Don’t spend too much time cleaning old frames and boxes. A little mold or clinging dead bees will not even phase your new bees. They will be very happy moving into a fully furnished home with a little food in the cupboard and will quickly clean up and move in.
Do not use more than one hive body when hiving a package. Extra space wastes heat that should be going to keeping the brood warm. When bees are covering 8 of the 10 frames you can put the second hive body on. All that is left is to install your bee package. To do this gently remove the metal feeder can, followed by the queen cage. Invert the package and give several shakes over your prepared hive. Most of the bees will fall (a few will fly) into the hive after 5-6 shakes. To get the remaining bees out, rap the sides of the package from side to side dislodging the bees so they fall out and into the hive. There will always be a few that don’t want to come out. If you set the package in front of the hive entrance they will fly out and join the hive on their own.
Replace the cork plug in the queen cage with a small marshmallow (without her getting out) and place it in the center of the hive wedged between the top bars so it does not fall. The bees will release the queen in a few day after which you will remove the empty queen cage and slide the bars together. After installing the queen cage it is time to feed.
I use an inner cover with an empty hive body and outer cover as a feeder. Place the inner cover over your bees then invert a quart or ½ gallon mason jar (filled with sugar syrup and with tiny holes punched in the lid) over the small hole in the center of the cover. Next place an empty hive body and outer cover on your hive. The syrup is easily made in an empty milk jug that has been cleaned thoroughly. Fill the jug 1/3 full of very hot tap water followed by a 5 pound bag of sugar. Put the cap on and shake vigorously then fill the rest of the way up with more very hot tap water and shake again. Cooking syrup on the stove is messy and unnecessary. This makes a 1 to 1 solution that is perfect for spring feeding. Check and refill your feeder as necessary. Do not let them run out.