Must I feed a new package of bees?
This is a new beekeeper question—and a very good one. If you install your bees on drawn comb with a good supply of honey, you probably don’t need to feed. But if you are installing that package on fresh-from-the-box woodenware, read on.
Picture this. You and your many sisters are scooped up by a gigantic, flightless, hairy malcontent and put into a wooden crate with a nasty stepmother who is locked in a cage next to you. Her perfume reeks. Your box is shipped halfway across the country in the back of a giant truck with hundreds of other such receptacles. You’re given some watery syrup to keep you alive. You sip this half-heartedly and even share it with the nasty stepmother as you and yours are jostled around in the airless, dark, smelly container. It’s hard to hang on as you sway this way and that. Some of you fall off and die.
Eventually, after changing vehicles a few times, you are sprayed with cold syrup (that’s right, you get sprayed with your dinner) and then dumped in a large two-story box with wooden frames hanging like empty picture frames on parallel clotheslines. What gives?
Over the next few days you become accustomed to your nasty stepmother who no longer seems so nasty. In fact, she’s really not bad at all . . . even her perfume is becoming tolerable. You groom her, feed her, and keep her warm as best you can through the odd screened cage. Then one day the hairy malcontent throws off your roof, lets in the cold air, and releases your stepmother. It’s all so hard to comprehend.
Now pay close attention. The days are balmy, plants are growing, and you are working your asses off trying to build a nursery, bring in supplies, feed the family, take care of the babies, and get ready for the coming winter. But there isn’t enough food for everyone. Some family members are hunting all day long, bringing home everything they can find, but it’s not enough. It’s not sufficient for a family that started out with nothing in the pantry, especially when they first had to build the pantry. Some of your siblings are exhausted from overwork; the weakest ones are falling dead. The family is shrinking. Step mom is pregnant, but there’s not enough food to raise all the kids. Things are looking bleak. What you really need is a food bank.
Then one day the hairy malcontent returns, more malcontent than ever because his high-priced box of creatures is disappearing. He has brought a companion—also hairy but definitely quicker on the uptake—who installs a temporary food bank just above the nursery. You and your siblings give thanks—with this little boost to your diet you will be able to “catch up.” You will be able to get that nursery completed, the furniture installed, the kids fed . . . and maybe convince step mom to raise some sons. And if you’re lucky, you will be able to fill the pantry before winter.
So to all you first-time beekeepers out there, the short answer is “yes”—feed that new package of bees. You will be glad you did.