You Have Your Package Installed - Now What?

So you have installed your package bees, your queen is safely in her cage in the hive, and the bees are starting to do their thing, now what?

First, leave them alone. You'll be tempted to look under the lid, but just let them get acclimated to the new home for a bit, and by this I mean a solid week. They will be furiously working to build cells and start collecting and packing away nectar and pollen so don't disrupt that.  

But the biggest thing is the bees are getting used to the "smell" of the queen. Don't be tempted to let her out too soon, or she could be killed by the colony. It's good to remember that package bees and the queen are not used to each other yet as they don't come from the same source, so give them time. I like to give them at least five days to adjust. 

Here is what I suggest you do:

  1. Prepare a bee keeping inspection log. There are plenty on the internet, but you will want to keep great records of what you do and when. Trust me, you will forget. 
  2. Prepare some sugar water for your first inspection. 1:1 mixture. 
  3. Keep an eye on the comings and goings at the entrance. Are they bringing in pollen? Are there a lot of bees exiting and entering? You want to see LOTS of activity but don't get excited if they stay inside most of the day. 

After a week, you'll want to do your first inspection. Keep it quick. There won't be much to see, but here is what you will want to look for, evidence that the queen is alive and working:

  1. Is the queen out of her cage? If not, remove any remaining candy from the end so she can get out and place the cage back in-between the frames and close up the hive.  You're done. 
  2. If the queen is out, remove the queen cage and put aside (I turn mine into Christmas ornaments). Working from the outside of the hive, remove one frame and set it aside. Now you have room to work carefully with some extra space. 

    Very carefully, remove a center frame. Look for signs that the queen is working. 
    1. Do you see eggs?
    2. Do you see larvae? 
    3. If yes, close up the hive, you're done
  3.  If you don't see eggs or larvae, you have two options
    1. Close the hive up and wait a few more days
    2. Search for the queen. 
  4. Search for the queen if you feel confident, otherwise just wait. If you want to find the queen, work frame by frame, working in the middle four frames, and carefully lift each one tying to spot her. ALWAYS hold the frame over the hive while inspecting so if the queen is on the frame you are working on, and she falls off, she will fall back into the hive. 
  5. If you still don't see the queen, close the hive up, and wait three days and come back and repeat the steps above. 

Your ultimate goal, and only goal of your first inspection after installing should be to ensure the queen has been accepted by the rest of the colony, and that she is laying eggs. That's it. Later, you will be doing more in-depth inspections, but for now, it's all about the queen. 

If you are having issues finding the queen, please contact us and we can help asses what might be happening.