Thursday, April 12, 2012

Checking back with your Colony

By now some of you have already installed your bee packages and are antsy to get back in there to check on them. Try to hold off for 4 to 5 days before you revisit your hive. This allotted time period will give your colony ample time to become use to the queen and release her on their own. Being a new colony that has not drawn out comb to store food, it is still necessary to check and make sure that your feeder is filled for their convenience ( this needs to be checked every other day without disturbing the hive).

Pulling Out Frames


As you get back into your hive to check your queen cage, try to notice how your colony is reacting and be prepared to check for laid eggs. This is still a weak colony and your outer frames might be bare with no drawn comb but as you move into the center of your hive you should notice frames in development. As you are removing the frames, be very cautious that the queen is not on the frame you are handling. Working your way from your outside frame, begin to check for nectar and laid eggs to make sure your colony is doing well and your queen is laying ( there is the possibility that you might see your queen). With everything checked out, remove the queen cage and reassemble you hive.

Your colony is doing well and you are on  your way to becoming a better beekeeper.

That would be a nice scenario to go through but because honey bees don't follow a text book, everyone's experience is going to be different. Some things to be cautious of as you go back into your hive:

Bees in Hive


1.  If you notice that your queen has not been released but yet your are still seeing eggs within your frame, there was a queen in your package other than the one in the queen cage. You do not know about the queen (not in the queen cage) that came with your package: how old she is, is she strong, or how she will do with your colony. From this point there are many options that you can attempt.


    • Pinch off the queen that was not in the queen cage and let your colony accept the other
    • Release the caged queen and let them find a victor (this is not reliable because the weaker queen could fight off the stronger which would not be good for your colony)
    • Remove the queen cage a create and split from another colony or re queen a separate hive ( more advanced but would end up giving you two colonies)
The queen that with your colony now is a working laying queen. They have accepted her and if there are eggs it is best to leave her be. The best option would be to remove the queen cage and introduce it to a separate colony or create a split from a different hive.

Photo taken from Mark's Bee Blog 


2.  When checking your frame you begin to notice queen cells. This indicates that your colony finds your queen insufficient and are trying to replace her. This can happen when introducing a new queen to a new colony. Your queen is caged and is not laying which projects to your colony that she is weak and needs to be replaced. Once she is released and begins to lay, she will kill off the queen cells and everything goes back to normal. Simply remove the queen cells and check to make sure your queen is properly laying.