Well we finally had a break in the weather. The day we installed the packages was about 47 degrees and windy, not ideal, but survivable. So the plan was to dump the package as quickly as possible and get the lid on the hive, so everyone stayed warm. In these packages, the queens were in queen cages closed with little corks. Typically the cages are closed with a candy plug. This way the workers eat their way in, the queen eats her way out, and by the time they meet in the middle everyone is friends. Our bee club president suggested replacing the cork with a mini marshmellow, but we knew the bees had been in the package for 4-5 days, so we decided that was enough time to get to know each other.
We put 10 frames into the hive body. Four of the frames had honey from our dead outs this winter and the rest had comb that bees had created in the fall as well. The first order of business is to release the queen into the frames. The key is to do this without dropping her onto the ground and since it was cold, we weren’t too worried about her flying away. She wants to stay in the darkness, so if you release her on the top of the frames, she’ll crawl down between them pretty quickly. Here’s video of my husband releasing the queen:
Once the queen is safely installed, you can go ahead and dump – literally, DUMP – the package into the hive:
In this video, there is hardly any flying because of the cool weather. If we were doing this on a hot day, there would be a lot more bee movement. After we shook out as many bees as we could, we placed the mostly-empty boxes outside of the hive in hopes that those bees would find their way in:
So that’s pretty much it. We peeked in a couple hours later and the pile of bees had spread out and was beginning to get their bearings. On the first warm, sunny day we will go out and do a closer inspection. The first thing we want to watch for are eggs. This is how we know the queen is doing her job.
Even though the very first dandelions are popping up, we did leave the sugar water in there just in case. They have honey, sugar water, and the beginnings of the nectar flow, so if they don’t make it now, it might mean we need to just quit while we’re ahead!