It’s Queen Cage Removal Time!

Removing two queen cages but leaving one.

Three to seven days after we installed our bee packages, it was time for Brian and I to peek at the queen cages to see if the queens had been released yet.   First, we checked Brian’s hive Squill.  Brian slowly lifted the covers and peered inside.  This is what he saw – bees tightly clustered all over the queen cage.

Bees clustering on the queen cage.

Although we both suspected it, further inspection revealed yes the queen was definitely still in there.  If you look at this picture closely, you can see her peeking out through the bars of the queen cage where there is a small clearing of bees.

If you look closely you can see the queen looking out through the bars.

The candy plug had barely been touched at all. The girls also did not appear to be feeding the queen and some bees, but not all, looked like they may have been chewing the bars. Three days is on the early side to check for the release of the queen. Sometimes it can take package bees a week to ten days to accept her. Brian closed the hive up carefully and decided to leave the hive alone for a week.  Hopefully the bees would eventually accept her.

Next, I inspected Willow.  As soon as I opened the hive I saw the Queen walking around a few frames over from where the queen cage was placed.  The marked queens are so easy to spot with the dot on their back.  Seeing her right away was a bonus because I knew she was released, the bees had accepted her and I also knew exactly where she was in the hive. 

I decided to remove the queen cage, because except for a few frames of wax foundation, this is a foundationless hive.  I didn’t want the bees to get the wrong idea about where to build comb. 

After removing the frame holding the cage, I could see inside the hive.  In 3 days time, the bees had started building out 2 frames of foundation and at least one frame of foundationless comb.  They were also building it correctly!  I hope they keep that up. 

The girls were even filling the new comb up with pollen and nectar.  Way to go bees!  The queen cage was securely waxed into the comb.  If I left it there any longer it may have been completely engulfed in comb in a few days time.  This is what the frame looked like.

The queen cage was being incorporated into the comb.  Look at all the color in the cells.  They bees have already started filling them with pollen and nectar.

I slowly took the queen cage out, trying not to damage too much comb. I removed the rubber band as gently as possible, wishing I had brought scissors with me to do it, so as not to disturb the bees as much. Then I put the frame back and closed up the hive.

It’s too early to do an inspection yet and important not to bother the girls a lot in the beginning while they are getting used to the new queen. If something goes wrong in the hive and makes the bees unhappy, they can blame the queen and kill her. That would be bad and not what you want with a new package!  Some people suggest waiting a week before checking on the queen cage to prevent this from happening.

This is what the queen cage looked like when I took it out. Look at all that wax on the strip.

Look at the wax on the queen cage.

Last we checked Dandelion.  Opening the outer cover revealed the bees were clustered on the frame of the candy board.  They had started building burr comb between the queen cage and the top of the candy board.

Bees clustered on the candy board cover.

It took a little while to figure out if the queen was in that cluster of bees or in the cage or somewhere else. This is what the queen cage looked like.

The queen cage was covered in bees.

I had the hive opened longer than I wanted to looking for the queen. I needed to remove the candy board and cage if she was released so the bees would start building comb in the frames instead of on the candy board.

Looking for the queen. I had to leave the candy board on the hive while looking, in case the queen was inside that cluster of bees.

I looked and looked but could not find her.  After determining she had been released from the cage and was probably not in the cluster, I shook the frame once hard and the bees fell into the hive.  Instantly, they began sticking their butts in the air and fanning.  I was relieved.  This was a great sign the queen was inside the hive after all.

The bees with their butts in the air are fanning telling the other bees the queen is inside the hive.

I no longer had to worry that I may have missed her in that bee cluster.  I removed the board with the burr comb and the queen cage, then closed the hive back up.  This is what that bee cluster was building.

Burr comb on the candy board cover.

Worker bees were still inside the queen cage eating the candy, so I waited for them to leave. The queen cage smells like the queen and I needed to get it away from the hive so as not to confuse the workers.

Worker bees were inside the queen cage eating the candy.

After they left I got to inspect the pearly white burr comb again. Isn’t it just beautiful! I wish I could have left it for them to use.

Isn’t the burr comb beautiful!

The bees had connected the queen cage to the top of the candy board with the burr comb they built.  They also started storing nectar in the comb.   The nectar has a yellow tinge in the picture.

The other side of the comb had nectar in it.

Now that the queens are out and the cages are removed in two hives, I’ll leave them alone for another week before I check to see how they are doing.  

Copyright © 2011-2016. Anita Deeley, All rights reserved.

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

  1. Queen Cage Removal – Squill Hive 4-24-12
  2. Installing Package Bees In A Rooftop Hive Named Willow
  3. Picking Up The Package Bees
  4. Bee Package Installation – Don’t Forget The Cork!
  5. Installing Package Bees In Dandelion Hive

This post was shared on Farmgirl Friday ,Homestead Helps and The Barn Hop.

Author: Anita Deeley

Anita Deeley is a biologist and former state bee inspector who maintains 100 honey bee hives. She is the beekeeper, writer, owner and creator of When she is not spending time with her girls (the bees), she enjoys being a wife to her beekeeping cohort, Brian and mother to 3 little boys (the beekeepers in training). Read more about Anita here >> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Connect with Anita on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Facebook here.


  1. I found this information very helpful. Thanks for posting it.

  2. I am a new bee keeper and I think I just made a huge mistake. I just re queened my hive bc it had been three weeks since I saw any eggs. There was plenty of uncapped larvae each week but no eggs. So I ordered a new queen. I inspected. The hive today before putting new queen in and found the old queen. I decided to re queen anyway bc my old one is three years old. But my mistake was that I didn’t just put the queen cage in and leave the bees to release her, I emptied her straight in!!! Will she be ok? Have I set her up to die??

    • Did you kill the old queen before releasing the new one? They may or may not accept her if you killed the old queen first. If you did not kill the old queen, most likely they will not accept her. You will usually get better acceptance with a caged queen if you leave them queenless for 12-24 hours, cut out any queen cells, then put in the new queen and let them chew her out of the cage. There are no mistakes in beekeeping just opportunities for learning. Good luck!

  3. Hi,
    I just hived two packages of bees on Sat, and the company that I bought them from said to release the queen after 3 days. So today is Tues, and I pulled the cork (there was no plug) and I put the queen cage down on the frames to let here out. The bees were pretty aggressive when I pulled up the queen cage, and then really pushed in the cage when I set it back on the frames. I don’t want to disturb them again, but I think I might have released her too early? Any advice? I waited to release the other queen, as I am not sure if I did it right. Thanks!

    • The safest way to get queen acceptance is to use a queen cage with candy and let the bees release the queen on their own. This way you can leave the hive alone for a week without disturbing them. If you disturb them too many times, they may not accept the queen. Sometimes this is not advised or possible, for top bar hive installs or some foundationless frame setups it is better to remove the cage after 3 days, but usually the queen is released by this time if you use a cage with candy. If you let the queen out and the bees are acting aggressive toward her, I would leave the hive alone for a week and check back then. Make sure you see eggs or spot the queen, because you may need to order a new one to replace her. But it is best to let them bee and let the bees sort it out, they may accept her after all. If your other cage has no candy you should release that queen in the next day or so as well. Then leave them alone without disturbing them for at least a week. They need time to settle in and get used to their new hives. Good luck!

    • I’m brand new at all of this. Just installed my first package of bees three days ago. The first thing that amazes me about learning about beekeeping is that there are so many contradictory ideas about the ‘right’ way to do it.

      For instance, the rationale given me as to why it is important to release the queen at 3 days if she still isn’t free of the cage is that the life cycle of a worker bee is about 6 weeks. The sooner the queen is out and about, the sooner that she can begin laying eggs. The hive requires a constant ‘turnover’ of new workers to replace ones that will die off of ‘old age’.

      So, since I am new at this I don’t know exactly what the wrong or right of it all is – one thing I would suggest is that all the long-time beekeepers need to get together and sync up the information they are giving so it is all uniform …

      Very cool blog! 🙂

  4. My husband and I are new to beekeeping. We just picked up our first box of bees on 4/19/14. This article was very helpful. We are going to check on the Queen tomorrow (Thursday, 4/24/14) to see if it’s OK for her to be in the bee box.

    Again, thanks for the great article.

  5. So we just put our package of bees and shook them into the hive. (this is our first). We placed the queen in her cage with a marshmellow as suggested by the apairy between the combs. So when should we check on her. I also read that when putting a package of bees in a hive it is best to “lock” them in for a day or so. Will they leave if I didn’t lock them in and How will the escapiees get home?

  6. New to beekeeping and have just started with a package and a nuc. to compare their progress. Third day in.

    Nuc seems fine and is humming along nicely…very quiet and sedate hive, which I think must be a good thing.

    The package hive is more noisy and busy looking which I would guess is normal since the Queen has only been in a few days and is (probably) still in her cage and not accepted.

    I am feeding both hives using ‘Dadant Ultimate Hive Feeder’ which I put on top of the brood box using an empty deep as a cover, but a quick peek shows me that they have eaten a lot more of the syrup than I expected, so I have to refill sometime today or tomorrow.

    Would it be better to now place to feeder outside, on top of the telescoping cover, (or somewhere near the front of the hive) so I won’t disturb the hive as much, or would this simply encourage more problems with raiders and ants?

  7. what I did, was moved a hive about 1/2 a meter,off the original stand , and put a nuc on the where it was, I took two frames of bees with honey and eggs and 1 frame of honey ,and one drawn frame, put them in the nuc ,the nuc was put on the where the hive was moved from, this was done in the middle of the day, when the bees come back from work they go in the nuc, leave it for around 2 days, before you put the new queen in. I also feed the bees 50- 50 sugar & water,best off luck. ron