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

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