I'm a beginner beekeeper trying to go the treatment-free route. I purchased Michael Bush's book and I've read Volume 1 and most of Volume 2 - trying to finish all of it. I'm posting a summary of how things have gone so far, but this post may be a little long for some to read, so the gist of the immediate problem is summarized as this: The bees have been installed for a week and the queen has not yet been released from her cage. What should I do?
Here are the details: I only decided to try putting a hive in my yard a couple of weeks ago, so I was very late in preparation, getting bees, etc. Luckily a local store still had Nucs for sale (I live in North Georgia), and I was able to get a Nuc order placed in time. The Nuc arrived last weekend and I installed the bees on Saturday. My hive is going to include only 8-frame medium supers.
Unfortunately, the "Nuc" I got consisted of 3 large-size frames of brood plus a queen in a cage. I expected small or possibly medium size frames based on what the person at the store I ordered them from told me (he was apparently not their normal "bee guy" and told me to expect 3 small-size frames). So I had to "shim-up" one of my medium frames by 3 inches in order to accommodate the extra space for the 3 large frames (I built a box that was 3 inches tall using 3/4-inch plywood to use as this "shim"). I hope to get thelarge frames culled out later in the year. Anyway, I installed the three frames among my other medium frames when I installed the bees, with the brood-capped frames being interspersed between the empty frames (I'm going "foundationless" in my frames), i.e. EEBEBEBE. I was also disappointed to find that the queen was in a cage upon arrival. My understanding is that this practice is becoming more common, but this wasn't really a Nuc since it did not include an actively laying queen.
So I installed the ladies last weekend and checked them for the first time today (1 week later). I've been watching the outside of the hive every day but I didn't want to disturb them for a week or so. When I installed the queen cage last weekend, I think I messed up. In Michael Bush's book he suggests one method of installing queens is just to open the queen cage and put her on the floor of the hive and dump the rest of the bees on her (I'm simplifying the description greatly). Well my mistake was that I opened the queen cage but did not remove the candy. I did, however put the cage on the floor. So I just took the queen cage, pulled the cap to expose the candy, and put the cage on the floor (it is a wire mesh floor, not solid). Then, I installed the three frames of brood and dumped all the remaining bees into the hive.
The bees seem to be very active - they've been working hard and have built 2 or 3 frames out about 3/4 of the way with wax (the foundation-less method seems to be mostly working, although a frame or two seems to be building "thicker" in places. Is this normal?). They have been flying in and out all week with the workers returning with plenty of pollen and food.
BUT the queen has not yet been released! When I visited today, I inspected the queen cage and it appears that they have eaten some of the candy down, but there is still 1/4 to 1/2 inch to go I think. It is hard to tell since it is a plastic queen cage and the plastic is sort of cloudy. I didn't really know what to do today while I had the hive open, so I made an executive decision to hang the cage rather than keeping it on the floor of the hive. In hindsight I think maybe I should have poked a hole in the candy to speed up the process but instead I hung the cage, hoping they'd work it faster. There were plenty of bees around the queen cage, interested in it and even staying on it and when I picked it up.
So what should I do? Should I open it back up tomorrow and release the queen or poke a hole in the candy with a needle or something? Or should I just leave them alone? Or something else? Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks in advance.