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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

My name is Rob and I am an american expat living in Belgium for 5 years now. Just yesterday I got married to my french speaking belgian wife. Now of course I finally took the plunge and ordered 3 packages of bees late in the spring this year, and therefore had a 2 month delay in receiving. And naturally they got delivered the day before the wedding.............I have a very understanding wife to have let me spend 2 hours doing my very first 3 package installs, unassisted, and with 0 stings despite 8-9 bees in the veil :)

Couple of questions:

Is it common to receive queens in a yellow plastic cage with no cork/candy release? Only manual release?

Is it common for a supplier to ship a package with a queen already released in the package with no cage (2/3 packages had yellow cage with writing on outside of package 'queen in cage in package', 3rd had written 'queen fell into package')?

How best to determine if the oddball package indeed has a good queen?

I know I will probably catch some disagreement on the next bit. But I'm trying to do all foundationless and its oddball equipment. 1 12frame dadant, and 2 6 frame nuc hives. The oddball package is in a nuc, and when I couldn't find the queen cage I read the box, saw the message, went back to look at package (which I had shook to empty bees into the hive already) and was relatively sure I saw a queen surrounded by 15-20 bees at the bottom. Perhaps 50% bigger than the others, slender abdomen, and when I tried to herd her with a hive tool or bee brush, wouldn't fly but ran around on her legs buzzing and seemingly agitating the bees around her. All three hives seemingly have the same activity now, but with no foundation or existing comb I can't check immediately if she is laying evidenced by eggs. Do I just have to wait for comb to be built and hope for the best? Are there definitive signs of a queenless hive at this stage? Is an inspection worth anything as they were installed at 10pm on the 24th and haven't been touched since. The three hives are on their third 500ml jar of 50/50 syrup today. Should I order a new queen just to be safe?

For the other two queens, I presume I will just release them tomorrow, they are currently suspended between two frames. Perhaps that inspection will give me an idea of how quickly they will build comb and therefore how soon I can confirm the prescence of the third queen.

Many thanks and happy to be a member of the forum!
 

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Welcome to Beesource Rob and congrats on getting hitched. I'm new and frankly not able to do much with your questions.

I wouldn't have accepted the package where the queen had "fell in", without a replacement queen with it. I'd be very surprised if the queen that was already in the package was not killed, but you might have gotten lucky.

I got my packages almost 4 months ago, so the timing of you getting new packages is sort of amazing to me as well. I think they will struggle to get comb drawn to be able to winter with. I would feed them like crazy in hopes that they might draw comb and have a chance with your winters. Hopefully more folks will chime in here.

Good luck to you!
 

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Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
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>Is it common to receive queens in a yellow plastic cage with no cork/candy release? Only manual release?

I had not time for bees when I was in Belgium... so I don't know what's common there. I have not seen a package here with a candy cage in 15 years. California cages have been the norm, which are wood and have no candy. Apparently, from what people on here say, on the East coast of the US candy cages are more common.

>Is it common for a supplier to ship a package with a queen already released in the package with no cage (2/3 packages had yellow cage with writing on outside of package 'queen in cage in package', 3rd had written 'queen fell into package')?

Not here.

>How best to determine if the oddball package indeed has a good queen?

That's one of the reasons they cage them, so you can verify you have a live queen. No easy way to tell until you see eggs...

>I know I will probably catch some disagreement on the next bit. But I'm trying to do all foundationless and its oddball equipment. 1 12frame dadant, and 2 6 frame nuc hives. The oddball package is in a nuc, and when I couldn't find the queen cage I read the box, saw the message, went back to look at package (which I had shook to empty bees into the hive already) and was relatively sure I saw a queen surrounded by 15-20 bees at the bottom. Perhaps 50% bigger than the others, slender abdomen, and when I tried to herd her with a hive tool or bee brush, wouldn't fly but ran around on her legs buzzing and seemingly agitating the bees around her. All three hives seemingly have the same activity now, but with no foundation or existing comb I can't check immediately if she is laying evidenced by eggs. Do I just have to wait for comb to be built and hope for the best?

If there is a flow or your are feeding, they will have comb she can lay in in a day or two. She may start laying immediately or it could take as long as two weeks.

>Are there definitive signs of a queenless hive at this stage? Is an inspection worth anything as they were installed at 10pm on the 24th and haven't been touched since. The three hives are on their third 500ml jar of 50/50 syrup today. Should I order a new queen just to be safe?

The only definitive sign of a laying queen is eggs and that only means she was there four days ago... Other than seeing the queen and seeing eggs, there is no other definitive sign.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the quick answers. To be clear this is the cage that came with the packages, same supplier who supplied the packages

http://www.apimiel.fr/index.php?pag...ge7=6&num_page8=6&num_page9=6&recordID=00PL28.

I didn't think they could build comb that quick! I presume since there is no candy (I think every document I've read for beginners on how to do a package install references a candy release ) I will just manually release the two queens early tomorrow morning (beginning of the 3rd full day). I will inspect the cageless hive and see if I can easily see the queen (no combs for her to be on though) and / or if they have started building comb. I'll challenge the delivery with the supplier but the attitude here seems to be most suppliers are completely overwhelmed by amateurs and perhaps silly questions, and that unless you are a commercial beekeeper they really aren't interested in providing customer service. Not an inditement of this supplier, as its based on multiple european suppliers hence the oddball equipment :) I'm not sure what to think of the package being shipped completely without a cage, was really scratching my head at that one.

I understand that starting 3 packages, especially foundationless is not ideal now. Nor is ordering online instead of via my local beekeeping club etc. But having started several businesses I still believe that a start is generally better than no start. The alternative would have been to do nothing and wait an entire year. Even if each hive dies this winter, I'll have gained very valuable experience installing multiple packages at a time, hive manipulations, feeding etc. With my job I can't attend the local classes, so while 300 eur of dead packages is an expensive way to learn, it is at least one way to start learning once you've done the reading.

Re: flow. I'll ask around the local beekeepers as I don't really understand a dearth. Belgium doesn't have much of a dry season and so there is still a lot of flowering plants at this time of year, particularly lavender, but also lots of backyard tomatos and green beans, end of raspberries and blackberries, in the neighborhood. Its not the same as the spring bloom, but its not like californias 4 month long dry season. I'm also going to feed the hell out of them, accepting it as the only way they stand a chance to make the winter.

Thanks again
 

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>I didn't think they could build comb that quick! I presume since there is no candy (I think every document I've read for beginners on how to do a package install references a candy release )

Which is a mystery to me since I haven't seen a candy cage in a package in a decade and a half... and it almost always leads to some messed up comb...
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Just figured I'd give a quick update, even though I'm not known for being brief :)

Queen cage = just a normal plastic queen cage, just was a newb and nervous, completely didn't see the candy inside and the plastic tab to break to allow the bees to release her.

I wound up manually releasing the queens on day 4 with no issue. It was very cool to see a queen for the first time, they were premarked by the supplier and already had a small amount of comb.

I fed the bees for the next 4 days before going on my honeymoon. Had my first experiences with small robbing, which were helped by moving the feeders further from the hives. I even managed to convince my new mother in law (phobic of bees and allergic) to continue feeding them in my absence every two days.

After being gone for 8 days I did my first detailed inspection the same night..........the first hive was a disaster. Only hive started in a 12 frame deep, other two in 6 frame nucs. They had already built a basketball size cluster of comb, unfortunately 45degrees to the frames. 2 hours later of my first ever bee surgery, countless dead bees and larva, syrup everywhere, and I was completely fatigued, stressed, and worried I might have unintentionally killed the queen just from the scale of the operation. Very guilty about destroying 8 days of work on a package that had a very late start already.

I reluctantly opened the 2nd hive, a 6 frame nuc, scared to see what awaited me, and it was quite simply the most beautiful comb ever. Perfectly drawn, roughly 60% of the 6 frames drawn, covered in bees.

I tried feeding again knowing I had to help the hive after weakening so much, but the robbing was quite nasty as a result of the weakness. The yellow jackets and other bees from other hives finally arrived as well. I got my first experiences stopping robbing, and then had the incredibly scary experience of moving hives for the first time.

I moved my two nucs to an outyard provided by my city to suburban bee keepers. It is in a fenced drainage pond with a concrete pad, and adjacent to a small fruit orchard with cattle grazing between the trees. The first hive was scary just because it was the first hive. 2nd hive move I started to be in the zone very focused on the task at hand. Both are now setup on a pallet hive stand and happily buzzing away. I have inner cover feeders on order but figure they can scavenge for a week until they arrive, that its better to avoid robbing, and they just have reduced entrances.

With the two other hives moved, attention turned back to the weak hive to determine if it had a queen still and if the surgery was successful. Only one frame had bits of comb tied and pressed in place after the last inspection. I knew their numbers were really down, and upon opening they were still quite low (perhaps due to the robbing). They had very SLOWLY started to build new comb, properly orientated on 4 other frames and seemed to be well coordinated. Very gentle bees with just a couple of bumps. I took the opportunity to reduce the entrance by flipping it on its side and drilling two holes side by side so its now only a 2 bee entrance to eliminate any further robbing (12 frame deep is WAY too big). I also took the time to drill the inner cover to allow to put the inner jars inside a super and cover. Finally I went about looking for the queen, logically not on the empty new drawn comb. Finally after looking at the 1 frame with the salvaged comb I saw her bright yellow #27 uncovered for 30 secs by the cluster of bees.

I think it was the most uplifting moment I've experienced in a long time, I mean besides getting married :).

So she is alive and with a small cluster of capped brood.

I closed the hive back up and gave them 1.5 L of 1:1 syrup all to themselves, with the goal of feed feed feed, and hope the queen can raise enough brood before the package bees die off to still matter. After a week of feeding I think they will be moved to the apiary as well to help with the next step.

So in short I have 2 nucs that are doing great, but still awaiting an inspection to verify the queens and brood (they are at 17 days though and booming so don't think its an issue). Once the feeders arrive I'll move them into 10 frame deeps and recommence feeding via inner cover feeders.

The 3rd is the problem child. I hope they can recover, but we have already gotten our first chills in the air with mornings at 13 degrees C (55F?).

My biggest questions at this point are whether I should consider taking a frame from each of the nucs to give some more advanced brood to the weak hive, or does this risk two nucs to save a hive that just can't be saved at this point? (packages already started at July 24th + the massacre 2 weeks later)

I'm also curious to see an experienced beek do an inspection so I can see the difference between my clumsy technique and the real deal.

It's been a fantastic experience with tons of ups and downs already, but I'm so glad I started even if it all goes to **** at this point. I'll just try again next year :)

Hope every enjoyed the read.

Rob
 
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