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Discussion Starter #1
Despite the bad run with my first package (see "clustering/festooning on honey bars" thread for more details)...

I have two packages sitting in my dad's garage and I'll be installing them after work. He drove out to pick them up this morning because he's a nice guy. Packages should have been made up on Friday so will have been together three days. I hanged the queen cage in my first install and that went just fine without messing up combs. But rather than roll the dice, I'm going to direct release her.

Is the idea here to shake the bees in, then uncork her and let her walk out immediately? Or should I leave her caged for a few hours then release her?
If the answer is shake them in and let her walk, should I worry about checking to make sure they cluster well going into the night or just leave them for 3-4 days before checking on them at all? I've seen it mentioned to check and make sure they're clustered around the queen, but with a direct release I'm guessing it doesn't really matter much where/how they're clustered? Tonight the low is 40 and then we have a rash of warm days and nights only dipping down to about 50-55 range.

My plan is to put a behind-the-follower jar feeder on one hive and a baggie feeder (after I shake them out) in the other. My plan is to not refill either of these, giving them about a quart of syrup and then relying on them to forage for nectar outside of that. Good plan or should I plan on keeping them fed for a bit longer? Cherries are starting to open; apples are getting close. Quite a bit of other stuff blooming now. Most maples in full swing, willows are maybe on their way out, but some still blooming. I'm guessing there should be enough of a nectar flow going that they'll be OK?
 

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>Is the idea here to shake the bees in, then uncork her and let her walk out immediately? Or should I leave her caged for a few hours then release her?

The weather is getting nicer. How about half of a mini marshmallow... and put the cage on top of the bees on the bottom. If it was colder or if the night is predicted to be below 50 F, I'd put my thumb over the open hole and set the cage on top of the bees shaken on the bottom of the hive.

> If the answer is shake them in and let her walk, should I worry about checking to make sure they cluster well going into the night or just leave them for 3-4 days before checking on them at all?

If she is direct released, there is nothing to check for several days. Then I'd look for straight comb.

> I've seen it mentioned to check and make sure they're clustered around the queen, but with a direct release I'm guessing it doesn't really matter much where/how they're clustered?

No, it doesn't.

>Tonight the low is 40 and then we have a rash of warm days and nights only dipping down to about 50-55 range.

Direct release is probably safest then. Just make sure you haven't just shaken all the bees off and have her all agitated when you let her out. If she's calm and the bees are there she will just walk out.

> My plan is to put a behind-the-follower jar feeder on one hive and a baggie feeder (after I shake them out) in the other. My plan is to not refill either of these, giving them about a quart of syrup and then relying on them to forage for nectar outside of that. Good plan or should I plan on keeping them fed for a bit longer? Cherries are starting to open; apples are getting close. Quite a bit of other stuff blooming now. Most maples in full swing, willows are maybe on their way out, but some still blooming. I'm guessing there should be enough of a nectar flow going that they'll be OK?

If things are blooming and it's above 50 in the daytime they should be able to forage enough.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Both installs went well. The lady at the bee place said to my dad specifically... do not free release. The first queen had bees pretty well "velcroed" to the queen cage and possibly biting. So I hanged the cages in both. These bees may not have been together a full three days, I think it was more likely a 1.5-2 days. I misunderstood the package origin. The bees are "Iowa" colonies overwintered in California. And this place shakes their bees out and buys queens from Koehnen. One queen was a nice dark Carniolan (what I ordered). The other looked like an Italian (not what I ordered) and seemed much smaller... So I've purchased three packages this year, ordering Carni queens with all three. The first package queen did not make it. So I've got a total of four "Carniolan" queens. Three of which looked exactly like Cordovan Italians. One dark colored queen.

Here we go again maybe... Hope these two take.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Given that I (unfortunately) had to hang the queen cages again, what would be the suggestion on when to check for release the first time? Pulling the queen cage is very easy and involves only pulling one bar out, checking if she's gone and closing back up if she's out. If she's not out I could pretty easily pull the candy plug and let her walk out without much of a to do.

Thursday was my plan but the weather is calling for strong thunderstorms that day. Would Wednesday or Friday be better? Wednesday would be only 48 hours after install... Friday 96 hours.
 

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I would release the queen as soon as possible. The sooner you get that cage out the higher the likelihood of getting some straight comb. The longer you wait the more likely the first combs will be messed up, which if not straightened will make all the combs messed up.

I've never seen a queen not accepted by a package unless there was a queen loose in the package and in that case she was already dead. I've often seen packages drift next door, but it makes no difference if I release the queen or not. They just abandon her if she's caged or not. The sure thing in this scenario is that if you hang the queen and leave it there long enough the combs will start out wrong and if they start out wrong they will all be wrong without some intervention. Intervention is not very convenient in a top bar hive because you lack frames to tie the errant combs in...

A bunch of shaken queenless bees will accept a queen after being queenless two hours or less.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I would release the queen as soon as possible. The sooner you get that cage out the higher the likelihood of getting some straight comb. The longer you wait the more likely the first combs will be messed up, which if not straightened will make all the combs messed up.

I've never seen a queen not accepted by a package unless there was a queen loose in the package and in that case she was already dead. I've often seen packages drift next door, but it makes no difference if I release the queen or not. They just abandon her if she's caged or not. The sure thing in this scenario is that if you hang the queen and leave it there long enough the combs will start out wrong and if they start out wrong they will all be wrong without some intervention. Intervention is not very convenient in a top bar hive because you lack frames to tie the errant combs in...

A bunch of shaken queenless bees will accept a queen after being queenless two hours or less.
Maybe I was looking for them to be aggressive vs. them actually being aggressive. I'm considering pulling the queen cages tonight and direct releasing if they aren't out already. I dug about half the candy out of the plug before pulling the cork and plugging it. It wouldn't surprise me if they've already chewed her out anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Both packages had released the queen. One package had started building comb, but we only saw it because we had a tougher time getting the queen cage out and had to pull an extra bar. Saturday we'll take a closer look.

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The two hives at my brothers. The one on the left we installed yesterday.

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The landowner where we hunt wanted some bees. We're hoping this is a place we can expand into a bit if we get some to thrive and if we decide it's something we want to do more of...
 
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