As a followup to Establishing a Bee Colony, both of my bee colonies have freed and accepted their queens, are busy building brood comb and foraging.
The last point is evidenced by wanning feeder consumption. In my Feeding Syrup Recipe post, I failed to recognize that the bees would be uncharacteristically hungry after their long journey and thus overestimate how much they would be feeding on artificial syrup. After that initial gorging feast, the bees have not fed nearly as much. I edited the linked post to reflect this.
Here is what I observed from record keeping on the hives:
On the first night, each colony consumed half of the 2 gallons of feed I supplied meaning they ate about 7 pounds of sugar each!
Over day 2 each colony consumed about a half gallon of feed, or 4 pounds each
Over day 3, each colony consumed about a third of a gallon of feed, or about 3 pounds of sugar each.
Over days 4-7, each colony consumed a half gallon or 4 pounds of sugar each.
I should note that around day 3 was when my eyes and sinuses informed me that plants have started blooming and thus the bees may be out feeding on foraging adventures opposed to consuming the artificial feed. The night connecting day 3 to day 4 was brutally cold and I fear it may have killed the colonies if they had not had a chance to build up feed from the sugar syrup. Also, the cold probably limited the amount of feeding the bees performed.
Lots and lots of bee poop
One of my hives immediately had a bad case of diarrhea, probably a case of dysentery as the bees had been cooped up longer than their internal storage could hold the fecal waste which feeds into my next point.
Bees, like pigs, will not poop in their home if given a choice. Once a new package is installed, expect your hive and surrounding areas to be covered in what looks like little drops of mustard as they have been trapped for the duration of shipping to you or from wherever the package was retrieved. This is a good sign that the bees are cleansing their systems in a healthy manner.
However one of my hives was spattered in what looked like yellow paint flung randomly at the hive. This indicates the bees had diarrhea. It passed after a day. Whether my feeding of thicker syrup was responsible or the condition cleared up on its own is not discernable. I mention the former as too much water in feed in early spring is a known culprit of bee diarrhea.
Installing the package and the queen
As I dedicated a post to this topic (Establishing a Bee Colony), I’ll only provide a summary here. The bee package must be opened and left in the hive so bees can exit the package at their leisure. The queen cage must be suspended between two frames and the cork guarding the candy cell in the cage must be removed which allows the bees to eat through the candy over a time period that all but ensures they will accept the queen.
On day 2, the package is removed from the hive and left in front of it so stragglers can wander in.
I take a more hands off approach to managing living organisms so I do not know how long the workers took to free the queen. By day 4 in the hives, both queens had been freed and accepted.
In the event they haven’t freed the queen after 5 days, the other cork can be removed allowing the queen to exit freely within the hive. Be careful to not let her fly away!
Beekeeping so far has been fun and way less intimidating than I initially thought. Feel free to ask questions! As beekeeping is a new adventure for me, I know of at least 1 reader (Brian) who is far more experienced than myself. If I don’t have an answer, I can defer to my readers or check my stockpiled reference materials!