It’s been a week and a day since I installed my new VSH Italian queen. It was very hot this week (a wireless thermometer I have in the feeder compartment at the top of the hive routinely was over 100 F for most of the daylight hours after about 10 AM) and I had had visions of my new queen roasting to death in her cage. In addition, for much of the first part of the week smoke from a nearby forest fire was omnipresent, and I had no idea what effect that would have on the bees, both in general and relative to the queen introduction.
Today I opened up the hive to remove the queen cage, and was happy to find it empty. An empty queen cage is of course not an accurate indicator that all is well with the new queen and colony, but I had had visions of finding her and her attendants dead in a sealed cage. I removed the cage and the rubber band that had held it in, and I could have gone in deeper to see if there were signs of brood or if I sighted the new queen, but opted not to. After the stress of the week the bees had likely been through I saw no need to add to it.
There are other signs that something has changed in the colony dynamics. Over the past few weeks I rarely saw bees actively foraging, once the smoke from the forest fire cleared I have seen a resurgence in foraging activity despite no significant change in the weather or types and quantity of available forage. Traffic at the water source has picked up. There has been an increase in fanning activity in the afternoons and evenings. The hive sounds more active as I listen to it. Bees seem to be more curious – twice in the last few days I have had bees land on my shirt and wander around on it, going from one color to the next, before flying off again. When I was in the hive today I noticed some new comb was being drawn for the first time in several weeks.
Adding it all up, I’m assuming that the queen introduction was successful and the colony is responding to her presence.