Whether you’re installing an entire bee package or simply requeening one of your hives, removing the queen cage is one of the last steps to setting up a functional, thriving colony. While this is an exciting process, you must treat it carefully to give your honey bees the best chance of accepting the new queen and establishing a healthy home. Learn how to remove your queen cage correctly and set your new hive up for success with this guide.
LOCATE THE QUEEN
Before you do anything else, you must determine where the queen is within your hive. Every colony works at a different pace. Some queens might be out of their cages and moving around the hive after three or four days, while others will take longer to venture out and begin their royal duties. When you open your hive, investigate the queen cage. Is the candy plug still there, or have your honey bees eaten through the seal and let the queen out? If the plug is gone and your queen is free, locate her or look for signs that the honey bees are tending to a healthy queen. This will let you know that the worker bees have accepted their queen and are on their way to creating a buzzing, bustling colony.
If the plug is still in place and your bee queen is still inside the cage, take a moment to observe the worker bees’ behavior. Workers that cling to the cage and make no attempt to feed the queen haven’t accepted her yet, which means they might attack her if she enters the hive too soon. Give them more time to adjust before you release the queen. However, you also don’t want to leave the queen in her cage for too long, as this will put the colony behind and give them a slow start to the season. Keep an eye on your honey bees’ behavior to make the best call about when to safely release your queen.
GENTLY REMOVE THE CAGE
Once you know the queen is out and performing her duties, you can take her old cage out of the hive. Make sure there are no stray bees still eating the candy within the cage before you remove it. Take care and be gentle with your honey bees as you pull the cage from the hive. You might have to gently shake the frame or use your bee brush to remove any stragglers. Additionally, your honey bees might have started building burr comb around the cage. If this is the case, use your hive tool to gently scrape off and remove the rogue comb. This allows you to place your frames evenly within the hive box and encourage your honey bees to start building comb correctly along its frames.
Every honey bee colony is different. It takes time and attention to learn the behavior of your honey bees and their queens.