What should you be seeing in your hives in May?

For new beekeepers with new hives started this year from packages: Most beekeepers who are getting started in the spring will have installed their packages in April, but others more recently. It may take a week or two for the bees to get a frame or two of comb drawn out, and several weeks to get a good part of the foundation in the first box drawn.

                                  All photos in this post by Mary Parnell Carney

You’ll first see fresh nectar (which may actually be the sugar syrup you’re feeding) in the drawn cells and fresh pollen.

Next will be eggs, how soon you see eggs depends on the progress of the comb building, the speed at which the bees free the queen from the queen cage, and if the queen starts laying right away or waits a bit.

The queen may be out of the cage in a couple of days or it may be several days. If you have just installed a package of bees, do not get impatient and free the queen yourself, let the bees do it at their pace. The purpose of the queen cage is to allow for a “getting to know you” period for the bees and queen. While the queen has been in the package for as long as several days and may already be used to each other, the shipping and installation of the package is a stressful time and I caution patience. Not everyone agrees with me and other beekeepers may suggest releasing the queen upon installation or shortly after, but I say let the bees decide.

You may see eggs within a day or two after the queen emerges from the cage or as long as a week I’ve observed a lag in egg laying of as much as a week – this depends on the age of the new queen, all queens in packages are newly mated queens.

Eggs hatch, one to two days (on average) after being laid and you will observe small larvae soon after egg laying occurs.

The larvae (workers) transform into pupae about five to six days after hatching, about nine days after egg laying. This is the point at which bees seal the cells, so you will not see the development of the pupae.

The new workers will emerge at about 21 days after egg laying.

When to add the second brood box? This is a common question from new beekeepers. Add the second brood box when the new colony has drawn and are utilizing about eight frames in the first box. You may add it sooner, but will only have to remove it each time you open the hive. Also, sometimes the bees will progress onto drawing the comb in the second box, and slow down on drawing comb in the first box and I like to see the first box mostly drawn out first. If you will find yourself away from your hives for an extended period of time, putting the second box on early is fine.

And keep feeding your new packages, if they consume the offered syrup, it will speed the development of your new hive.

Comments are closed.