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Installed 2 packages today, different behavior from each hive, WHY?

Today I installed two packages (4 pounds each) of bees into two separate hives. Now that the packages are installed, the two hives are behaving very differently.

This is my first time to install a package and I am a bit of a worry wort. Is something wrong with one of the hives? I realise I should just chill out and wait 3 days, but, your advise and opinion will help my anxiety subside.

See the photo below:

The hive on the left: Very few bees clustering around the entrance. When the bees exit the entrance they fly almost immediately.

The hive on the right: Much more activity since I installed them. When bees leave the entrance they always wander around and then a small percentage of them will take flight after wandering. Also, some of the bees are doing the Nasanov waft.

Opinions? Did my queen die on one of the hives? Which hive has the expected behavior for a hive that had a good install?

Thanks for helping my anxiety subside! And thanks for helping me learn to read the bee tea leaves.

Here is a video if that is helpful…


Hi Lorne, I reckon I would keep waiting a bit longer. Keep and eye on them to see if things are different at different times of the day. I have an “early” hive at the moment. The bees in that hive get up early and fly when the other two hives are sleeping in. Of a late afternoon they go to bed a bit earlier then the other hives which are more active later. The other thing is there can be orientation flights at slightly different times too.

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I wouldn’t worry. The packages were probably shaken from different hives. Don’t mess with them, and wait to see - you have done this before, so you know something about it all. :wink:

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Thanks for the advice y’all. Sometimes I just need someone to confirm what I already know.

@Dawn_SD, your comment about the packages being shaken from different hives was especially helpful.

After loosing my first hive last year, I am extra anxious about my second go round.


Me too Lorne! Glad you’re back on the horse. My nucs arrive on 4/29…

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Update (Day 5 inspection):

Hive on Left: I am using foundation-less frames, this hive has already made considerable progress building comb in 1 week (almost 2 full frames of comb split between 4 frames). I had my frames spaced too wide and one of the frames had two combs side by side. I had to cut the comb out, fix the spacing, and use rubber bands to hold the comb in place. I did not see any eggs, but, with virgin wax I can’t see them anyway without a high powered flashlight, which I didn’t have with me.

Hive on Right: Barely any comb, and the hive was more agitated when I worked with them. I’d say there was probably only 5 square inches of comb.

I didn’t spot a queen in either hive, but, I am terrible at finding them. The hive on the left had more reused frames that probably smell more inviting to the bees, maybe that is why they are building comb faster. Should I be concerned about the hive on the right and the lack of comb building? Should I steal comb from the hive on the left? Any suggestions?

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Update (Day 10 Inspection):

Hive on Left: The 9 frame deep box is 40% drawn with comb. There is a lot of capped brood. I think all is right with this hive.

Hive on Right: 1 frame is 20% drawn with comb. Zero capped brood. I think this hive has no queen.


  • Is my guess that I am queenless on the ‘right’ hive a good guess?
  • Is the lack of drawn comb on the ‘right’ hive due to a lack of queen? Stated differently, will queenless hives draw comb at the same rate as a queen right hive?
  • What should I do to fix the hive on the ‘right’? Is it safe to steal a frame of brood from my other hive, or is my other hive too weak to handle that right now? Should I try to get a mated queen from an apiary ASAP?

Thanks in advance!

Very likely, but it sounds like you might have a crappy package too. Many of the bees from the right hive may also have mainly moved into the hive on the left over the intervening time.

I think it is a sign of a hive with not enough bees. I do think that queen-right hives draw comb faster for a couple of reasons. First, queens will lay in new comb, even if it is only 1/4" deep. That forces the workers to draw it out quickly to house the larvae, and stimulates them to make more comb for honey and pollen. Second reason is that with a laying queen, you will have new nurse bees emerging, and they are the wax-makers. If you don’t have lots of nice young nurses, their wax glands will have shriveled up and building new comb becomes harder and harder.

I would call your package supplier and tell them. If they are reputable, they may be willing to replace it. If they won’t, I would newspaper merge the bees from that weak hive with the hive on the left. It is better to have one strong hive than two weak ones. I think buying a queen would be wasteful - if they don’t have enough nurses to build comb, she won’t be able to build up the numbers fast enough to survive the season.


I called the apiary. They suggested I steal a frame of eggs from the good hive and put it in the bad hive. They refused to replace my package or send me a free queen.

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I still wouldn’t do that, because it will weaken your one good hive, and you might then lose both. I would be interested to hear what @Michael_Bush thinks, as he has far more extensive experience of packages than me.

I agree to let the hive on the left get super strong and then if you want to split it go ahead. By that time you might even get a swarm call and capture a hive full of wax drawing maniacs!

I just did another inspection with a high powered flashlight. I found…

zero larvae
35% of cells had 4 or more eggs in them
35% of cells had 1 egg in them

What does this mean? It sounds like I have laying workers and no queen? right?

Need pics to see if it’s even worth trying to save.

A guy in my local beekeeping group says I should call the apairy, here are his exact words…

“Call them. Tell them you have laying workers and ask how they want to remedy this. Two weeks is NOT enough time to develop LWs. There’s shenanigans with this package. (FWIW, exactly the reason I dumped them years ago.)”

What would have caused this situation? I would like to be more informed so I can intelligently state my case to the apiary when I talk to them tomorrow? Is this definitely their fault?

Haha… please… I already turtured the bees twice today. Can I just give you a detailed description? What details do you need?

The 9 frame deep only have about 8 square inches of comb.
35% of cells had 4 or more eggs in them
35% of cells had 1 egg in them

If I had to guess, there 10% to 50% less bees than what I received in my 3 lb package.

If they have laying workers, giving a frame of eggs/brood will accomplish nothing. You’d have to give a frame of eggs/brood every week for 3-4 weeks and it might work.

If you are going to try to save the hive, take them 200 yards away and shake all the bees out. Put the hive back in its original location. The foragers will return but the laying workers, having never left the hive before, will not return.

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@Red_Hot_Chilipepper, If I have laying workers from a package that is only 14 days old (I confirmed my pickup date), does that mean the apiary messed up?

Hard to say unless you know the date they were assembled.

Hi Lorne, If I read this properly the hive that is now queenless was the one that was the stronger one when you first posted. I will go against the trend here and say that I am inclined to think that there is some satisfaction in trying to get the hive to make their own queen. It is worth it as an achievement and learning process if you can do it. I did it on one of my hives when I thought all was lost.
You could sort of treat it as an experiment…if you are able to sacrifice the cost or money side of it. What about just sacrificing a frame of eggs and brood and see what happens? Shake all the bees off so you keep all the bees in the stronger hive. Just a thought but others will certainly disagree…you could do the 200 yard shake out like Ed says but that is not something I know anything about…

I found the article below helpful…

“However, the laying workers produce enough queen-like pheromone that the colony will not accept a new queen, so introduced queens are usually killed. No matter what incantation you whisper over the hive, or how surreptitiously you introduce a new queen, most of the time it won’t work.”

My guess now is that I received a package that contained laying workers from the start. They killed the queen when I introduced her and nothing good has happened since. I am going to talk with the apiary and see what they will do.