My bees have flown the coop! Very disappointing

I installed a package in a new hive on Friday.

I checked on it Saturday.

Released the queen on Tuesday morning.

Today they are gone except for about 20-30 bees in the hive.

What went wrong? Is this something that just happens sometimes? Could smoking them too much make them leave? I was a little rough on the queen because I went to brush the bees off her cage and at that moment she came out and got brushed. She did land in the hive as I saw her on the bottom for just a moment.

It has been very rainy the last few days.

I’m a newbee, so I’m just guessing. Did she come out on her own from the queen box? I’m surprised it took her so long. Did you reduce the entrance? I heard that sugar water spray is better than smoke on a new package installation. These are just a few questions. It must be frustrating. I have recently received a swarm while I was waiting for a nuc I was supposed to be on a list for. There are many people catching swarms right now. Do you have a local bee club?

I would reach out to a local bee keeping club for assistance. You may be able to still obtain a new package. I am using the slow release method and allowing the hive to release the queen. My first inspection will be to see if the queen was released. I am hoping they will all still be there. I am new so I can only contribute so much. Best of luck.

The queen cage had a hole in the candy but she was still in it so I figured I would relaese her. Apparrently she coukd get out because after I brushed the bees off the outside, she was gone. I see have walking on the bottom of the hive so I know she was in there.

Fortunately I have another package coming this week and 2 more in 2 weeks. But this one was my best shot at getting honey this year, the others will be too late in the season for a first year hive.

Should I put a queen excluder under the box until the queen is laying so she can’t get out?

I had to use a marshmallow so I am hoping they chew through that fast. :slight_smile: In my mind it seems as though the hive didn’t take to her. They may have killed her off and with no queen jumped ship. Best of luck with the new packages or should I say new queens…


You might add a cottonball with lemon grass oil under the frames … I did that on my new swarm as well as found one frame with little comb wax still on it. I also smeared a little beeswax on the inside to make it smell more homey ! It’s now four days later n the swarm is happy as a camper n even foraging. Good luck on the extra packages coming.

Gerald :honeybee:

. P.S. Mine are sucking a pint of syrup a day ready.

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Hi Gerald,
Plutoman15 was the one who lost the hive. I am only about 36 hours post package install. I have waxed foundations so I hope they feel at home. I am also using the same type of feeder, two mason jars above the brood box. Great idea about the lemon grass. Hopefully my first inspection goes well and I can continue the feed and push out to the next inspection date.

You shouldn’t need a queen excluder. Did you restrict the entrance at all? I like Gerald’s idea of adding a hint of wax or lemon grass. I would also make sure that the hive has access to the screen of the queen cage. They should free her. I also did not use smoke. Just ideas. I will let you know how my day goes on Friday.

Packages do abscond more often than nuclei. There is no way to be sure why, but some thoughts:

  1. Try not to use any smoke on a package, you shouldn’t need it. Smoke normally puts bees into panic mode, and makes them gorge on honey stores, which makes them calm and sleepy. Like a swarm, a package has no honey stores to gorge on, so they just panic and can’t eat to calm down.
  2. Bees hate brushing, and can easily be damaged by it. Believe it or not, shaking is gentler on them than brushing. If you need to get bees off a frame or a queen cage, just shake the frame downwards with a rapid jerk, over the hive of course. I used to brush, but shaking makes for a much calmer hive, with less chance of damaging the queen or other bees.
  3. I agree with Gerald, lemongrass oil is a great idea in a new hive, if you don’t have any old frames of comb, or even a frame of brood from another hive. It mimics Nasonov pheromone, which is their “come hither” signal. If you don’t want to make the smell too strong, you can put the cotton ball in a small ziplock bag, and cut some slits in it. It works surprisingly well.
  4. I wouldn’t put the queen excluder below the brood box (using it as a queen includer). If they want to leave, they may well just leave her behind anyway. After all, she is a new queen to them, and she smells funny.
  5. Don’t spray them with water or sugar water, it is too easy to chill or drown them.

Better luck next time. At least you have had the experience of installation! :blush:

Hi P’man, this is just my thoughts, I’ve never installed a package before. What I would do is dab a couple of drops of lemongrass oil inside the hive & try to buy/borrow a frame of brood with young larvae. With those two items, your almost 100% certain the bees wont abscond. The other thing I would do is let the queen come out slowly. She can’t fly while she’s still trying to get out of the cage. During that time, the bees will be calling your new box “home” & wont want to abscond once the queen comes out.

A swarm (or package) organizes around pheromones. So I don’t smoke packages and swarms. But that may or may not be the issue. Four drops of lemongrass oil is good insurance. Old comb is better insurance. Open brood is even better insurance…

Thinking through what I did wrong, I suspect I opened the hive too many times and smoked a little too heavy. So as soon as the queen was able, they bolted. I also noticed the top feeding can of syrup was leaking into the hive right down the middle. Could that have made them uncomfortable?

The good news is my next package arrived today and are already installed. I did not smoke them but did spray some as they were really flying around when I was trying to pour them in. I installed in the same hive as before since it had the beginnings of drawn frames. I added several drops of lemongrass oil (hoping I didn’t over do it, I could smell it when I opened it up). I did not add the queen excluder since this queen is clipped and marked so she shouldn’t be flying away. If they go, it will be without her.

The package came with what looked like marshmellows instead of syrup. I put them in the hive with the bees.

I am going to be more disciplined and not open the hive until 3-4 days to take the queen cage out.

2 more packages coming in 2 weeks.


Hi @Plutoman15 Sorry to hear about what happen to your package, but I appreciate you sharing the experience it teaches us new beek’s on what not to do, and good luck with that package that arrive. :wink:


I think you learned a lot, and as @Zab says, you have generously enabled others to learn too. That is what makes this forum so valuable. Thank you for baring your bee-soul and contributing so much for the rest of us.



I wouldn’t spray the bees. So long as the queen is secured, the bees wont go far. What I would do is put the queen cage inside the new hive with the lid off & rest the package on it’s side on the frames. The bees will simply leave the package & go into the hive where the queen is. That’s my theory.

I’m surprised they still clip the queens wings. I thought that practice would have ceased a generation or two ago.

My theory is: the bees don’t know a queen can’t fly (this is in relation to swarming, not absconding), so a colony will still prepare to swarm. All I can see is issues with half the hive ready to swarm & the queen unable to fly. The trick is to prevent the hive from preparing to swarm in the first place. Then you don’t have issues with a queen unable to fly, virgin queens hatching & so forth.

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Day 3 since install. Just checked the hive and the queen was already released. Didn’t see any eggs. The comb that was drawn all had sugar syrup or honey in them.

Did not need to smoke. They were very calm. I did pull the 3 marshmellows out of the hive. They didn’t seem interested in them anymore. (They came in the package) they were very active coming and going from the hive dispite 20mph wind.


Thanks for the update, I was wondering how they might be doing this time for you. Hope it all goes fabulously well.

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Don’t feel bad, it happens.
In your location I wouldn’t have expected honey this year no matter how early you got your bees. They need to build up at least 2 to 3 brood boxes before considering a super.

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I have at least one helper!

I took the feeder out worried they were filling everything with sugar water. But after finding a frame with lots of eggs on it, I put the feeder back in. It has been so cold, cloudy, and rainy, I figured the feeder might be more efficient for them. If we get some warmth I will take it out.

Excited I found some eggs.

Also interesting that they are filling out the foundationless frames faster than the waxed covered foundation frame. I put in every other foundation and foundationless frames.


Wow, what a cutie! I love your apiary too, very nicely done.

It is interesting with the foundationless, isn’t it? One of my queens prefers laying in creative comb, even to old brood comb - the creative comb is essentially foundationless. I think over the next decade or so, more people will switch to foundationless when they get the kind of experience you are having. You only have to try it to see how well it works.