At 1 PM today, I removed just the tops and the feeders of the two colonies in order to ensure that the queens were free, and maybe to get a bit of reassurance that all is going well (enough). This is what I learned:
Colony 2 is a bustling place. As early as this AM I saw lots of bees loaded with pollen on their back legs dashing in and out of the front entrance. Unfortunately, I also discovered that I had blocked the top rear entrance, and I am not sure that they will ever find it now.
Once opened, I found the EMPTY queen cage and quite alot of drawn comb. A bunch of it has been drawn into the empty space left by the frame that was removed to allow easier placement of the queen cage, and I am probably going to have to remove that at some point. BUT NOT TODAY!
Colony 2 had also eaten up ALL of its sugar syrup, so I gave them a dollop more. The fact that all their syrup was gone and that they only had the one entrance may account for the high traffic at the entrance. Colony 2 also gets the first sun of the day, but it was also busier at evening, so...I just think this colony has its queen and is rocking along. It would have been great to see her, but this is not the time to hunt her out.
I opened Colony 1 second because I was scared. Now I am just a bit concerned, which is an improvement.
Colony 1 had not eaten as much of its syrup, and the feeder was really full of bees when I pulled off the top. A large resident population is good news. Funny thing; BOTH bays had syrup, so I guess the earlier leak was not very big, and either the wood swelled to close it, or sugar has gummed it up.
With the feeder out of the way, trying not to slosh syrup on the bees who refused to vacate even though they had been smoked at, I went looking inside the colony.
I found the queen cage, and it still had some of the candy in it, and one dead bee. GULP! Looking at her, she was probably not the queen, but one of the attendants. The remaining candy leads me to believe the queen got free (or was pulled out) only recently. The workers had drawn some comb, from what could be seen without moving frames around, but much less than the other colony. Interestingly, the workers had formed a chain of bees drooping across the frame opening – it looked like a telephone line between poles – and I think that must be the first step in making filler comb like that in the other colony.
Colony 1 bees were using both the front and the top rear entrances, and I did see a worker loaded with pollen go in at 5:30 PM, when I stopped by to worry a bit more. There are a couple of possibilities about Colony 1: I am seeing less activity because the queen has only just gotten free and the workers have taken to her a little later, and they have also still got syrup inside to keep them busy and two entrances to spread what external traffic one might observe. The second possibility is that Colony 1 has a weaker or an injured queen, but I do think she is in there because the behavior is similar to, but lagging behind, Colony 2. Keep repeating this mantra: "there were a lot of bees inside, there were a lot of bees inside..."
In the morning, I watched an undertaker bee yank a dead sister out the entrance of Colony 1. While that could be sad it also seems to me to be normal activity. Would you clean up a home you intended to flee?