I was installing a package of bees, but when I removed the cork from the queen cage the candy was gone and she escaped before I could put the cage in the hive.
What are the odds that she will return? Should I be looking for a new queen?
A couple of possible scenarios:
1) She's in the hive. I'm not sure if you were pulling the cork while away from the hive, or while close to it.
If you were standing by the hive when the queen escaped, and you aren't certain that she's NOT (or couldn't be) in the hive, then there's a chance she's there.
If that's a possibility, I'd recommend waiting a few days and then make a hive inspection to look for signs that she's laying. Same as you'd do under normal circumstances. And if the inspection reveals no laying queen at that time, you'll need to order another as quickly as possible (I'd call the company I purchased the package from.)
2) If you're sure that she couldn't be in the hive, then you'll almost certainly have to order a replacement. If she was a fair distance from the hive there's essentially zero possibility she'd make her way to the hive.
But though it's an extreme long-shot, it wouldn't hurt to look around on the ground in the vicinity of where she escaped.
I once had something similar happen, and lucked into finding the queen on the ground about 10 feet from the new hive, surrounded by a small cluster of bees. I was able to scoop her up and plop her into the hive. She was apparently no worse for the wear, and was a very productive queen. If she's outside of the hive, she's likely surrounded by a knot or cluster of bees. That would make her a little easier to spot.
All of this assumes that the bees in the package had become acclimated to her. If not, they likely killed her as soon as she escaped the cage.
Hope this helps, and good luck!
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