I started beekeeping last year with a single package. After a lot of worrying and trepidation I was thrilled to see the girls emerge on warm days, and heartbroken when, after 2 nights of 13 degree temps following a week of warm (60-70) there was no activity, lots of dead bees, and honey stores left. My best guess is they broke cluster and froze.
So I'm starting again this year with 4 hives, 3 from packages (April 9) and 1 from a queenless nuc I picked up yesterday. I helped with the split that produced this nuc and can hardly wait to check Monday for a queen cell. The beek from which I got the nuc started one as well so we can compare notes. She offered her queen but it was the best of her 8 hives and I thought it would be interesting to see if/how/when they would raise a new queen.
My first mistake (oh, those learning experiences) was to leave the boxes intact. I had only an hour's notice to pick up the nuc and when I went to get a box for them I found robbers, robbers, robbers. When I returned they were still around, so I moved everything to the screened porch (followed by a buncha bees hitting the screen) and waited until the beeyard was empty and it was almost dark before placing the nuc and opening a small entrance.
Today they seem to be doing orientation flights and are investigating everything - top, bottom, sides, grass, mulch, me. I don't think they're robbers because I saw no evidence of fighting and about equal numbers coming out as going in.
Here are the questions. If I don't see a queen cell by Monday, should I be concerned? If I do see a queen cell, and it appears one has emerged after x days (have to refer to my chart) how long after emergence should I start seeing either the queen or evidence thereof? In other words, what are the signs that I should panic and assume the hive will remain queenless? And I guess I expect fewer bees for a while even with a queen?