Yesterday afternoon I was walking around checking to see what hives may need extra room or extra boxes added. I run many 5 over 5 nuc boxes. I was checking out another nuc, when I noticed a mating box nearby that had much activity at the front, and took notice since I had placed a queen cell a few days earlier and it was not that strong that it would need a another box.
On the landing pad, there was the queen. Being "nudged" by the bees. After seeing her for a few seconds, off she flew.
I closed up the other nuc, which took perhaps a few moments at most. Then I returned to watch the nuc and see if the queen returned.
After another couple minutes, a queen appeared from inside the hive. Was this the same one? Did she return that fast?
Off she flew. I started counting seconds in my own head since I did not have my phone.
About 3 minutes later she returned. That was fast.
I ran up to the house fetching my phone and returned.
A few minutes later, the queen appeared once more. As she took flight, two drones were hot on her tail. I started timing her.
She returned in 1 minute, 39 seconds. Landed and went inside. You could see she was mated.
While this queen was coming and going, the two nucs next to it, had many drones coming and going. And many drones were flying in and out of the nuc that queen was from. It was if they knew a queen was flying.
All these flights from the queen happened between 3:30 & 4:00 in the afternoon. The last flight left at 3:55 which I would consider late in the day from everything I have ever been told.
I do not know how long it takes to mate with each drone. But I can be assured that this queen was not flying no 5 or 6 miles that some claim queens do on purpose.
This yard has perhaps 50-60 mating nucs, and full size hives. And the queen is not related to any of the drones as she was grafted from a queen in another yard.
I have seen queens come and go before. But never seen drones take off after queens right off the front of the hive. And I never timed a queen returning so soon.