I've read in various places that a queen takes about a week to get her feet under her and then goes out and mates for a few days. I wonder how true this is. I have tested a lot of the 'rules' that are passed down without question and found a good many to be far from dictates (but simply 'best practice'.) The following scenario is a test that I forced upon myself by accident (through a screw up.) On Mother's Day, I hived a swarm and had to leave quickly (I had a million things to do, including spending time with my mum). The whole thing probably took 5 minutes. This is a bit unusual for me, as I don't take swarm calls a long way from home and typically hive the swarm on one trip and pick them up after dark that night (or the following night.) In this case, there seemed like a definite 'chance' that I didn't have a queen. As a bit of foreshadowing to what was to come, the landowner (no beekeeping experience, but had googled honey bee swarms before I got there) asked if I thought there were multiple queens in the swarm. Given the size, I advised him that this was probably the primary swarm and only had the old queen...heh, I never learn. When I got home, I was a bit rough with the hived swarm (in a hurry...) and set them up quickly on one of my Nuc stands (simply two landscape timbers held up with a couple of cinder blocks.) Before I could get the level out, bees were everywhere and I immediately recognized a swarm mode. I've never had a swarm abscond on me, but I know what a swarm looks like when it issues from the hive. At the time, I was becoming mad at the bees (not very logical, but I remember the emotion), as I was already late for everything. I read somewhere (more than likely, these forums) where folks down south use queen excluders because of a proclivity for swarms to abscond down there for some reason. On a whim, I grabbed a nearby excluder and placed it between the bottom board and hive body, squashing a bunch of bees in the process (this caused more frustration, as I figured that I had probably just squished the queen right then, assuming I even had her.) I can see the bees collecting on a nearby evergreen, but hope that I have kept the queen in the box and they'll return. Off to the outyards and dear mum! That night, I return and (with flashlight) spot the little swarm still clinging to the tree. It's probably no bigger than a couple of softballs (maybe 1/5 or 1/6 the size of the original swarm.) I shrug and hope for the best - maybe they'll return tomorrow, although I can't figure out how they'll get back to the original hive (which is about 20 feet away) since there is no location imprint yet on any of these bees. The next day (this is getting long, I know...) at work, I'm thinking about this little 'swarm' a lot. At lunch, I can't take it anymore and rush home, hiving the swarm in my work clothes, placing it in a small Nuc. I'm relieved that they seem to be going in and figure I'll recombine them with the original when the weekend comes. Meanwhile, I've forgotten about the queen excluder.... On May 18 (6 days after hiving the swarm), I begin to wonder about that swarm and it occurs to me that it would really suck if that hive has a virgin queen (she had to be a few days old before she flew out - add 6 days to that and, 'according to the books' she can no longer mate.) I go into the Nuc first and find a full grown queen, eggs and larva. She's been going since I hived them and, I am comfortable saying, is the old queen. Now I'm wondering about the bigger part of the swarm. I go through that hive twice - they are setting up for a queen - storing nectar/pollen around a central, open area in several frames. But, no eggs. On the last pass through, I find the small, virgin queen. So, I remove the excluder and now wonder if she will mate. I'll give them a frame of eggs this weekend, just to be safe, but I wonder if Mother Nature will intervene and if there is something (biologically) that takes place once a queen does her orientation flights to 'get ready for mating'. If it really is simply a ticking clock, this queen will not work out. We'll see.