And then on an overcast Friday, after the bees had had twenty four hours to combine, we went to examine the hive and decide how to proceed. We could leave things alone a while longer or cut slits in the paper if they had not yet begun to chew it or simply remove the holey-follower if they had gotten through or otherwise respond to whatever we found.
We first noticed that there were no paper fragments littering the outside of the hive, suggesting that chewing had not begun. But bees were using the entrances busily. Lifting off the roof we were reassured that the bees were neither using gaps in the frames as entrances nor building comb under the roof. Their climbing under was simply exploration. We proceeded to lift one of the bars of comb made by our package bees to get a look at the newspaper and were rewarded by a small cloud of bees, more than we had on the comb the days before. The newspaper was intact but it seems the new bees had made it across after all. The old bees had either died or been adopted. We decided to simply remove the hole-y follower and shift the rest of the bars to close the gap.
And so we did, wielding bee brush and spray bottle of water to help coax the bees to keep their heads down so we would not crush them between the top bars as we pushed them together. They were quite interested in what we were doing but allowed themselves to be persuaded away. The only time they came boiling out was when we were moving one particular section of brood comb. We suspect that the queen happened to be there at the time but it did not seem prudent to check. They calmed down again as we moved to the next section and replaced the roof. As a final act we removed the cork from one more entrance. Once again no one had yet been stung.