Wisborough Green Beekeepers Association

a Division of West Sussex Beekeepers Association

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Queen Introduction
Queen Introduction

The introduction of queens is nowhere near as easy as it once was. The reasons for this are unknown, but may be related to the problems that have been experienced with queens since the turn of the 21st century.

Queens are introduced for several reasons, including replacing poor queens that head bad tempered colonies or are not calm on the comb and when making colony increase. It is advisable to replace queens that are performing badly or are failing at the earliest convenience.

There are many ways of introducing queens with varying degrees of success claimed. Beware of any method that claims 100% success. They may once, but not consistently.

Queens are a valuable resource at any time of year, so make sure you have the best chance of success. Replacing like with like usually gives the best results, so replace a laying queen with another laying queen, not a virgin. A queen taken from a mini-nuc or one that has not been laying if introduced into a full colony where a laying queen has recently been removed may result in supersedure.

There have been several methods of direct introduction devised. They all work, but usually in the best conditions, so are probably better used by experienced beekeepers. For the beginner the use of one of the many types of queen cage is probably the best option. The simplest method is to remove a queen and introduce a queen with 4-6 attendant workers. Pick workers up by their wings that are feeding from a cell. They arch their backs, making them easy to pick up and have food to feed the queen with.

Plastic "puzzle" cages are as good as any and these are shown in the photographs. Simply place them between a frame, making sure you don't block off the holes so the colony can't feed the queen and attendants. After 48 hours release the queen gently onto a comb that is sparsely populated with bees, so if the bees in the colony show aggression to the queen she can be caged again and left another day or so.

As well as the above method we do show others at demonstrations, including direct introduction and uniting.

Place the cage between frames. Photo Roger Patterson

Bees from a queenless colony will soon be attracted to a caged queen. Photo Roger Patterson

Release the queen gently onto the comb. Be careful if the queen is unclipped as she may take wing and be lost,
especially a young one. Photo Roger Patterson

Occasionally a colony will entomb a queen. There is often no apparent reason. Photo Roger Patterson