Beckys Bees - A Guide To Queen Bee Introduction

This information is meant as a typical guide detailing some different methods of queen introduction. There is no fail-safe method but below I have given some hints and tips that you may find useful.

Whenever a new queen is introduced to the existing colony there is always a chance your worker bees will not accept her and the result of this could be the death of your new queen no matter which method of introduction you use. But on the whole we get very good results using the method described below.
The main things you need to be sure of when introducing a new queen into a full colony or nucleus is that you do not have a virgin queen or indeed a mated queen that has simply gone off lay in your colony. You need to ensure you have removed all queen cells or queen cups, shake the bees off the frames if necessary to find the queen cells they hide in the edges of the frames. Also ensure you do not have laying workers in your hive. If you are re-queening an aggressive colony or a very big colony there are additional things you can do as mentioned below to increase the chances of acceptance.

On the whole we get very good results by simply putting the queen into a queenless colony in the cage she comes in without removing the worker bees that accompany her. We use the same cages that we send the queens out in and use the method below.
You will hear it said that It is recommended that you introduce a new queen by making up a nucleus (nuc) rather than introducing her to a full colony. This is however not always possible for the beekeeper to do and you can introduce a new queen to a full colony. We do this ourselves all the time using the cages the queen comes in, we don't remove the workers that accompany the queen however some beekeepers will tell you that you will have a better chance of acceptance if you do remove them. Some also say you get a better chance of acceptance if you use a queen introduction cage that attaches to the frame over emerging brood. I would especially recommend using this cage, or one similar, if you are re-queening due to the temperament of your bees!

Your new queen bee will arrive in a plastic queen cage with a few workers and a plug of candy. If you decide you want remove the workers from the cage make sure you do this near a closed window; all the bees will fly to the window so if you accidentally let the queen out you can simply put the cage back over the queen and gently slide the cover back into place. As mentioned above we leave the workers in when we re-queen colonies or when we make up nucs and we have a very high percentage of success. We so also supply queens in different cages to the ones shown here. These cages are what I call lolly pop cages and they open with a tab in the main body and the whole head tilts back.

There is a section in both the queen cages that is filled with candy. One of our cages, the rectangular one, has a tab to seal the candy in, the other cage, the lolly pop cage as I call it, has the candy in a tube and the fondant is not sealed at the end. You can delay the release of the queen by leaving the sealing tab on the queen cage initially, if you have the lolly pop cage put some tape over the end to seal in the fondant. Some beekeepers say you get a better rate of acceptance if you delay the release of the queen for a few days. I would recommend you delay the release if you have an aggressive colony. The queen cage, with the candy sealed in, should then be put between two frames of brood*. Depending on your top bar width the cage may nestle in between the frames nicely or you may need to suspend it using a cocktail stick. *If you are requeening a queenless colony that has no brood put the cage between the two middle frames that are occupied by bees.

After placing the queen cage into your hive reassemble it and leave alone. The worker bees will get used to the smell (pheromones) of the new queen.
If you have delayed the queen from being released you will need to return to your hive to remove the sealing tab (or tape). Open your hive using minimum smoke and quickly but gently remove the sealing tab, or tape, on the queen cage to expose the candy. This will allow the bees access to the candy plug; please note that if you have delayed the queen being released for a few days the bees may well have eaten through the candy so be careful as the queen may come straight out. If this does happen very quickly and gently put the cage in the top bars so she can move straight down through the frames. If there is still candy to eat through put the cage back where it was and close the up the hive again. In either instance you then need to leave the colony (or nuc) alone for 10 days. If there is still candy in the cage the bees would normally eat through it within a couple of days.
To use a queen introduction cage, you fix the cage to a frame of sealed emerging brood. To do this first you need to assemble the cage then you take your frame of brood and shake the bees off. Press the cage onto the frame over the emerging brood then introduce the new queen into the cage through the hole. Once she is in the cage and on the brood seal the cage with the cap. There is a fondant compartment in the cage that can be used in the same way as mentioned above. If you do use the fondant plug you need to be sure the brood will emerge before the worker bees outside the cage have eaten through the fondant as we whole idea is that the newly hatched bees automatically accept the queen and so when she is released into the main colony she has a better rate of acceptance from those bees as well. This is a particularly good method to use if you are re-queening an aggressive colony. Another tip to help with aggressive bees is to spray them with sugar water just before you put in the queen cage. By the time the bees have cleaned themselves off the new queens pheromones are already spreading through the colony. Lots of our customers have reported back that this method has been really affective.

Having put your queen into the cage she is now on her own with the sealed brood. As the young bees emerge they will immediately accept the queen as they know no difference and they will now protect and feed her. After plenty of young bees have emerged, which may take a few days, the cap (if used) can be removed so that the queen can escape in her own time. Be sure not to do this too early.

Whichever method you do decide to use I cannot stress the important of leaving the colony undisturbed for 10 days as any disruption could possibly cause the queen to be rejected. The queen will normally lay within a couple of days of being released from the cage. On your next inspection you can remove the cage and pay close attention when looking for eggs. If you have eggs this will show you that the new queen is laying and that she has been fully accepted within the colony.

I hope you have found this information useful, there are lots of methods of queen introduction and as you will be aware we all do things differently in the beekeeping world!!
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