Queen Introduction Method

Queen Introduction Method

For 90% Queen Acceptance

Whether you purchased queen cells or mated queens, and whether you want to use these queens for increase, splits, nucs or requeening full-size colony, the principles remain the same and the goal is the same. You, the beekeeper, want to make sure the queens are accepted successfully.

Making nucs, splits, or requeening a full-size colony is time consuming and we want good acceptance rate.   All kinds of ways and methods exist to help the beekeeper save some time, but the results may sometimes be disappointing. The procedures outlined below will not aim at saving time, but at improving queen acceptance.   We believe it is possible to reach a success rate of nearly 90%, if done diligently. Why spend some valuable time and money, in an attempt to improve the quality of your bees through genetic selection, if you achieve mediocre results by taking chances?

This is especially true in the case of the Russian bee. If we are trying to introduce new genetics in order to control mite infestation, we want to make sure the bees do accept the newly purchased stock.

Under the emergency impulse, the bees sometime sting the caged queen upon emergence, and raise their own queen instead. This often results in poor quality queen (intercaste), which is worse than a supersedure queen (natural requeening).

We can avoid this problem through special management practice.     Planning ahead minimizes probability of failure. Let’s maximize our results by careful planning and management.

 

PRINCIPLES OF QUEEN INTRODUCTION

  • WEATHER – Cool and cloudy weather lowers rate of acceptance.
  • SIZE – Large colonies requires more preparation for requeening than a nuclei.
  • AGE OF BEES – A colony made up of young and older bees requires more preparation because older bees tend ro remain loyal to the previous queen.
  • STOCK – Introducing a queen from a different strain or race requires more preparation.
  • COLONY HEALTH – A colony suffering from mites, nosema, or brood disease infection is under stress and may have difficulty accepting a new queen.
  • METHOD – Some method of queen introduction are safer to use, and increase acceptance rate.

 

DISCUSSION

With these points in mind, we can better choose our approach to facilitate the acceptance of the new queens.

  • In the spring, wait until the weather is warmer, instead of trying to introduce queens the earliest possible.
  • Prepare smaller unit of bees, such as 2-4-frame of bees, instead of splits, or increases of 10 frames of bees.
  • Move the unit within the same apiary to lose all the older bees. Add extra bees to make sure there are enough left in the unit.
  • If introducing a queen from another race (i.e. Russian), remove natural queen cells and increase waiting period before introduction.
  • Make sure your bees are healthy. Follow an IPM program.
  • Adopt the best introduction method to maximize the rate of acceptance.

Now, these points are just suggestions to increase the rate of acceptance.   But with careful diligence, it is possible to achieve good results, even if all of the conditions above are not met.   For instance, it is possible, in our experience, to achieve close to 90% success, in an attempt to requeen large colonies, with a different strain of bees like the Russian stock. It just takes more time and attention to details. The results are well worth the effort!

  1. Planning In Advance – 6 months
    • Make sure the colonies you are using to make splits, nucleis, increases or that you want to requeen are in good shape: Low varroa or HTM (Honeybee Tracheal Mites) infestation, no American Foulbrood or European Foulbrood, and low Nosema.
    • Make sure they have plenty of feed for the winter, and enough for spring build-up.
    • A starving colony does not raise a lot of bees and is under stress.
    • A stressed colony is more susceptible to mites and diseases.
    • Order the queens from the producer or breeder well in advance.
    • Prepare your equipment to make sure it is there when you need it next spring.
  1. Prepare The Units
    • Nucs, splits, increases, full-size colonies must be made or rendered queenless 1 to 7 days before the arrival of the new queens or cells.
      • Large colony or split with a mated queen: 1 day
      • Large colony or split with a queen cell: 7 days
      • Nuc with a mated queen: 1 day
      • Nuc with a queen cell: 1 day
    • Be sure they have everything they need:   honey, pollen, brood from all stages, empty combs or foundation, and enough bees to cover the brood completely.
    • This is a good time to scrape your frames and the brood chambers.
    • Replace old combs and broken frames with new frames or foundation or combs. If the old ones contain brood, position it on the side of the box, so you can replace them at a later time.
    • If you leave these units in the same apiary, be sure to give them a few extra shakes of young bees, and to provide open brood. This will keep the young bees busy.
    • Feed them a pollen substitute available from Bee Supply Stores.
    • If the unit is smaller than a regular brood chamber, reduce the entrance to prevent robbing.
    • If the unit is smaller than 4-frame nuclei, and the weather is hot, provide shading to prevent absconding.
  1. Natural Queen Cells
    • The bees may raise their own queens.
      • The bees are acting as a reaction against your intervention as beekeeper.
      • It is an emergency situation for them. Their queen is suddenly missing.
      • They will start raising queen cells with any worker larvaes available: young and older larvaes.
      • Bees tend to raise numerous queen cells if they are numerous and have plenty of food available. A good sign!
      • If you used a caged mated queen, the bees may or may not built queen cells. More often they do not.
    • The bees often tend to be loyal to these natural queen cells.
      • They sometime destroy your queen cell if they have their own queen cells available.
      • Older larvae will develop sooner because they have a head start.
      • She emerges first and destroys the other natural queen cells still in development.
    • Research shows that a queen developed from an older larvae is an intercaste.
      • An intercaste queen is an inferior queen.
      • It was not fed royal jelly long enough as a young larvae.
      • It was supposed to become a worker.
      • It does not have fully reproductive organs.
      • Her laying capacity is reduced considerably.
      • She does not perform adequately.
    • Removing these natural queen cells will enhance the acceptation rate.
      • The bees are now queenless for several days.
      • Moreover, all their natural queen cells are now destroyed.
      • They have no hope of raising other ones because open brood is absent.
      • They will more readily accept the introduced queen cell.
      • The larger the unit, the more important it is.
    • Natural queen cells are an issue when requeening with queen cells.
      • Our experience shows that if you use mated queens instead of queen cells, you have better results.
      • You can safely introduce a caged mated queen 1 day after removing the old queen.
      • It is only whenever you introduce a queen cell into a larger unit that you need to take extra precautions.
    • Removing procedure.
      • If you are requeening a large unit with a queen cell, follow these procedures on the day of introduction.
      • If you have already requeened with a mated queen, follow these procedures when you come back 7-10 days later to check the new queen.
      • Remove the frame #1 located on the side of the brood chamber.
      • Shake or brush the bees off the frame into the brood chamber.
      • Inspect the comb section carefully on both sides for natural queen cells, checking corners and crevices.
      • Cut out or destroy any partially or capped natural queen cells with your hive tool.
      • Set it aside.
      • Remove frame #2 and repeat the operation.
      • Replace frame #2 in the brood chamber immediately at the place where frame #1 was positioned.
      • Repeat for each remaining frame, taking care to replace them in the brood chamber in the same order and position.
      • Last, shove the frames over to make room for the first frame.
      • Replace it in the first position.
      • Cover the brood chamber with the inner cover.
      • Proceed to the next colony.
      • In the case of introducing queen cells: When you have finished the last colony, go back to the first one to start introducing the new cells.
  1. Queen Cell Introduction
    • Be sure to transport queen cells adequately.
      • Pick-up early in the morning.
      • Place them in an insulated lunch box or Styrofoam container.
      • Keep them in a upright position at all times.
      • Do not rattle the cells. Do not turn them upside down.
      • Use block of wood or Styrofoam with pre-drilled holes of ¾” diameter to hold each cell.
      • Take care not to disturb them with sudden moves or knocking.
      • Use a thermometer to monitor the inside temperature at around 95°F (35°C).
      • Use warm water bottles at the bottom of the container.
      • Keep away from direct sunlight in hot days.   Keep the lid closed.
    • Position queen cells adequately.
      • Adjacent to a frame of brood.
      • Hanging in between 2 top bars, if the weather is warm and the cluster of bees is covering the top bars.
      • OR In the middle of a frame of brood, if the weather is inclement, or if the cluster is small. Position the cell inside the cluster.
        • Remove a brood frame.
        • Find an empty spot with no brood to position the cell.
        • Using your finger, flatten the cells to make room for the queen cell.
        • Press the base against the top portion of the empty spot, positioning the cell downward in the empty spot.
        • Be sure not to crush it while pressing.   Press on the base only.
        • Carefully replace the frame in the colony in the same position.
      • Close the colony and do not disturb for a minimum of 17 days, up to 21 maximum.
        • Do not come again in 1 or 2 days to see if the cell has emerged.
        • This would disturb the colony and may cause rejection of the new virgin queen.
  1. Mated Queen Introduction – the following day after removing the old queen
    • Transporting queens
      • Avoid direct sunshine and high temperatures >92°F (33°C).
      • If kept overnight, keep them warm 85-90°F (29°-32°C).
      • Introduce as soon as possible.
    • Remove attendants from the cage
      • No more than one hour before arriving to the apiary.
      • Proceed inside your home, honey house or vehicle, near a sunny window.
      • Open the cage and let the bees escape.
      • If the queen comes out, she will fly to the window.
      • It is the best time to mark or clip her. Right side for even years, left side for odd years.
      • Let the paint dry thoroughly – about 1 minute.
      • Put her back in the cage, grabbing her wings or thorax, and gently introducing her head first; she will follow suit.
      • Close the cage securely.
      • Upon arriving to the apiary, place each cage on the floorboard in the entrance of its receiving colony,   away from the sun, until you can introduce her later.
      • This way, the queen are readily taken care of.
    • Insert the cage in the way described for queen cells.
      • Position the cage between 2 frames of brood.
      • The bees must be able to access the screen of the cage to feed the queen and exchange pheromones.
      • The cage may be held between 2 top bars, or else pressed in the upper comb section of the brood frame.
      • Close the colony.
    • Do not disturb the colony for about 7 –10 days.
      • Do not come again in 1 or 2 days to see if the queen has exited the cage.
      • This would disturb the colony and may cause rejection of the new queen.
  1. Check If New Queen Is Laying
    • Leave the colony undisturbed for several days.
      • The colony is nervous until it has open brood, especially for a newly introduced mated queen.
      • Wait at least 8-10 days for a mated queen to start laying and have open brood of her own.
      • Wait at least 17-20 days for a virgin queen to emerge from her cell, to mature, to take orientation flight, to go for several mating flights, and to start laying.
    • Check for the presence of eggs or young larvaes.
      • Open the colony and remove a centre frame to inspect.
      • Look for eggs or young larvaes.
        • If yes, look for natural queen cells and destroy them if any (in the case of caged mated queens introduction).
        • It is queenright.   The queen has been successfully introduced.
      • If no young brood is present.
        • Look for an open queen cell you may have missed.
        • Look for a virgin queen.
        • If you find it, either remove it or leave it be.   It is up to you.
        • If you remove it, reintroduce a new caged queen as soon as possible.
        • It is not too late yet. Laying workers usually appear one week later than this.
        • If you leave the natural virgin, the colony will be requeened in about 7 to10 days or so.
      • If no queen is present and it appears that the colony is queenless.
        • You can reintroduce another queen immediately, if available. It is not too late at this point.
        • You should give the colony a frame of emerging brood.
        • Do not add extra bees unless it is necessary, and they must be young bees only.
      • After inspection
        • Once the queen is accepted and laying, leave the colony alone for a while.
        • Do not disturb for another 2-3 weeks, until it has emerging brood of her own.
        • Then, you can add 1 frame of emerging brood every 7 days.
        • Do not attempt to divide the colony for another 6 weeks at least.