Introducing Your Queen

Many techniques have been developed to introduce a new queen into a colony.   If the colony is healthy, is actually queenless, has brood, and is well fed, most techniques will work.  Here, I’ll outline how I usually do it.  You should be familiar with the indications that requeening will not succeed, which I discuss in Do I need a queen?

First, I make sure there is no queen.  This is sometimes hard to verify, because there might be a virgin queen or an old queen who’s not laying.  I can’t spend all of my life searching for a queen I don’t think is there, so I don’t spend a lot of time looking.

I make sure there is open brood.  If there is none in the hive,  I get a frame from another hive.  If i move a frame from another hive I make sure it has eggs, too.  I move the adhering bees with it, and give them a tiny little spray with the bottle of sugar water I always have with me to ease their acceptance.  If you don’t have a frame of brood available I might have one for you to purchase with your new queen.  See Order queens and queen cells.

I make sure there are young bees.

I look for queen cells they’ve started and cut them out with my hive tool.  I am unlikely to save any queen cell I find.

I make sure they are getting food, either because it’s a nectar flow or because I’m feeding them.

I’m assuming that the queen is in a Benton cage, the wooden cage with three holes, one with candy in it.  (Another type of cage is the JZsBZs plastic cage).   The candy is a time release mechanism, to let the colony get used to the new queen during the time the workers in the colony eat through the candy plug, nominally three days.  When they have eaten through it, a path is open for the queen to leave the cage and make her way into the colony.

To place the cage, I take the cork out of the candy side by prying it out with my hive tool or a drywall screw, remove a frame, and I put the cage in, seating it firmly between two frames of comb so the comb holds it in place.  If the candy is hard I put a thin nail into it, but if it’s too hard to do that I’ll not worry about it.   A populous colony will get through the candy, and if they don’t I’ll be along in 3 days to let the queen out by hand.

Sometimes I Iay the cage down on the frame top bars, screen side up, temporarily just to watch the reactions of the other bees.  They should flock to the screen side and begin grooming with the attendants inside, who have queen pheromone on them.  Some sources say to eliminate the attendants before putting the cage in, but I leave them in.  If they  act aggressively towards the queen it probably means they have a queen that I missed and it’s not time to put in a new queen.

There are all kinds of theories about which way to orient it.    I take out a frame and put the cage between two frames, horizontal, screen side down.  I watch the bees for maybe 30 seconds.  The bees in there should be interested. 

I close up the hive and come back in 3 or 4 days.  If she’s not out I take out the staples tacking the screen using my hive tool and let her out, watching carefully.  She should come out and just duck right in between the frames.  If they’ve killed her I figure they are taking care of the problem themselves and I should just leave it to them.  After all, they have eggs and open brood to make a queen with because I have made sure they have open brood.  Leaving the cage in for too long will invite them to build burr comb in the space between the frames.

I also do a couple of other things to promote acceptance, but they are just for sympathetic magic or voodoo and I don’t think they actually contribute to the success of the project.

This works pretty much all the time.

You might benefit by looking at other methods.  There are many resources for how to introduce a queen in books and on the web, including YouTube.

Good luck!

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