Successful Honeybee Queen Introduction

Successful Honeybee Queen Introduction

The first and most important factor in queen introduction is to have a queenless environment. No mated queens, no virgin queens and no queen cells should be present in the hive.

Place the cage containing the queen into the queenless hive, just above the brood area. If you have a honey super on top, remove a frame from the center of the honey super so you can see the queen cage when you open the hive to check on her later. For extreme situations, like a hive that has been queenless for at least three weeks you should add a frame of open brood along with its nurse bees to the center brood area where you will be adding the caged queen. Then follow the introduction precautions described here.

Observe the initial reaction of the bees on the cage.  If there is any chance at all of a virgin queen present, block the end of the candy plug with a bit of burr comb to slow down the new queen introduction. Check again each day to remove developing queen cells or a possible virgin queen. If need be, gently spray sugar water on the bees surrounding queen bee cage if they seem aggressive.  You may need to gently spray the bees a couple of days in a row if the aggressive behavior continues. Do not spray the caged queen!

After several days, when the worker bees are calm surrounding the cage and are feeding the queen, and showing no aggression, you can consider opening the cage and watching the queen walk out onto the comb. Be prepared to put the queen back in her cage if the worker bees try to “ball” her. Once you return her to the cage gently spray the surrounding bees with sugar water and give the queen another day or two before releasing her again.

Remember if the hive you are re-queening has an unsatisfactory queen that can be identified and removed, the job of introducing the new queen will be easier.  A hive that has swarmed, or has become queenless for any other reason makes it more difficult to determine its true queen status. You may have better results by making a small nucleus hive with some frames of open and capped brood to introduce your new queen to. Then once the queen has been accepted you can merge the Nuc with the queenless hive.

Another technique is to remove the attendant workers from the queen cage before adding the queen cage to the hive. This can be accomplished by opening the queen cage in a room in your home near a sunny window. The bees will fly to the window, and you can easily see the queen on the window and place her back into the cage. Pick up the queen gently around her wings or abdomen and then place her head first into the cage. Only attempt this procedure if you feel comfortable with picking up the queen. You can practice picking up drones in your hive to get the right feel and touch before your new queen arrives.