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Adding attendants to store a queen


I needed to add a queen to one of my three hives. Since shipping queens this time of year is dodgy given the heat and costs 2X the price of the queen (2nd day air), I went ahead and ordered two queens to improve my odds of getting at least one. Both queens survived the trip but only one attendant. After sprucing them up with some sugar water I went ahead and introduced (push-in cage) the queen which had managed to retain an attendant. Since there is no guarantee that it will take I wanted to try to keep the other queen alive. I got the impression from various comments in this forum that it was doomed without attendants so I snatched up a couple of bees from the hive as I was adding the cage and added them to the queen carrier. I figured they would attack her straight-away but am happy to say that 12 hours later when I went to check on them and spray them with some more sugar water, everyone was alive and well. Any suggestions on ways I can improve the odds of her surviving a week until I know if the first queen was accepted? Am keeping her in the cabinet under the bathroom sink (closest thing I have to a cellar) in the wooden queen carrier she was shipped in.


Sounds like you have done well. :blush: I presume the cage is something like this:

If so, what I would do is check on the candy plug every day. If they have eaten it, replace it with a mini marshmallow, or a piece of a bigger one if you prefer. Then just put a drop or two of water into the cage once or twice a day. That way, they can take what they need, rather than being forced to lick up a spray when they have nowhere to store the syrup.


Head of the bee club here says he stores queens on another hive. He adds a queen excluder and a small shim box on top of the hive and places the queen boxes screen side down. He said he’s done that for over a month at times and that the nurse bees in the hive help to feed and maintain the queen. Haven’t tried it myself, but did see him do it during a demonstration.


Sounds valid, but potentially risky if the hive decided to “ball” the queen cage. If I was going to go that far, I would probably just make a mini-nuc with 3 frames - 2 brood and nurse bees and one of honey/pollen. Put a follower board in to reduce the space, and leave them queenless for 24 hours. Then put the cage in, and allow them to release the queen. They can then be merged back with the hive once the fate of the other queen is known, and meanwhile the queen gets a chance to exercise her ovarioles. :blush:


Thanks for the feedback. I am new to this so have not (yet) accumulated a lot of spare parts. I do have a spare deep I could put on top. I could possibly steal some brood for a spell and I I have lots of frames of honey&pollen - I would just have to work out a way to fill all the extra space. My greatest fear, though, is I accidentally move the queen over along with the nurse bees. I am still not too good at spotting her. Maybe Larry’s suggestion is safest from the perspective of the donor hive. It still gets pretty warm during the day (>100F) so keeping her indoors (78F) seems like it would be less stressful.
How long can one reasonably keep a queen in the cage?


A few days are easy. Weeks are possible if you keep her cool (inside at room temperature) and feed/water regularly, plus replace dead attendants. Months is not a good idea, unless she is in a hive. :smile:


Why don’t you just make a small split into a nuc using that queen? Keeping a queen where she cannot lay for an extended time reduces her viability.



Thanks for the feedback, everyone. Good news is the queen was accepted. Bees had already released her from her cage (excavated around the edges) when I checked this morning but I found her nearby going about business. Bad news is the one in storage didn’t make it but at least now I now have some swarm lure should the opportunity arise.


Is she in the freezer? That is where I store mine. I actually put them in a tiny jar of rubbing alcohol to extract the pheromones. Then a drop of that on an old frame of drawn comb is a nice lure. :smile:


I put her in a little bottle with some vodka. Freezer is a good suggestions, though, to slow any denaturing.