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Queen introduction question

I wonder what method do you prefer when introducing a queen in a mailing cage. Do you remove accompanying bees before introduction or not?

What I was taught, was more for state beekeeping farms, where experienced beekeepers were a normal part of the business. So, the removal of accompanying bees before the introduction was usual practice to remove one more unnecessary irritant for the accepting colony. On another hand for someone who sees all this first time, separating bees and queen could be somewhat challenging.

So the question is, how do you personally prefer to go about this? :slight_smile:

Never have removed the attendant workers inside the cage…but do leave the new queen confined in her cage inside the nuc/package for 4 days and then direct release.

Normal acceptance is usually 100% but the caveat is that about 20% of the nucs have started raising queen cells even though the new queen is laying. Do a queen cell check and remove those cells within 7 days of the queen direct release date…which is about a total of 11 days since the nuc was made up…maybe a bit sooner.

I like to leave the fresh, newly made-up nucs (3 frames of brood in top nuc box of a double 4 frame nuc box setup) for 2 hours before introducing the queen cage…they start “crying” for a queen and within 30 seconds stop “crying” when the cage is introduced…amazing how fast the hive recognizes it has a queen.

Video is 4 days after the nuc has been made up…and time for the queen to be directly released.


I do not remove the attendants. I haven’t had a problem with attendants causing a fight, yet…

I suppose it could happen, but usually the hive is so relieved to smell queen pheromones, they seem to ignore the attendants and just offer food through the mesh of the queen cage.


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It is interesting how much the application of essentially the same methods is different around the world.

The Soviet approach in relation to requeening had the following goals: minimisation of the work required, which is understandable when there were ~8 million hives on the balance. And minimisation of interruption in egg-laying - 1-2 days. Again, in a country, where in some beekeeping regions the whole vegetative period was 90-150 days, every day counts.

As a result, the queenless period measured in days was used when the introduction of virgin queens was required, or it was a really hard case on hands. In simple laying for laying queen replacement, a hive is left without a queen for 2-3 hours. Introduction using a split/nuc and recombine method was recommended as a very reliable, but since it is a labour-intensive one, only for the introduction of valuable queens (used mainly in queen selection/breeding stations).

There were some limitations to work with too. Some honey bee strains were endemic to specific regions of the country. To protect genetic purity it was not possible to send one strain to the area occupied by another one, like to introduce Caucasians to Siberia. Strains had local sub-strains too. Wintering was a default way to run things. Packets were used to compensate for winter losses but requeened with queens from locally adapted sub-strains etc.

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Interesting to see that they recognised the importance of locally adapted strains.

Nice to read that comment as that is exactly one of my preferred methods…and my purchased mated queens are valueable to the extent of $50 each.

So when my queens arrive…(never trust the Post to deliver them in top condition)…I check each cage to make sure the queen is vigorous…taking note of her abdomen size and amount of dead attendant bees. After 4 days in a healthy nuc I have noticed that invariably her abdomen size has increased while being caged…she’s been well attended by fresh nurse bees…and I’m inclined to think she will rapidly start into egg laying mode…and will be able to catch up to a queen that has been confined in a cage inside a nuc for a shorter period of time and released. So what I’m inferring is that perhaps initiation and subsequent rate of egg laying by the queen is as dependent on new nurse bees feeding her through the cage screen during the 4 day confinement as the actual act of releasing her to roam on the frames. So I don’t worry about the extra confinement time.

So many variables in the success of queens. I found this paper interesting and helped me settle some things in my mind that I ask queen suppliers when buying.

Introduction and early performance of queen bees - some factors affecting success

Yes, it is kind of different from when you pay for queens from one government pocket to another :grin:

Why then not to use “beesless” split method? It is considered as practically bulletproof even with aggressive colonies, introduction of queens of a different strain, after long queen transportation etc.

For those who haven’t heard about it, the basis is the same. The younger the bees the less chance that they will attack the queen. Just hatched bees don’t attack a queen at all.

The method:
Take an empty box and put two frames of brood that is about to hatch. Add a frame of comb filled with water, frames with food. The split goes on top of a populated hive to provide heat to the split. The split is separated from the hive by a frame with two layers of mesh. Entrance for the split could be made in the top part of the frame with the mesh. Cover everything with a lid. The next day, when about 100 bees hatched, release the new queen with attendants right on the frames of the split, those bees cannot chew through candy. Entrance must be kept closed for a week. Then, open the entrance so only one bee can pass through it because quite robbing is the only risk for this method (open wired when the colony is strong enough). Do not feed. Then, with week intervals reinforce the split with a sealed brood from the donor colony until the split becomes stronger than the donor colony. Then you have options. Remove the queen from the donor colony and unite, keep separate.

Another beauty of the thing - there is no interruption in egg production if used as a queen replacement method.

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It is interesting, is there an English translation of F. Ruttner’s “Königinnenzucht biologische grundlagen und technische anleitungen”? It was published by Apimondia in 1981. I have seen it mentioned as “Queen Rearing Biological Basis and Technical Instructions” in English language sources, but a quick attempt to find it led to nothing.

This book is a very good source of knowledge about queen bees, their interaction with colonies, and about conditions affecting their quality. And, of course, it is a practical guide for the whole cycle of queens production from the egg to the introduction of queens.

Sounds like you would use the same size box if it’s over mesh, so do you typically fill it out with food frames and swap out with brood as you described, or are you using dummy boards at first?

As you can imagine, a colony of this size does not require much food, particularly in the beginning. A couple of frames of honey and bee bread (in total) should be enough for the whole operation. And more could be added later if needed anyway. Honey has to be easily available. If the frame is capped, few passes of a spiked roller or a fork will take care of it.

With dummy boards, it really depends on the weather, hive insulation and strength of a colony underneath. We need to create an incubator for hatching bees. As a general and safer approach, it is better to install separators and cover parts of the mesh outside of them to channel warm air to the frames of the split. If nights are still cold, it is worth adding more insulation between separators and the outer walls. Of course, we can get rid of all these complications when the colony will begin to grow and will be able to take care about own thermoregulation.

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