Native Irish Honey Bee Society – Apis mellifera mellifera

Native Irish Honey Bee Society
Apis mellifera mellifera

Queen introduction – various (summer 2009)


In this issue, I asked a number of our more experienced members to put on paper their thoughts about the topic of queen introduction. First up is the Ulster Bee Improvement Group (UBIG), which has expanded the topic slightly to include advice on making up nuclei. According to Norman, there are 30 people on the Preliminary Beekeeping Course in Dromore and the challenge is to provide them with nuclei this spring or early summer. Dromore, in conjunction with the UBIG, plans to have native or near-native queens mated at Mervyn’s apiary and to persuade Dromore members to take these mated queens and make up nuclei for the beginners. To help members make up such nuclei, Norman and his colleagues have devised a simple system that they have circulated within the Dromore association. Redmond and P.J. also provide practical advice on queen introduction, a very important but sometimes risky operation.

Making up a nucleus and introducing a mated queen
The parent colony: Select the parent colony; a strong, disease free colony with fresh comb is best. The colony could be strengthened and new comb drawn out by placing a few new frames beside the brood nest and feeding syrup from mid-April onwards.
Making up the nucleus: Close the entrance to the nucleus hive. Find the queen in the parent hive and cage her during the operation. Place two frames of brood and one frame of stores, together with adhering bees in the nucleus box. Shake bees from two further frames into the nucleus. Fill up the nucleus by adding two frames of foundation and close it up completely. Tighten up the frames in the parent hive, keeping the brood together, and add three frames with foundation beside the brood nest. Release the queen in the parent hive. Remove the nucleus to an apiary two miles distant and open the entrance in the evening. Check the parent colony a few days after the nucleus has been made up to ensure that all is well.
One week after the nucleus has been made up, examine the nucleus thoroughly and remove all queen cells and introduce the fertile queen in a cage closed with newspaper or candy. Move two frames apart slightly in the brood nest and suspend the queen cage between these frames. Three days later, check that the new queen has been released and is laying. Remove the empty queen cage and tighten up the frames. The nucleus is now ready to be moved to a new home.
Moving the nucleus to its new home: Contact the new beekeeper who is to receive the nucleus and who will call in the evening, close the entrance when bees cease flying and transport it to its permanent home. It will be placed on the hive stand previously prepared and the entrance opened. In two day’s time, the new beekeeper will move the nucleus to one side and substitute the permanent hive, transfer the frames, one by one in the same order, to the centre of the new hive. New frames will be added to each side to fill the brood box and any remaining bees brushed in. A feeder with light syrup will be given and the nucleus box cleaned and returned.
Norman Walsh, Mervyn Eddy and Patrick Lundy

Co. Waterford
All methods of Queen Introduction carry an element of rejection. There are a number of precautions that need to be taken. Ideally, if the beekeeper raises his/her own queens, he/she will probably have surplus queens to hand. If the beekeeper is depending on receiving queens in the post, more precautions may need to be taken. It is much easier to re-queen earlier in the season or later (not mid-season), but who has queens early in the season? Ideally, a new queen should have the same egg-laying capacity as the one she is replacing. Working on the basis that we are getting our queen in the post, she is probably coming from an Apidea and is not in full lay.

Eight days before arrival: make up a five-frame nuke or if working with a full colony, remove the queen.
Day before arrival: if working with a nuke check for any emergency queen cells, shaking bees down if necessary, and remove. Your queen now has a better chance of acceptance, as the colony cannot rear a queen of its own. (This procedure also applies if introducing a queen to a full hive)
On the day of arrival: Wait until evening, then open the travel cage indoors on a windowsill and remove all workers making sure the queen is secure in the cage (the bees will fly onto the window and can be released). Don’t forget to remove the plastic tab at the end of the cage to allow the bees in the introduction hive to eat through the fondant. If using a Butler cage, place the queen in the cage and fill the end with fondant or use newspaper over the end secured with an elastic band with a few pinholes in the paper to allow the bees to eat through. With as little disturbance as possible, hang the queen cage from the top bars between two frames of open brood if possible. The queen should be out of the cage in twelve to twenty four hours; this gives the bees more time to accept her.
Seven days after introduction: check to see if the queen is laying. See if there are any supersedure cells built, and if there is, remove them. The queen should now have increased her laying capacity.

P. J. Curran

Co. Tipperary
Queen Introduction is a pitfall that many beekeepers experience. Rearing your queen from your selected stock by grafting, the Jenter kit or by whatever method you use requires an enormous effort. So now it is time to introduce her. Queen introduction in itself is relatively simply; all it requires is that you put your queen preferably into a Worth cage. This cage is prepared by putting candy into the long and short slot. This candy should be made using icing sugar and honey. Warm the honey and pour it into a small well in the icing sugar. This makes it much easier to combine the icing sugar and honey. Once mixed to a stiff dough, it can be stored in the fridge until it is required. Never use fondant when introducing your queen as it can set extremely hard and prevent the bees from releasing the queen, or it can become extremely messy and destroy the queen. I also put masking tape on the closed end of the cage, covering approximately 25 mm. This gives the queen a place of refuge if the bees are aggressive towards her, as they can damage her feet while in the cage. Before putting the queen into the cage, I always mark and clip her. This practice assists me in identifying supersedure if it occurs and also avoids the necessity of finding the queen the following spring.

All that remains before your queen is introduced is that your receiving colony is queenless. My method of achieving this is as follows. Seven days prior to introduction, open the receiving colony and remove or kill the queen. On the day of introduction, shake all frames rigorously in the receiving colony, paying particular attention to areas near drone brood. Search for anything that resembles a queen cell and cut it out, ensuring that you kill the larvae. You are now sure that this colony is incapable of raising a queen cell, as the oldest larvae the colony can use to raise a queen are three days old or six days from the egg. You can now place your newly mated queen into the centre of the brood nest. Leave the colony alone for two weeks and then check for eggs.

In conclusion, before you introduce your new queen your colony must be queenless. If in doubt, always use a test frame.

Redmond Williams

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