Frequently Asked Questions

More and more beekeepers buy thoroughbred queens to breed their own queens from them.
But they find that requeening in existing colonies is not always successful.
It is necessary to apply a method that will guarantee some degree of certainty.

Bad method

Never try to introduce a young queen, bought or self-bred, to a complete colony with a mating cage or a shipping cage between April and August.  If a queen with full laying capacity is present there the young queen will not be accepted and expelled most of the time.

Often applied but doubtful method

Equally risky as requeening (removing the old queen and immediately putting in a new mated queen) is introducing the queen to a colony which has been without a queen for nine days.
After breaking out the queen cells and no more presence of open brood the bees have no choice but to accept the new queen. But very often the queen is only tolerated until the first new brood is ready from which new swarm cells are formed. The reason might be that this colony had a unsatisfied queen before and there have already been separate changed cells which interrupted the harmony in the colony.

It will work in an artificial swarm

The most successful method, whether with mated or unmated queens, is the creation of an artificial swarm.
You shake young bees from at least 6 (better 8 or 10) frames with brood and no queen (use queen excluder) into a screened box with artificial combs. You can also use young bees from different colonies.
A queen in a shipping cage without attendants is hung between the combs in a hive before or after shaking.
The hive is then closed, put in a dark cool place (15 tot20°) and fed with sugar syrup 1:1.
After one to three days at most you put the hive in its new place in the evening or early in the morning and open the entrance. The queen and the bees have had the opportunity to become a harmonious unity and to make a healthy start on unprocessed combs. Feeding sugar syrup stimulates expanding the artificial combs and awakens the nesting drive.

It’s also possible in a nucleus

Unmated and therefore possibly cheaper queens from breeders can also be introduced to nuclei or smaller hives. To minimize the risk do the following:

  • Create a nucleus 7 to 9 days before you introduce the queen. Use 3 to 5 mainly sealed brood frames and the bees on them.
  • Put the nucleus in a different place.
  • On the day of introducing a queen break off all queen cells and hang the queen between the frames in a cage with a candy plug and no attendants.

This way the queen is introduced to a colony of mainly young bees. The young bees will also accept an unmated queen.

You have to arrange the shipping date with the breeder. If this is not possible – for whatever reason – you can also place the nucleus on the old colony and use a queen excluder in between.

When the queen arrives you can hang the frames of the nucleus in another hive, add the queen in a shipping cage closed with a candy plug and put the hive in a new place. The colony with the new mother queen doesn’t need to make queen cells, so you don’t have to take them out and no unwanted queen will hatch.
If the queen arrives within the nine days you have to take out all open brood from the nucleus  to make sure the queen will be accepted.

Summary

Do not introduce young queens into large colonies between April and August.

Introducing them in March or April usually poses no problem.

Introduce queens late September to early October.

Introduce valuable queens in an artificial swarm.

If you want to replace old queens you have to make sure that there isn’t already a young queen present in the hive. Two queens in one colony is not as uncommon as you think. If the queen has been introduced to an artificial swarm you have to wait for at least a week before you check.