Introducing a new queen to a queenless colony.
So you have determined that your colony is queenless and you’ve purchased a new queen from a reputable beekeeper.
The queen normally arrives in a cage with a few attendants and plastic closed end which can be opened and replaced with fondant, if they have already eaten the fondant which they have travelled with.
The first thing to do is to remove the attendants; if you introduce a new queen with attendants to your colony they will kill the queen……as they are different bees.
I usually do this using a clear freezer bag. I place the cage and my hand inside the bag and tie the top of the bag around my wrist with an elastic band so that no bees or queen can escape. I usually do this either indoors or in my car (all doors and windows closed!) so that if any mistakes happen the queen will normally fly to the window and can be retrieved easily. Do this outside and make a mistake and you may lose the queen.
I then open the cage with my hand in the bag and let all the bees escape and then capture the queen again on her own in the cage.
Once she is securely in the cage you can open up the bag removing the elastic band and let the other bees go outside or alternatively squash and kill them when in the bag.
Place a piece of wire onto the top of the cage and place the cage into the colony you are introducing the new queen to, wedging the cage in between 2 of the frames hanging down, preferably in the middle of the brood nest, using the wire to secure it to the top of one of the frames…….usually a piece of burr comb will help.
Leave the bees to get used to her and after 2 days break the safety catch on the cage and add a small amount of fondant to plug it up, if none left to close the hole. (Once you introduce it back in the bees will eat through the fondant releasing their new queen). Always make sure that when you return the cage with the fondant, that the fondant is at the bottom of the cage hanging down and not the top…….as if it’s warm it may melt and fall and damage your queen under it.
Within 24 hours the bees will have released your new queen and within a few days you should see fresh eggs.
If you have a lack of time, you can usually forego leaving the queen caged for 2 days before adding fondant – this is just an additional safety precaution……to get them used to having a new queen.
Instead after removing the attendants, plug the end with fondant as above place in between frames.