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Queen Management Techniques

When a colony is not performing well, it is common practice to introduce a new queen into the colony. There are certain qualities that a beekeeper looks for in a queen 's offspring, such as good collectors of honey or pollen, resistance to disease and pests, reduced swarming, gentleness, effective pollination, and minimal propolis use. Propolis is the wax-type resin derived from a tree bees use as glue.

It is a common practice to mark the queen with a small spot of paint on her back because the queen is the source of all the worker bees in the colony. They are impossible to distinguish one from another without an identifying mark. The beekeeping industry uses a color code that indicates the year the queen was introduced into the colony. Model car paint is often used to place a very small dot on the back of the queen. The queen is usually marked prior to the introduction into the colony, but she can be marked at any time. Sometime a purchased queen will come already marked. The color code used is:

  • White (or gray) for years ending 1 or 6
  • Yellow for years ending 2 or 7
  • Red for years ending 3 or 8
  • Green for years ending 4 or 9
  • Blue for years ending 5 or 0

The residents of the colony may reject or even kill a newly introduced queen, unless certain requirements are not met. There are several different methods that have been published over the years, but a particular procedure has not been accepted as the best procedure for all occasions. The most common practice of all the procedures requires an introductory period of about three days. The queen is placed in a cage and is fed by the colony bees though the wire gauze covering the cage. The only way she can be released is by the worker bees eating a candy entrance. The beekeeper can decide to release the queen into the colony manually.

The older more established worker bees are not as receptive as the younger bees to a new queen. You can turn the colony entrance to face the opposite direction to separate the older from the younger bees. In an empty hive place at least one frame of honey facing the original direction. The older bees will leave the original hive and return to the new empty hive. The original hive will only have the younger bees, while most of the new hive will have accumulated the older bees. The queen can then be introduced into the hive of the younger bees with out problems. The two colonies can be reunited after the new queen is established.

Before introducing a new queen into a colony, make sure the colony does not have a queen, and any of the developing queen cells are destroyed. Leave the colony with out queen for a day or so. Let the queen be caged for about two days. To release a queen, place the cage between the frames with the screen side down and the candy plug exposed to the younger bees and the brood. Allow the bees two days to release the queen and then remove the cage as soon as possible. If the queen is to be release manually, watch the surrounding bees to determine if they are clinging tightly to the cage the queen is in. If they behave in an aggressive behavior, do not release the queen until the bees act passively toward the cage. Once you have released the queen, watch closely to see if the other bees are react with hostility to the new queen as she explores the comb on which she was released. Don't open the hive again for a few days allowing the queen time to start her brood nest.

A good technique and careful handling will ensure the success of introducing a new queen into the colony. Other factors can also play a part, such as environment conditions, changing seasons, the availability of food, and beekeeper competence.

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