Queen Introduction Test

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks going around and checking queen acceptance in my splits and verifying that the parent colonies still have a queen before giving them honey supers. Sometimes there has not been quite enough time since a queen’s emergence from her cell to really expect to see eggs. But I usually don’t want to come back for another two or three weeks, so it’s important to make a judgement call on whether or not I need to requeen or wait a little longer for brood to appear. When I came across this image that Alex sent me this spring, it prompted me to share one of the tests we use to determine whether or not we put another queen in a hive that we’re not 100% sure is actually queenless:

There is a wooden queen cage under that pile of bees. Do you think they like her? Indeed.

Sometimes it looks like there is no queen in a split that rejected the caged queen that we tried to introduce….but did they raise one from a cell? or supersede? And sometimes you visit a recently-swarmed colony that might still have a virgin running around…. The $25 question (or $45 question if you paid express shipping)? Do I try to requeen with another mated queen?

In order to help answer the question, it can be helpful to lay a caged queen on the top bars of the hive and see how the bees react. If the workers run toward the cage and start feeding the caged queen, your chances of acceptance are very good. If they are attracted in smaller numbers and aggressively chomp on the cage or try to sting through it, then the odds of acceptance are very poor. This isn’t a foolproof method of guaranteeing the presence/absence of a mated queen or virgin in the hive, but it has certainly saved some queens from an inglorious demise over the years. It only takes about thirty seconds to go through this test most of the time.

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