inspecting your hive

Introducing a Queen Bee

Guest Article written by Jason Waite, COO & Founder of Harvest Lane Honey: 

There are a lot of different ways to introduce a new queen to a hive or nuc. I’m happy to explain the way we install a new queen at my company, Harvest Lane Honey, which works with Murdoch’s to deliver bee packages to customers. Because queen cages come in different sizes and shapes, the introduction methods vary slightly. These methods have proven very effective and easy to do.

Cage Type 1

The most common cage in new packages of bees is called a “California Mini” cage which is a ¾” x ¾” x 3” and has metal screen on one side with one hole. A cork is plugging the opening.

Install Method: The queen in this cage will have attendants that care for her and worker bees on the outside of the cage to feed and take care of the queen. You will want to remove the cork and replace it with a candy or marshmallow very quickly, as to NOT release the queen.

  • You can softly blow on the screen forcing her to the opposite end of the cage before removing the cork. The queen is very fast, and she wants out, so make the cork and marshmallow switch as fast as possible.
  • Also, if you accidentally push the marshmallow all  the way through… don’t panic. Just add another marshmallow behind it to close up the opening.
  • This cage has a metal tab in the back for hanging the queen on a frame. Make sure that the screen of the queen cage is not up against the foundation but instead the wooden side is against the foundation.  This will allow for air flow to the queen, while the workers work to release her.
  • We recommend that you DO NOT check the queen for 7 days. Any sooner could cause the other bees to not accept her. Our saying is: “Curiosity may not kill the cat, but it could kill your bees.”

Cage Type 2

This is the most common cage for re-queening or replacement queens that are transported solo. It’s always a good idea to replace your queen every 2-4 years. There are number of reasons to replace a queen, including hive temperament, brood pattern is poor, and help with swarming.

The second type of cage is a “3-Hole” cage. It measures ¾” x 1 ¼” x 3” and has a metal screen on one side with a hole at each end. One end will have a cork and the other end will have a candy and a cork. You’ll only need to remove the cork on the end that also has candy.

The queen will have worker bees with her to take care of her and should be left in the cage with her. It will take 48-72 hours for the hive (worker bees) to chew through the candy.o not poke a hole in the candy, take it out, or otherwise release the queen. Releasing the queen too early can cause the worker bees in the hive to deny and kill your new queen.

Install Method: First, be sure you render your colony queen-less.

  1. If you have an existing hive and this is not a new bee package install, you will want to verify that your hive is queen-less for at least 24-36 hours. The way to know this is: if you don’t see straight white larvae “eggs,” then you don’t have a queen.
  2. If you know that your hive does have a queen, but you are re-queening your colony, remove and kill the existing queen 24-36 hours before introducing a new queen.
  • With a queen-less colony, you will want to hang or wedge a 3-Hole queen cage between two frames in the middle of the hive about 1” down from the top.
  • Make sure the screen side is not blocked and candy is facing down.
  • Leave the hive alone for a week after installing the queen cage.
  • After one week, check to see if the queen has left the cage. If the queen is still in the cage, it’s safe to directly release her.
  • About 3-5 days after she is in the hive, you should start seeing eggs. Disclaimer: each hive is different, and it can take some hives longer for her to start laying. The condition of the comb and the weather both affect her timeframe.