I'm almost ashamed to ask, but after a full year of having bees, I still don't know the answers: (1) Do queens have stingers? (2) What is the proper way to pick up a queen. I've seen so many beekeepers just reach in there and pick them up, but I'm so afraid I'll hurt her! Anybody have any tips?
#2 Why do you need to pick up your Queen? Unless you have seen it done by an experienced beekeeper, do not do it. You are asking for trouble. Thats not to say, you cant learn, but I refer back to WHY?
>I'm almost ashamed to ask, but after a full year of having bees, I still don't know the answers: (1) Do queens have stingers?
Yes, but they will never try to sting you unless you put them in your mouth. Her stinger is not barbed and she only uses it to try to kill another queen.
Quote from Andy Nachbaur:
"BTW Queens do sting, they have a stinger without barbs so they can sock it too you repeated times and it hurts on tender tissue such as the inside of the mouth. QUEENS SHOULD NEVER BE CARRIED INSIDE THE MOUTH! And especially eight of ten young mated queens at a time, as they do sting and it hurts and it's hard to spit out those $5 bills and risk harming them or having them fly back to the nucs and having to catch them next go around. I won't bore all again with the details of how I came to do such unsophisticated bee tests, but it was not for science, had more to do with the fun of being a commercial beekeeper in a commercial beekeeping community, a hot late spring afternoon and helping an old friend catch queens. Maybe those queens beekeepers find once in awhile with what looks like bites taken out of them are from other old bee breeders who carry their extra queens around in their mouths? But for sure queen bees normally do not sting people, and even many bee breeders have never been stung by a queen bee, but they can sting. Same as the so called stingless bees such as the leaf cutters..but that's another story, the "killer leaf cutter bees" that I will save for another time."
I've never been stung by a queen.
>(2) What is the proper way to pick up a queen. I've seen so many beekeepers just reach in there and pick them up, but I'm so afraid I'll hurt her! Anybody have any tips?
Of course it needs to be done bare handed. Grasp them by the wings. Then manuver them so you have them by the legs. Most of the legs, not one. Practice on drones until you get the hang of it. You can easily hurt the queen. It takes a lot of "just rights". Just the right speed, not too fast, not too slow. Just the right pressure. Just enough she doesn't get away and little enough you don't hurt her. Some of it is anticipating her reaction to you grabbing for her. The drones are similar enough to be good practice.
Actually I think the best way to catch a queen is a hair clip queen catcher. You still need to be gentle, but the spacing is such that it's difficult to hurt the queen with it. Then you use a marking tube and a paint marker to mark her. After you mark her, keep her pinned until the paint is dry. Just do your manipulations to get her into the tube either directly over the hive, so if she flies she's someplace she knows, or do it in the kitchen or bathroom where she'll fly to the window if she flys. With some practice you can get very good at catching her with the clip and getting her, by herself, in the marking tube. That is my prefered method. I have killed queens accidently and it's very disheartening to me and the bees.
Michael, you answered all my questions--and then some! Don't think you'll catch me ever putting the queen in my mouth! That dissertation made me smile, though, thanks so much.
We've just seen a video at our monthly beekeepers meeting on how to find the queen in the hive and the experienced beekeepers on the video made catching the queen look so easy, which I'm sure it is not--many of them "put her aside" while they do certain manipulations within the hive. As of yet, I've had no need to pick up the queen, but I thought I should know what to do if the need arises.
I was wondering about those queen clip things and was going to ask whether it was a good idea, but forgot to ask. Thanks. I'll pick one up at the NCSBA meeting in March.
Once you get really good at snatching the queen right off the comb on your first attempt, then you probably won't have use for one of those queen clips. If you miss catching the queen barehanded on your first attempt, most queens begin to run on the comb and suddenly they're twice as hard to catch on your second attempt.
I'm a big fan of those queen catchers; they make it so easy to catch the queen and make for a very convenient temporary 'holding pen'. I also think, for a beginner, the queen clips help you get your bearings a little easier for learning how to hold a queen (you have better control over her position and your attempt at catching her between your thumb and forefinger). The main thing on catching and holding a queen is, never, never hold her by the abdomen. If you put pressure on her abdomen, you stand a real good chance of causing injury to her. Catch her by the head/thorax area. The legs are okay, but like an earlier post said, you must hold her by all three legs on one side otherwise, it's easy for one to break off in her struggle to get free.
As far as being stung by a queen, I believe I've read that her stinger can't penetrate human skin (soft mouth tissue, being the possible exception!). Her stinger can only be used to kill rival queens. Certainly, in my own experience, I've seen queens try to sting my forefinger and quite literally, nothing happens (her sting isn't strong enough to penetrate).
Practice on drones. They cant sting you and they are expendable. I pick her up by her wings. Never got stung by a queen yet.
I'm right handed, so I grasp the Queen by the wing(s)with my right hand and transfer her to my left hand by grasping her legs on one side of her body. This allows me to clip or mark her. Alternately I may transfer her to my left hand by grasping her head/thorax. NEVER GRASP HER BY THE ABDOMEN. As stated in a previous post, practice on drones.
By the way, though I have never been stung by a Queen, dont ever think a Queens stinger can't penetrate the skin.
About the queen's sting, I stand corrected. According to "The Hive and the Honey Bee" (current addition, pg. 309), Dr. Norman E. Gray, writes, "Queens very rarely sting humans. I have been stung by two virgin queens, but only after holding other virgin queens first, thus transferring their pheromones to my fingers..."
My own personal experience is in recalling one particuliar mated queen (not a virgin queen) try to sting my forefinger and she tried three or four times and even once on the thumb nail and she was not successful. It may have had more to do with her inability to get her abdomen in the correct position to sting than in stinger's ability to penetrate the skin of my finger. In either case, it was interesting to watch her try (unsuccessfully).
While collecting queens and nurse bees for shipping, I was taught to look for bees that were busy feeding on honey. You can encourage this by tearing open a few cells, if you can't find any bees easily. Then, while they have their heads stuck in a cell, you pick them up by pinching both wings behind their back. You must move deliberately, otherwise, if you loose the bee, you will have made her mad and "let the cat out of the bag".