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Behaviour of Bees When Releasing the Queen?

3030 Views 12 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Michael Bush
Behaviour of Bees When Releasing the Queen? **video added**

I am brand new to beekeeping and have really appreciated being able to browse this forum for advice. I have a question that I haven't been able to find the answer to yet.

We installed our package in our hive yesterday and kept the queen in her cage for the first night. The bees came from New Zealand and they had likely been with the queen for at least 4 days as of yesterday. Today, we went to mark the queen and let her into the hive. As we wanted to mark her right away, our beekeeping instructor said that this would be fine - no need to use the candy as they had likely been with her for long enough. We observed the bees on the outside of her cage and they were not being aggressive towards her. So, we uncorked, marked, let her dry, and let her out of the plunger.

The bees immediately covered her and, to a newbie, the behaviour looked either aggressive or panicked/excited. They eventually directed her down between the frames and we closed up the hive and crossed our fingers.

Our friends, who also started a hive at the same time and in the same manner as we did, let their queen loose and, although there were less bees in the immediate area of the hive where she was, just a few of their bees seemed more to push and prod her a bit until she was between the frames. They didn't immediately cover her like ours did.

The weather where we are isn't warm right now - it was maybe between 54 and 57 degrees F today when we were at the hives. I'm hoping that the bees were just anxious to help her and keep her warm now that she was accessible. Has anyone else released a queen this way (vs. using the candy)? If so, what was the behaviour of the bees towards the queen?

Thank you!
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I have not but it sounds like they want her to get a move on it.

Do bees care much if they are moved from southern hemisphere (summer/autumn) into the northern hemisphere((spring) in a matter of days?
If they was aggressive toward her they would have balled her immediately. If you release another like that again put some honey on her an release her on top of the frames.
Welcome to Beesource!

The behavior of the bees towards the released queen may have been influenced by the mark you applied. Depending on the method you used, there may be an odor. I have seen a number of threads with reports of bees removing marks or attempting to remove marks from their queen.
Thanks for the replies and advice. When we released her we let her go on top of the frames and they surrounded her right away. I did read that sometimes the bees don't like the smell of the mark and, although we let it dry, I'm wondering if this was the problem.

Here is a short video clip of what happened; the queen is to the left of the screen (you can catch glimpses of the red dot):
From reading up more and watching my video compared to some other videos I've found, here is what I've come to:

- It looks like this could have been the behaviour called balling the queen, which could either be protective or aggressive.
- Brushing the bees off the queen cage before removing the cork was not difficult which likely means that they were not likely being aggressive towards her in the cage.
- From the video I posted above, it's difficult for me to tell if any bees are trying to sting the queen.
- Although we let the mark dry before releasing the queen (about 1 minute?), the bees could have been reacting to the smell and trying to get the mark off of her.
- I won't really know what their intent was until I check the hive within the next few days to see what is going on - if the queen is alive, if there are any eggs...

Would more experienced beekeepers agree with this analysis? :)

Yep, I agree. You won't know the answer until you do an inspection. More than likely she'll be fine.
I wouldn't do an inspection for several days. Keep the feeder full and leave them alone. The reaction you described was balling. They may not have killed her but, there's nothing you can do at this point but leave them a lone for a bit and let them settle down. If you ever have that happen again you can get the bees off the queen and put her in a push in cage for several days. I make it a rule not to mark new or newly mated queens. If you wait until they have some capped brood you won't normally have the balling problem. I have had the same thing happen to me so don't feel bad.
Yes I agree with johng as I also have had the same thing happen to me. Don't mark queens until they have sealed brood. Waiting till they are older by doing that has greatly reduced the balling after marking syndrome for me.
We are going to take a peek tonight to see what's going on as we are using frame feeders so have to check the syrup level anyways.

We decided to mark our queen in this way since we are new to this and weren't confident in our queen spotting skills. What if we went to mark her in a couple weeks and marked a worker instead? Lol. I'm sure we'll laugh at this a few months down the road as we'll get better at identifying the queen, mark or not. But it sounds like next time we might want to consider marking after she starts laying, a suggested here.

Thanks! I'll post an update later tonight.
I have seen it suggested here on occasion to practice marking drones until you get comfortable with your marking technique. (Drones can't sting you either.) And if you use next year's color for drone practice, those drones will be gone by the time that color is correct for queen marking.

If you want a queen marking color/year code link, click here:
She's alive! Phew!

Saw a couple drones, bees busy at work making comb, queen wandering around supervising :)

Next time, I think we will modify the way we mark.

I really appreciate all the advice.
You definitely want to let the paint dry before putting her in. Bees don't always intend to kill a queen when they ball her. They often let her go later when they figure things out.
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