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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Or, maybe I should have titled this "how to kill a queen in 4 seconds". Ugh!

I have a very strong hive of mutts (mostly italian behavior- pedal to the metal on brood all year, not like the frugal winter cluster of my other hives, and tendency to make too many drones). I'm interested in trying some VSH characteristics, so I got a mated VSH queen from Z's Bees last weekend to requeen a split from half of this hive. I used a queen excluder over the course of a week to shake all the bees out of the top super (5 mediums), then let them move up through the excluder. Every few days, I did the same thing with the next box under the excluder, ending up with 2 mediums under the excluder with brood & the queen, and 3 mediums above the excluder with brood and honey. I split the hive by putting the bottom two boxes (queenright) with lots of open and capped brood onto a new bottom board, swapped a few side frames to ensure plenty of nectar, honey, and pollen (knowing they'd be initially light on foragers) and set up the hive a few feet away from the original hive. As soon as they are stabilized and strong with foragers (a couple of weeks), they will be gifted to a local friend who is getting back into beekeeping.

I left the queenless half of the split in the original location (since that's the hive I wanted to keep, with the new queen, and I didn't want to move them again as they established) - three mediums, lots of open & capped brood, with the top box full of nectar and partially capped honey on 6 of 10 frames. On Monday morning (a couple of hours after splitting), I put the queen cage (with several attendants) screen down, wedged between the top bars in the middle of the top of the second box, immediately adjacent to brood. This afternoon (Friday, 4-1/2 days later), I went through the hive for queen cells, and found about a dozen (mostly capped), which I removed so that they wouldn't emerge and compete with the new queen. In addition to plenty of cool smoke, I misted with 1:1 sugar solution to add to the confusion and general happiness, but it wasn't sufficient. There were a couple of bees on the outside of the screen of the queen cage, and it looked more sociable than "balling" behavior, so I figured without a queen and with 4-1/2 days under their belt to get acquainted, it was time to release her. Big mistake! She crawled out of the cage, and in seconds she was attacked and stung to death by 3 or 4 determined bees, game over. Grrrrr....

Next time, the new queen is going in the half of the split in the new location without the foragers and older guard bees. To salvage the situation, I swapped in a frame with plenty of eggs and mixed open & capped brood from one of my other hives from whom I'd love to have a daughter queen, and I'll let them sort it out.
 

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Last year I introduced a Queen to a Queenless hive that had been Queenless long enough to have no open brood. They accepted her, released her and within days there were eggs and brood.

This year I had a Queenless hive..no eggs, no brood and I introduced a mated Queen as I had last year. I assumed, incorrectly, that all would be fine. Seems not. Today...about 3 weeks after checking to see the Queen was released...there was very little porch activity and no evidence of pollen coming in. I cracked the lid and there are bees...in 2 boxes. I went through the boxes..no eggs, no brood, no Queen seen. So I have given them a frame with open brood to see what they do with it.

I have another Queenless hive that got a brood frame last weekend, a Queenless package that also got a brood frame last weekend and a nuc I have split off in hopes it will make a Queen.

Sunday evening I am to collect 2 mated Queens. I really don't know how I should use them:( I am inclined to make up 2 new nucs and put the queens in the nucs. Wait and see if the Queenless hives make queens and if they don't do a newspaper combine of the nucs with mated queens to the Queenless hives. If the package and/or nuc doesn't make a Queen or it doesn't get mated I would just try again by giving them new open brood.

If I am to make up nucs for the mated Queens when should this be done? The Queens will be here Sunday evening.

Thanks for any guidance and advice.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I like the idea of introducing the new mated queen to a "gentle" nuc of populated primarily with nurse bees and various stages of brood. It seems to me that the more established the hive, the harder it is to successfully re-queen. By the time you do a newspaper combine (if you need to), at least the new queen has a whole consort of supporters, right?

As far as your timing question, the least disruption is probably to make up the nucs once you have the queens in hand, and do it all at once with a candy plugged cage.

Good luck! (I hope your adventure goes better than mine just did...)
 

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The key behavior we look for when hand releasing queens is workers extending the proboscis ( as to feed and communicate) through the screen as opposed to biting it. Bees "kneeling" on the screen is a no go for us. We usually like to leave a new split queenless for 24 hours and give the new queen 36 hours to be accepted. If you have emergency cells the new queen will dispatch them soon after she is accepted and laying. If we have time we prefer this method over the self release. Last year my son and I hand released over 600 queens and even with good behavior I still had to rescue a few. Bees will ball a new queen (in hive less than 7 days as a rule), even if she is accepted if there is excessive smoke, vibration or other unusual interference. If you work without at least one glove, if a queen is balled you can quickly capture and recage her if this happens. Replacing comes with extra care after a hand release is always a good idea.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
That's helpful advice, Joel- thanks. I removed the cells because I'd been taught that a virgin queen attacks the cells, but a mated queen not so much, and I didn't want to risk them quickly superseding my new special queen.

Your advice for optimal hand release conditions implies that the other advantage of a candy plug release is that there is less concurrent disruption (i.e. no smoke, no vibration, etc.). The disadvantage of the candy plug method is that you don't know for sure the bees are ready to mingle yet by the time they've chewed through the plug. How long can a queen last in a cage? If they are not ready to accept her after a week, she'll still be sufficiently fed?

Just when I think I've got these bees figured out, they find another way to confound me. :)
 

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The key behavior we look for when hand releasing queens is workers extending the proboscis ( as to feed and communicate) through the screen as opposed to biting it. Bees "kneeling" on the screen is a no go for us. We usually like to leave a new split queenless for 24 hours and give the new queen 36 hours to be accepted. If you have emergency cells the new queen will dispatch them soon after she is accepted and laying. If we have time we prefer this method over the self release. Last year my son and I hand released over 600 queens and even with good behavior I still had to rescue a few. Bees will ball a new queen (in hive less than 7 days as a rule), even if she is accepted if there is excessive smoke, vibration or other unusual interference. If you work without at least one glove, if a queen is balled you can quickly capture and recage her if this happens. Replacing comes with extra care after a hand release is always a good idea.
Does that mean you leave in for 36 hours after intro and then after 36 remove the cork ..or open the hatch..but leave the candy in to be munched through over the next couple of days?

It would be great to see a close up video of acceptance behaviour versus aggressive killing behaviour....I can't visualize what a kneeling bee would look like:( the hive that had the purchased Queen disappear seemed over joyed to have her when the cage was placed. They seemed interested without aggression. Pit was easy to dislodge them from the Queen cage...yet I believe they likely killed her before she had any brood laid.
 
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