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Possible Virgin Queen Running Free While Trying to Requeen Hive

1168 Views 4 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  abingaman
Background (I'm sorry!)
I had a hive that was a powerhouse coming out of winter and went honey/pollen bound so they produced 8 swarm cells. There were no eggs in the hive so I split the hive and was preparing to requeen it. I moved all of the swarm cells over to a new hive and gave each hive a new frame of open brood. The original horizontal hive didn't make any queen cells with the open brood. My assumption was that the original queen was in the original hive but a week later, still no eggs.

The split that I placed the swarm cells into swarmed. I was able to capture the swarm and have moved it a few miles away and I'm waiting a week to open it up to inspect it for a queen. The swarm occurred on 4/25/20 in the evening. It was a nice sized swarm.

Virgin Queen?
I opened up the hive that swarmed and I noticed that all of the swarm cells were chewed through except one. The one that wasn't chewed through was still capped. I wasn't able to see where a bee emerged but the cells were pretty chewed up. I looked through the frames and wasn't able to spot a virgin queen but there were quite a few bees and drones moving around and my eyes kept getting distracted by the drones. There were no eggs in the hive.

I placed a mated queen I purchased in the hive and was able to gently move the bees off the cage. There was no balling or aggressive behavior and the bees seemed relieved to see the queen. They immediately began to feed her. I let the queen sit in a cage on top of the frames for about 15 to 20 minutes while I got another hive ready. I came back and they still were treating her well and had begun to eat the candy to release her.

My assumption is that if there is a virgin queen in the hive, her pheromones won't be strong enough to cause the bees to reject the mated queen. However, when the mated queen emerges, the virgin will kill her because a mated queen is slower than a virgin. Does anyone have any tips or tricks on how to queen a hive that might have a virgin queen running around in it? I've used push-in wire cages (my preferred method) in the past but the cages they sent the queens in have a candy plug with a plastic cylinder and no cork so I wasn't sure how to get the queen out and didn't want to injure her.

It is also possible that the virgin queen that emerged from the swarm cell left with the swarm, but I don't know. I'm going to inspect the swarm tomorrow.

(sorry for the long post!)
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If I were in your position, I'd be inclined to sift all the bees through a Queen Excluder. That's not a guaranteed method, as virgins can force their way through a Q/X - but at the very least if one is present she'll have some difficulty getting through and you may just be able to identify and catch her.
Thank you LJ! I was thinking about doing this but needed that extra nudge from some seasoned vets!

Would the caged queen attract the virgin queen? I wasn't sure if the virgin queen would try to kill her or not while she was in the cage. I thought that perhaps this might be the lazy way of finding the virgin queen and moving her out of the hive.
That's a possibility ... but what if nothing happens - would you still feel confident that you're 'virgin-free' ? :)

For me, there's just something rather more 'definite' about the use of a Q/X - ok, so it's not 100% guaranteed - but it's close.

Today I've been marking over-wintered queens, and I just couldn't find one in an 11-frame box which is bursting at the seams - there were just too many bees in there to see anything. I also thought about taking one of the other queens (which was put in a roller cage while the paint dried) and using that as a 'lure' ...

But no - I'm sticking to my Q/X :) I'll divide that colony in half tomorrow, and run the obviously queen-right half through a Marburg Box (which has a built-in Q/X). I guess it's all about sticking with a method that you know has worked many times before ... (old dog/ new tricks etc)
I found a virgin queen! Sure enough, she was running around in the bottom of the box. I was able to trap her and move her to another hive. I'm hoping that she doesn't' fly back to the original hive. I'm going to move her a mile away tomorrow to make sure she doesn't come back. She was a nice looking queen!
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