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Discussion Starter #1
I've been reading a lot of books in preparation for my pickup of two packages in a few weeks. The newest book I have is "The Backyard Beekeeper" by Kim Flottum, copyrighted 2010 which I assume is an updated version. Aside from the very small print, this seems to be a good book for beginners (like me).

Around page 90 or so, the author mentions a 50% likelihood that your queen will either not be accepted, die or be infertile. The reason given is miticides and chemical fallout affecting the queen and drones she is mated with. The author also says to wait 5 days or more before pulling the 'cork' covering the candy entrance to the queens cage... in order to study the bees reaction to her. Only after the bees seem to accept the new queen, you can remove the cork and allow her to escape in another 3 days.

My questions for the forum are, is there really a half/half likelihood of failure of the package queen, and should I wait 5 days or more before removing the plug?

Larry
 

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The new plastic queen cages do not have corks. We made hives from splits with plastic queen cages and one package bee hive. Of the 16 hives we made in class last year only one whole hive died and it was due to robbing. The recommendation is so the workers will get her scent. If they were nurse bees or queenless for a day or more in transit you should be good. It takes enough time to chew out the candy plug in either cage design. I think most of the losses can be attributed to a second queen still alive in the hive or laying workers. Requeening usually occurs because the old girl is worn out. She may not know they have already replaced her.
 

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I haven't done a study on it, so I can only speak of my personal experience, but I think saying the queen in a package has a 50/50 success rate is very low. I have been ordering packages for years and have never had a queen not be accepted (I might be the odd one out though). But this 50% rate depends on over what time frame. If the author is saying over the course of the next year, I would believe that, but being accepted into the hive when you install the package, it's much higher then 50%.

I think by the author saying you need to wait 5 days to pull the cork, then 3 more days to let the queen escape is absurd. The queen has been with the package for 2+ days while in shipping. If the day it comes you pull the plug, that gives it another 3 days, for a total of 5 days for the bees to accept her. They are in swarm mode anyway, and that is plenty of time.

It only takes about a day or two for the old queen scent to leave. Most people call it at three days to be on the safe side. Ten days total (2 shipping, 5 waiting, 3 to get through the candy) is way too long in my opinion.

But again, maybe I'm just lucky.
 

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The queen is introduced and accepted while the package is in transit. She can be released immediately and directly without loss. I commonly insert a queen in cage, candy exposed, at the same time as killing of the old or creating a nuc. To me acceptance is much more dependent on queen quality and field conditions than on method.
 

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I don't think Flottum is talking about packages when advocating a five day wait to pull the cork in a queen cage. No reason for that. In fact I've had good luck direct releasing the queen when installing packages. Flottum is probably talking about requeening, in which case a three-day wait may be reasonable depending on the hive situation. Sometimes leaving the cork in for a few days and then checking to see if the bees are biting at the cage or are acting friendlier will help you determine if there's still a queen somewhere in the hive.
 

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Another factor that affects acceptance is how long the queen was laying in her mating nuc before she was caged. Most of the literature states that acceptance goes up significantly after three weeks. This allows the queen to mature and develop her full complement of pheromones. We like to have ours lay for a minimum of two brood cycles before caging, this way the queens are thoroughly vetted, matured, and acceptance should be very high as long as basic best practices are followed.

http://www.apidologie.org/index.php...=/articles/apido/abs/2004/04/M4018/M4018.html

"The survival of honey bee Apis mellifera queens to 14 days and 15 weeks after introduction into an established bee colony increases with increasing age of the queen at introduction."
 

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If they are getting a 50% failure rate on acceptance then someone is doing something really wrong.

We place hundreds of new queens in splits and run maybe a one percent to three percent failure to accept rate and that is usually because with that many queens you are bound to get some bad ones. (damaged, weak, stupid or really ugly to the other bees)

Like MB says with packages the queen is usually accepted during transit. With splits try misting the hive with sugar water and lemongrass. That gets the bees licking themselves and the strong smell of the lemongrass erases any lingering pheromones of the old queen. They finish grooming and the smell lessens and presto...new queen smell they readily accept.
 

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"I don't think Flottum is talking about packages when advocating a five day wait to pull the cork in a queen cage."

I agree. For package bees you want the queen to start laying as soon as possible and five days is "almost" another week behind. We assume that most packages spend some time in transit, [1-2 days?] so the bees have time to accept the queen. If you were to pick up a package that had just been made up on the premises of the packager, that might be different.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for the replies and the advice... I feel more comfortable letting the bees work through the candy in 3 days, rather than waiting 8 or more. Again, this was on pages 90-92, and was in the section about installing package bees, not re-queening.

This is the newest book I own, dated 2010 and came with the Brushy Mountain beginners kit. They were out of stock in December, and shipped it months later (they were probably waiting for the new version to release).

Larry
 
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