Carniolan bee (Apis mellifera Carnica) in Slovenia

Janez GREGORI

Janez POKLUKAR

Janez MIHELIČ

5.1.

What should be known during the introduction of queens?

Let us look at some general findings that must be considered before setting about introducing queens or requeening. A variety of information circulates among beekeepers about procedures, such as that the queen must be anointed or scented before being introduced, in order to equalise the smell of the queen with the odour of the colony into which the queen is being introduced. For successful introduction, the behaviour of the queen is even more important, as well as conditions at the time of introduction and the time of release from the queen cage

Newly emerged queens are very lively, move quickly over the comb, as if wanting to escape. They remain like that for a considerable time after mating. In this we can be sure that if we open a nucleus hive in which the queen is already laying, we must certainly be careful that she does not escape. The more she lays, the more she calms down, and is finally calmed when she is already surrounding by her own descendants. It can be said that a queen matures after approximately 4-5 weeks. No breeder can keep them in the nucleus hive for so long but almost always removes them after a few days laying, when they are not yet really mature. A buyer must count on that and act accordingly.

Carniolan queens are fertile for at least four years, and can also be for considerably longer. They are only at the height of their power for the first two years. So the majority of beekeepers do not allow older queens in their active hives, but replace them if possible every year.

The weather when queens are introduced and released from the queen cage is important. Success will be ensured in fine, calm weather, when there is at least some forage available. If there is not, we must start some days previously to add sugar syrup to the colony into which we are introducing the queen, and continue feeding for some days after the queen has already been released from the queen cage. In cold and windy weather, when there is no available forage for bees, it is wiser not to start the introduction.

21A - If a colony is queenless, it begins to construct  emergency royal cells.

A colony into which we introduce a queen must be reliably queenless and may not have any royal cells. With a colony in which we are requeening, we know with certainty that after removal it is queenless. We similarly know that a spare hive, which we have made in one of the known ways, is queenless. If for any reason we are not certain whether a colony is really queenless, we must check this. This is done in the following way. From a colony which has an unsealed brood, we take a comb of eggs with at least some eggs or young larvae, which we mark with a drawing pin and place in the centre of the brood chamber of the colony that we are checking, having previously removed its combs. After a few days, we check the introduced comb. If royal cells have formed, there is certainly no queen in the colony and we introduce a new one. We extract the queen cells and do not replace the comb but normally put it back where we took it from.    

The age of the bees in a colony into which we are introducing a queen is very important. Old bees are not friendly to her and it is precisely they who are to blame if the colony does not accept her. So it is very difficult successfully to introduce a queen to a colony that has already been without one for a long time or in which laying worker bees have already appeared. We must also recognise that small colonies more easily accept a young queen than bee colonies in large hives.

 The time of year of requeening is important. She is introduced to spare hives and those without a queen when this is necessary. Otherwise, in replacing a queen in productive hives, we must decide ourselves when to do this. Some beekeepers firmly advocate the replacement of queens in early spring. At the time of the first inspection, they assess the quality of the queen. If she is not suitable in all respects, they replace her irrespective of her age. If the colony is weak, they introduce an entire nucleus hive together with a queen. 

Small colonies must be thoroughly prepared for such a method of requeening, and  nucleus hives must be prepared the previous year. The young queens overwinter in them. Any colony prefers to accept them in spring, because the introduced queens are then already matured, and acceptance is that much more reliable. Remember how important it is that the beekeeper also has some bee colonies in reserve. When he introduces the queen in spring, he does not destroy the old queen that is removed but places her together with a few combs and bees in a reserve hive. The queen first lays there, the beekeeper as necessary takes the comb of eggs and in summer replaces her with a young queen, which overwinters in that hive and is again available in spring for replacing any other exhausted queen.

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