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Installing a New Queen

Before you install a new queen, it is important to determine why a new queen is necessary. Upon checking the hive the old queen is missing. Did the hive swarm? Are you doing a split? Is the hive temperamental or the laying pattern scattered?

When introducing a new queen, it is important to follow some simple steps. You must determine if there are any potential reasons why the hive might reject a new queen. A very simple test is the “wipe test”.

Place the new queen on top of the frames of the hive. Wait 5-10 minutes until the bees have discovered her and they have gathered on the queen cage. Wipe your finger across the cage to remove the bees. If they are easily removed it is a good indication everything is ok. If the bees are clinging to the cage like Velcro, they are trying to kill her, and it is quite possible there is something in the hive that tells the bees they don’t need a new queen. You must determine the reason. Do not install the new queen until you do. Reasons include the hive has a queen, queen cells are present, you have laying workers or the pheromone from the old queen is still present.

If you are re-queening or splitting the hive, it is critical that the old queen pheromone be gone before adding the new queen. This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours. If you have screened bottom boards, remove the insert. This causes the old queen’s pheromone to dissipate more quickly. Note you will need to put it back before introducing the new queen. Queens don’t like light so if the insert is left out, she could leave. Once she has started laying (10 days or so) you can remove the insert if you wish. If doing a split, we recommend the old queen go with the split and the new queen go in the original hive.

If there are queen cells, you will need to remove all of them. Leave both corks in for two days. Then check again for queen cells and remove all you find. Only then should you remove the cork from the candy end. It can take 2-4 days for the hive to release the queen. In the meantime, the nurse bees will care for the queen, even in the cage. 3-4 days after the candy end cork is removed, check to see if she is out. If not, is the exit blocked? If it is, you will need to a direct release.

When doing a direct release, the hive should be closed. Take the queen cage to the front entrance. Remove the cork from the non-candy end and immediately cover with your finger. Put the queen cage at the entrance and remove your finger. The queen should walk into the hive. We do not recommend doing a direct release on top of the frames as all too often we have seen the queen fly away.

Once you have determined the queen is in the hive, leave it alone for 6-8 days. You can then check the hive for eggs and larvae which indicates a successful introduction.

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