4.2. Maintenance of queens before and after instrumental insemination

The pre- and post-insemination treatment of queens will influence their performance. Maintain queens with a high proportion of nurse bees in well-fed nursery and/or nucleus colonies (see Büchler et al., 2013). Direct release of queens into colonies after insemination enhances sperm migration (Woyke, 1983).

  1. Optimize queen rearing conditions.
    a. Rearing conditions influence queen size, the number of ovarioles, and spermatheca capacity (see Büchler et al., 2013).
  2. Place mature queen cells in individual cages before emergence.
    a. Emerge virgins in a nursery colony or incubator.
    b. After emergence, remove their wax cells to prevent queens crawling into them and dying.
  3. Cage each newly emerged virgin queen individually in a nucleus colony for several days (5-14) before insemination.
    a. Queens banked in a nursery colony can be subject to injury by workers resulting in damaged legs and tarsi (Woyke, 1988).
    b. If banking is necessary, use a well-fed queenless colony maintained with open brood (eggs and larvae) and a high proportion of young nurse bees.
  4. After insemination, release each queen directly into her established nucleus colony. Use a spray of sugar water (preferably scented with anise oil some other fragrant) or a small candy plug in a queen cage to facilitate introduction.
    a. Note the behaviour of the queen upon release. If aggressive worker behaviour is observed, cage the queen and provide a slow release (i.e. release her 3-4 days later and observe worker behaviour; repeat if necessary).
    b. If queens have been banked, use a screened push in cage (Fig. 24) or another similar slow-release method (see Büchler et al., 2013).
    c. To prevent unwanted natural mating flights of I.I. queens (Woyke and Janinski, 1992), place queen excluder material on the colony entrance until eggs are observed.
  5. Allow queens to build their own populations naturally.
    a. I.I. queens are slower than naturally mated queens to develop their full pheromone blends and tend to supersede when placed in large colonies initially.

Fig. 24. A queen “push-in” cage. These cages can be used to introduce newly-inseminated queens into colonies. To use, place the queen on a section of capped/emerging brood. Push the cage around the queen and brood, firmly into the wax comb. Leave queen in cage with emerging brood for 3-4 days. Following this time, the cage can be removed and the queen released into the colony. If eggs are not observed at release, place a queen excluder over the colony entrance until the queen begins laying.