4.5.2. Preparation of colonies destined to host the multiple queens

The method that follows was described by Zheng et al. (2009a).

  1. Mark the queens (see section 2.4.1) to allow future identification.    
  2. Select combs of emerging brood for the receiver colony.
  3. Slightly shake the combs to trigger flight in the older bees, while young bees tend to remain on the comb.
  4. Place the combs in a hive box with the young bees still clinging to them.
    Alternatively, combs with emerging brood can be kept in an incubator, if available, at 34oC for two days to collect young bees. One to three-day-old workers are preferred to freshly hatched individuals, which may not be able to care for the queens efficiently enough. The amount of combs and bees to be used in the multiple-queen colony depends on the number of queens to be introduced. Four to six combs are used for three to six queen colonies.
  5. Add combs of honey and pollen beside the brood combs to provide enough food.
    Providing stored food is necessary because the colony is deprived of foragers at the beginning.
  6. Place the hive 5-10 m away from their original location to ensure that all remaining foragers (older bees) do not re-enter.
  7. Two days after the receiving colonies were prepared, take the queens out of their original colonies.
    To increase the chance for successful introduction, select queens older than six months since younger queens are more aggressive towards each other. The large abdomens of the egg laying queens might further reduce their ability to fight.
  8. Cut off a third to a half of both the queens’ mandibles with small scissors.
    A good quality pair of small or micro scissors is necessary. Great care should be taken to avoid hurting other appendages of the queens, specifically their antennae, proboscises and forelegs. It is recommended to practice with workers before clipping queens.
  9. Introduce the queens on different frames in the host hives.
    Observe the queens for a minute after their introduction. If the queens are attacked by workers, take them out and spray some honey water on both the workers and queens and then reintroduce the queens into the hive. If the queens are attacked, which may occasionally happen if some of the workers are too old to accept multiple queens, host colonies should be reorganised, making sure that the majority of the workers are young.

To ensure the multiple queen social structure, great care should be taken to maintain the receiver colonies. The necessary steps are described in the next section.