2.3.4. Requeening colonies

There is no perfectly reliable method to introduce new queens to a colony. The success of queen introduction depends on the attractiveness of the new queen and the previous queen status of the colony. Unmated queens are less attractive than mated queens, and egg laying queens are much more easily accepted than queens that have stopped egg laying due to longer transport or other reasons. The best time for requeening is during a good nectar flow. It is important to make the recipient colony queenless for at least 6-8 hours, sometimes for 1 day. Furthermore, it is essential to destroy queen cells being reared by the colony before releasing the queen (even by hand after several days if the workers are not biting the cage). One should use a push-in cage to introduce queens during a low to marginal nectar flow as this allows the queen to begin oviposition, thus increasing the likelihood of her acceptance.

The most popular method is to replace the previous queen directly with the new one in its shipping cage. The candy compartment on the cage is exposed to allow the bees to slowly release the queen after consuming the candy. The success can be improved if the queen to be replaced is caged for about 7 days before requeening.

Under difficult conditions or for the introduction of highly valuable queens, it is recommended to introduce the queen into a nucleus colony (also known as an “artificial swarm”, “split” or “nuc”). Those small units usually accept any kind of queen. The queens can then be safely introduced into strong hives by placing the nucleus with the new queen on top of the strong hives separated by an insert with screens on both sides to avoid direct contact of the bees. Heat from the larger parent colony will pass into the upper unit and support the development of the nucleus colony. As soon as the young queen has built a brood nest and is surrounded by her own young bees, it is ready to be combined with the parent colony. The old queen from the strong colony and the double screen are removed and the young queen in its nuc colony is put on top of the brood box of the strong colony, just separated by a sheet of newspaper containing several slits. In this way, a requeening success of 95-100 % can be expected.