These instructions are based on our observations on the care and introductions of queens. There are many other methods and techniques published, however, these methods have proven to be simple and reliable for us. Still, even under the best circumstances, queen introduction cannot be guaranteed and is subject to conditions outside control of the queen producer.
Honey Run Apiaries uses the JZ-BZ style plastic queen cages as they offer advantages in shipping, caging the queen, and during installation since they can be place in a hive without the removal of a frame. The cage includes a tube that contains candy to feed the queen during shipping and before introduction and a small plastic cork next to the tube if direct release of a queen is necessary.
Care Upon Arrival
When you receive your queen, open the box and place a drop of water on the cage. The attendants and workers will be thirsty and hungry and the water will help dissolve the candy. Inspect the cage to check if the queen is alive and moving. It is not uncommon for one or more attendants to be dead in the cage, but that is not an indication of any problem.
It is best to install the queen as soon as possible, however a caged queens can survive for several days before introduction if cared for. Keep the cage in a dark place at room temperature and place a drop of water on the cage once or twice a day. Avoid keeping the queen in any location where it might become in contact with pesticides or any residues of pesticides.
The hive the queen is to be introduced into must have no queen or queen cells. Ideally the hive should be queen less for at least 24 hours. If a hive has been left queen-less for more than 24 hours you may need to inspect the hive and remove any queen cells that have been started.
Do not poke a hole through the candy, encouraging early release by poking a hole is not advisable. The Candy serves as food during shipping and storage before introduction and a timed release. However, the candy is a poor timing mechanism and queens may often be released too early, often in less than 1 or 2 days. In fact, in our experience, early release is the most common reason for a unsuccessful introduction.
Introduction should take between 2-4 days for normal mated queens. With virgin queens we recommend 4-5 days. To extend the introduction time we recommend putting duct tape over the candy end of the cage for the first day or two before removing it and letting the bees eat the candy to release the queen.
The cage should be place in the middle of the brood nest, or middle of the cluster if no brood is present. Place the cage tightly between two frames so that it does not fall. The candy should be placed on the top so that any dead attendance don’t block the hole from the inside. Make sure the candy is not blocked.
The cage should always be checked in 5-6 days to ensure the queen has been released and the candy has not dried out. If the queen has not been release at this point, she may be released manually by popping the plastic cork next to the candy tube. Pop the cork and place your finger quickly over the hole, then place the cage back in the hive and close the hive so that the queen doesn’t fly away.
For difficult introductions such as hives with laying workers, additional time for introduction may be needed. You can inspect the behavior of the workers towards to cage to determine if the queen is accepted. If the workers are clinging tightly to the cage and biting at the cage then the queen has not been accepted and needs more time before release. If, however, the workers can easily be brushed off the cage and have tongues out trying to feed the queen through the cage, then she has been accepted and can be release immediately.