New queens–UPDATE 7/10

I had decided to add new genetics to my apiary. I prefer varroa-resistant traits from local breeders. But as new honey bee strains are developed, I expect to add those as well. I do not plan to use these queens as replacements for my main hives, but keep them for my own nucs and to make/sell extra nucs. I wanted anything that decreases mite load or increases mite resistance. Clearly the number of drones created from these queens will just be a drop in the bucket in the local DCAs, but I believe if every beekeeper in the area made an effort to keep just one VSH queen (or equivalent), it could make a difference in the battle against mites. However, something to consider which many do not, is that these queens are from breeders and the breeders are from a specific line of bees. So the genetics is not varied. I expect that having an apiary consisting of 2 or 3 different varroa hygienic bees will be key to success. There are several lines that are being developed or are currently available which are considered to be either mite-tolerant or varroa-sensitve/hygienic: VSH (uncap mite-infested pupa), so-called “ankle-biters” (attack mites), Russian bees (mite resistant). There may be others I’m not aware of.

So I picked up 2 VSH queens (Italian) from Log Cabin Bee Farm. They came in JZBZ queen cages like this:
VSH queens

The q-tips are there to provide water (just add a couple of drops to keep it moist), the pink plugs are attached to the candy end (candy end UP) and held between brood frames via that little fork-like extension for 2 days. After 2 days, if the queen appears to have been accepted and you want to allow the candy to be removed by the bees, remove the pink plug, use those wooden sticks taped to the orange base to hold the queen cage between frames with the candy end DOWN. DO NOT PIERCE THE QUEEN!!

Check in two more days, if the queen has been released remove the cages and leave them closed for the next 2 weeks.

Tip from the queen breeder:
One way to check whether the bees are being aggressive toward the queen is to gently push the bees away from the cage, if they move easily then they’re calm. If they resist being moved (likely gripping cage with mandibles) then they’re aggressive toward the queen. You’ll need to make sure there’s no queen in there or a laying worker. But laying workers usually take about 3-4 weeks to develop.

To prepare for the queens, on Sunday I had removed a frame of capped brood and a frame of mostly capped brood from the hives to make 2 nucs (plus capped food). Before adding the queens, I made sure to remove any started queen cells.
started queen cells

I will do this again before exposing the candy–one frame had open brood and I want to make sure they’re not thinking of making a new queen.

Here they are, suspended between capped brood. That capped brood will emerge and WANT to accept that queen. She’ll be the only queen they know and will gladly accept her as their own. Once the queen has laid her own brood, there will be bees that smell like her and acceptance is improved. I hope they don’t try to supersede these ladies. There is a divider between the nucs.
VSH queen installed

I went to check on the queens and noticed more bees than I expected in the nucs–looked for more queen cells and as I did I saw quite a bit of debris on the hive stand through the screened bottom. Hmmmmmm. Looked like bits of wax to me. I pulled the frames of honey and saw that the cell edges were jagged and EMPTY. Robbed out. Damn robbers. Probably my big hives were robbing the little queen nucs.

I left the pink caps on the queen cages to protect the new queens from the robbers and closed the entrances completely. Can I even get across to you HOW MANY BEES were trying to get in there?? Within 20 minutes they were all gone.

I do not have another hive stand that I can put them on. So my only option is to move them closer to the house somewhere. I need to feed them and protect them. But I need to feel ALL of the hives to keep this from happening. I was planning on starting that when I got back from vacation but looks like I’ll be starting sooner. Oh brother.



  1. Please can you explain the reasoning behind turning the cage candy side down? I have heard some people say the queen should be left to come out candy side up, as then any dead attendants will fall to the bottom of the cage and won’t block the way out. But I’ve also heard some people say candy down is the best way, would be interested in your thoughts on it.

    • With the JZBZ cage, I think there is less of a chance of the entrance being blocked. But for these queens, they were just packaged that morning and placed into the nucs that afternoon. I think the chance of attendants dying is greater when the queen is in transit for longer or with older bees. But the cage is suspended by a stick placed through the other end and this makes the candy face downward. For a regular wooden queen cage, I would place it horizontally. I don’t buy queens regularly (these are my third purchase) so my experience with queen cages is limited.

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