Research Paper Results
This LASI project shows that both virgin and mated queens can be introduced directly into queenless hives with high success. The hive is heavily smoked at queen introduction. A cage is not used. Virgins require a longer queenless period than mated queens, but 100% acceptance is possible with both.
In Experiment 1 virgins (78 in total) were introduced into nucleus hives with 5 medium-depth Langstroth frames with bees and brood on 2-3 frames 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 days after the queen had been removed (13 for each queenless period). Virgins were 3 days old at introduction. They had been held in wooden 3-hole queen cages with attendant workers and fed honey. Each hive was heavily smoked through the entrance and onto the frames after removing the lid. The amount of smoke was several times more than used to make a regular hive inspection. The queen was then allowed to walk out of her cage onto the top bars before closing the hive. One day after introduction the hive was inspected to determine if the queen was present (accepted). Acceptance was: 6 days queenlessness (100%), 5 days (100%), 4 days (92%), 3 days (92%), 2 days (85%), 1 day (31%).
In Experiment 3, following heavy smoking 15 mated queens were directly introduced into larger hives (10 medium-depth Langstroth frames with 6-7 frames of bees) that had been queenless for 2 days. Queens had been held in queen cages with attendants for 3 days and were fed candy. Acceptance was 100%.
In Experiment 2, mated and virgin queens were introduced into observation hives that had been queenless for 1-4 days. Mated queens were never chased by the workers and the workers always formed a court around them. Virgins were always chased and workers never formed a court around them. Mated queens were more readily accepted than virgins, and longer queenlessness resulted in greater acceptance of virgins.
Direct queen introduction is not as commonly recommended or used as the cage method. However, the results show that it can give excellent results. It is important that the hive is queenless for several days prior to introduction. Direct introduction is less work as the queen can be introduced via the hive entrance, so that the hive does not need to be opened to introduce the cage or release the queen.
Perez-Sato, J. A., Kärcher, M. H., Hughes, W. O. H., Ratnieks, F. L. W. 2008. Direct introduction of mated and virgin queens using smoke: a method that gives almost 100% acceptance when hives have been queenless for 2 days or more. Journal of Apicultural Research 47: 243-250.
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© F. Ratnieks, June 2016