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Guideline: How to introduce queen bees

We are selling queen bees, and beginners often will come to ask for guidance when introducing the queen, they just bought from us. I thought I would collate my thoughts on the matter in a blog post.

Check for signs of a queen

So, let’s assume that you have determined that your hive is without a queen and that you want/need to buy a new one to replace her. At first may I suggest you read one of my previous blog posts about “what to do with queen less hives”? It gives a very thorough explanation of what might be happening.

In short, the first step should be to determine whether introducing a new queen is the right choice.

The absence of eggs and you not being able to find any queens are not a sure sign of there actually not being any queens, depending on the circumstances. The presence of emergency cells (different from swarm or supersedure cells) however is.

Also, before ordering a queen make sure that the hive is healthy (apart from not having a queen). Sometimes you might encounter a hive that is in the last (and terminal) stages of PMS with a handful of bees, without a queen (as she has already fled or died). Beginners might be poised to buy a queen and do whatever it takes to save that hive (not realising its already doomed). So before ordering a replacement queen for a hive ask yourself honestly whether you really need one.

Provided you do, let us start with you receiving an envelope with the writing “live bees” on it in your mailbox. First make sure she does not have to stay there for too long, especially if it is a really hot day and your mailbox is exposed to the sun. There are only a few bees with the queen, and they can not regulate the temperature around her. If she is exposed to temperatures above 40 degrees, she will likely take permanent damage. Metal mailboxes exposed to the sun in the middle of summer will easily reach that. The same is of course true if it is a really cold day. So, take her inside as soon as possible. If you need to store her for a few hours (or till the next day) keep her at a dark and cool (but not cold!) spot that is well ventilated. This minimizes stress.

As soon as you are ready to introduce her do an inspection of the hive you want to place her in. According to murphy’s law you will now find eggs or even spot a laying queen. In that case obviously do not introduce the other queen, she will just get killed.

Check the hive for disease

Check for signs of disease, and if there are emergency cells make sure to remove all of them. For this you will want to shake the bees off of each and every frame of the brood chamber and thoroughly check them. If you miss a single emergency cell and leave it standing the bees are likely to just kill the introduced queen and keep their own genetics.

After the inspection is done reassemble the brood chambers. In the topmost chamber increase the space between two adjacent frames in the centre. This gap is where the cage will sit.

Once that has been done, you are finally ready to introduce the new queen. Carefully remove the plastic cage from the packaging. Most queen cages have their exit on one side which has been blocked off with fondant candy, additionally secured via a plastic “gate”. This gate needs to be broken away from the cage with your hive tool. This exposes the fondant to the outside so that the bees in the hive can eat it (over the course of a day or two) and thus release the new queen. Opposite of the gate will likely be a plastic loop that allows for a toothpick (or small twig) to be poked through. This toothpick merely serves to ensure the cage does not fall down to the hive floor. The cage can now be positioned in the centre of the gap you formed earlier dangling from the toothpick.

If you are running with double brood chambers you can also just place the cage on the top bars of the lower brood frames (remove any wax bridges in that area first).

The placement of the cage is not super critical but generally you want it to be placed near the centre of the brood nest (or where the brood nest would be). This ensures that the new queen’s pheromone is distributed inside the hive. Do not place the cage on the hive floor, the bees will likely ignore her there and not release her.

Do a check up on the queen

My advice would be to do another check after 2 days to remove the cage, and check whether she has been released. Sometimes the fondant can harden making it impossible for the bees to release her, in which case you will want to release her manually. Do not pull out any frames, just carefully pull out the cage, and have a look. Do not try to shake off any bees by shaking the cage, if the queen is still inside this will agitate/panic her. Freshly introduced queens that are panicked often still get killed.
Check if the candy plug has been removed. If it has not the queen will still be in there. In this case I would advise carefully opening the cage. Make sure to do this while the cage is directly above the brood chamber of the hive you want to introduce the queen into. Sometimes the caged queen will try to get out of the cage as soon as an opening emerges. If she does and falls down, she will land where she is supposed to go anyway.

If she is a bit more relaxed place her on one of the top bars of the brood chamber. Queens do not like daylight and the exposure will likely make her walk down into one of the gaps between frames within a few seconds. Alternatively, just place the opened cage on the top bars with the opening pointed downwards and wait a minute or two.

Sometimes the candy plug might be gone but the queen is still inside the cage. In this case proceed as above.

After you have confirmed that the queen is no longer in (or on) the cage you can shake the rest of the bees off and remove it. Carefully close the hive and do not open it for at least a week, ideally two while she settles in. Laying more and more eggs will make her produce more pheromone which will make the bees accept her as their queen.

After the wait feel free to do an inspection to see if the introduction did work out. If it has, you will see eggs and fresh brood. If you can not find any eggs, this will either mean that the hive did not accept the queen and killed her, or that the queen was not yet laying. If you bought the queen from us, it’s the former as we make sure all queens have been laying for a few weeks before we sell them.


If you have ordered a queen but found out that it is not the right thing to do to introduce her into one hive, there are a few things you can do. First is to see whether she has already been shipped, if not, get in contact with us and we can issue a refund and not send her. But most likely she will already be on her way (or might already have arrived). In this case you could make a new split with her. We would generally advise against trying to store queens inside a cage for prolonged periods of time, even inside a hive.

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