Honey bee behavior: Introducing a mated queen to a queenless colony with 3-4 day old queen cells already in progress.
Many people ask, how do you know she’s ready to be released?
For educational purposes we videotaped the behavior of workers towards a caged mated queen. After the video we then released her after only 10 minutes. They bit and tugged at her as she moved down into the frames. A few minutes later she was found balled by a small group of bees, maybe 20 or so, some of which were stinging her. A second caged queen was placed in the hive shortly after, but after five days the behavior on the cage – although a bit less “nervous” – still did not look that different than this video, and they kept their capped queen cells. It’s not always clear what the workers will do based on their behavior on a queen cage. We chose not to sacrifice a second queen.
This isn’t always the case. Recently a mated queen from some unknown hive in the area moved into one of our small colonies made queenless 6 days earlier. She killed the sealed queens, and the workers accepted her without issue. They were an exceptionally docile colony which may have influenced this outcome, or perhaps her pheromones were not yet fully developed even though she had immediately commenced laying eggs.
This is the reason why it’s good practice to keep the queen caged for three days or more before she is let out. It’s also good practice to keep a queen excluder on the hive entrances when bees are raising new queens. The safest way to introduce a queen is to confine her on capped brood using #8 wire mesh so that newly emerging bees become her attendants.