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Updated Virgin Queen Introduction Protocol

You may have noticed that Stevens Bee Company stopped taking pre orders, and moved to posting "ready to ship" queen inventory. This took the chaos and guesswork out of variable weekly production, coupled with variable beekeepers schedules. The chaos and stress of trying to predict production, and communicate a week or more in advance was making me go bald much faster than normal. With "ready to ship" inventory, the beekeeper doesn't have time to make nucleus colonies up a week or more in advance to follow "the Stevens Method" of creating the perfect "hopelessly queen-less" scenario found in nature when virgins are normally introduced. (No eggs or young larvae to try and make an emergency queen, but older open brood and capped brood are present). We can achieve the same scenario and success with a different approach, and here is how we do it.

When you receive your Stevens' Bee Company virgin queens, or when your order is confirmed, you can make up nucleus colonies or make the recipient colony(s) queen-less. When the virgin queens arrive, you need to get them into their nucleus colonies ASAP so they can be fed and watered by the workers. BEFORE adding the candy cages to the colonies, securely tape over the candy to prevent the queens from being released. Electrical or duct tape both work great. Wait 7-9 days from when the recipient colony or nuc was made queen-less. Brush the bees off all the brood frames and destroy any emergency queen cells. They can be quite small and hard to spot with bees covering the frames. Once the emergency queen cells have been destroyed, remove the tape from the virgin queen cage and allow a delayed candy release. Do not manually release the virgins as they are prone to flying after a few days of age. The delayed candy release also gives the colony time to realize they are hosed and she is their only hope before she is released in the colony. Their attitude towards her drastically changes during that short time period. I recommend feeding the colonies thin syrup (2 parts water to 1 part sugar) during the introduction phase and continue until the colony is firmly established. This will allow them to feed much more brood than they normally could based on the size of their foraging force and varying strength of the nectar flow. New queens want to lay a lot, which will allow the colony to gain strength rapidly if they can feed everyone. You can crack the lid to check to make sure she was released if you're worried about the candy, but DO NOT dig through the frames for at least 2.5 weeks. This will allow her to get settled in, mate, and establish her brood nest before we beekeepers start fiddling around in her nest. Often at 2.5 weeks after release, many queens will have capped brood on the frames. Some take their time, and start laying a bit later. If there is no sign of the queen at 3.5 weeks, the combs should be added to another colony that mated successfully so the valuable combs are not destroyed by wax moths.

There is risk in open mating, so it is recommended to buy a few more queens than needed. We often add extras to orders just in case as we guarantee live delivery. With "the Stevens method" it is quite common to get 80+ percent mating success with our virgin queens. The colonies our queens head should be quite productive, and be some of the most mite resistant bees currently available on the market. Good luck!!


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