August 14, 2018 -So to summarize my situation, I had one large hive that had been queenless for about two months, and had just received a nuc filled with four frames, a few thousand bees, and a mating queen.
My goal was to revive my main hive by getting it a queen. Here were my options with the pros and cons:
Option 1: Give up on my main hive and use it to supply my new nucleus hive with resources.
Pros- this was probably the safest bet. Cons- it wasted the tens of thousands of bees from my main hive.
Option 2: This was recommended by Bill the Beeman. Use the nucleus hive as my main hive and add one frame of bees from the my original hive every couple of days.
Pros: It might work in combining both hives. Cons: it would take a few weeks to accomplish and the summer is running out. Even with this plan, there was still a chance that the new frames of bees I would add would attack and kill the queen.
Option 3: Take the queen out of the nuc, put her in a queen cage for protection, and see if she was accepted. If so, put her in a push-in cage on a frame with eggs so she had time for the other bees to accept her fully.
Here’s a video of using a push-in cage.
Pros- this would be the quickest way of giving my main hive a queen. It’d also give me a chance to make a second queen with the remaining nuc. Cons- the bees may not accept her or initially accept her, only to be killed by bees lower in the hive.
Well, although I had been queenless for two months and faced certain hive collapse if it didn’t work, I decided to do option 3.
I opened my new nuc, searched, and searched……and searched until I finally found the queen, put her in a little queen cage, and set her in the main hive to see how they’d react. After watching for about 10 minutes, they seemed to be accepting her and I was ready to put her in a push-in cage on a frame. I made sure it was big enough (about a 5in by 5in), had food, nurse bees for her, and room to lay eggs. Set her in the main hive and was ready to wait a few days to see how things were going.
As usual, things didn’t go that easily. I hastily checked in the hive the next day to make sure she was safely in her cage. My heart dropped when I saw a cage FILLED with bees, much more than the amount I added with the queen. I was certain I had tried to be greedy one too many times and now I was going to be with nothing.
I decided to search the hive, hoping for a sign she was around. That’s when I saw this:
She was in and accepted!!! The hive was finally queenright! Once I saw this, I immediately put the hive back together and got out of there, wanting to make sure I didn’t screw things up again. Finally back to normal!
Did you know? There are a variety of cages for queens for a variety of reasons. Most are used to keep the queen solitary until the right time. Due to the small size of bees, cages have to be made with 1/8 in hardware mesh.