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Queen Bank


Queen Banking is a technique for caring for queens prior to introducing them into new hives.   The queens arrive via mail or perhaps from a fellow beekeeper who recently did a cross country tour and came home with a truck load of queens and package bees.  Generally the queens arrive in a matchbook sized wooden box with a screen on one side.  The box has a candy plug on one side.  When the queen is introduced into a new hive the bees have a chance to get used to the new queen's pheromone while they take a day or so to eat the candy and thereby release the queen into the hive.  But requeening a hive is another story.

So here's a technique for creating a queen bank.

The first requirement is to find 3 frames with brood, eggs, larve and lots of nurse bees. Be sure to take these from strong, healthy hives only.  Once a qualifying frame has been found, a light shake will remove most of the field bees.  The nurse bees will cling on tightly.  But the situation begs the question: "Can I be sure that this frame does not include the old queen?" Well, set this frame aside and follow the same procedure until you have three frames of brood and nurse bees.  Now, take the 3 frames with brood and eggs, shake all bees on to a bottom board, cover with queen excluder and empty deep super. Place the 3 beeless frames in the empty super and cover. In about 5 minutes virtually all the bees will have worked their way up into the super. If the old queen was on any of the 3 frames she should now be under the queen excluder.  If you spot the old queen under the excluder, place her carefully back in her hive.  Now place the 3 frames of brood in an empty nuc and brush or shake any remaining bees above the excluder into the nuc.  A nuc is basically a deep super, but only half as wide so that only 5 frames can be accomodated.  Be sure to do this on the warmest possible day so as not to chill the brood.

The next step is to find a nearly full frame of honey, and preferrably with some nice ribbons of pollen. Set this frame near one of the inside walls of the nuc.  If the honey is completely sealed, scratch open a small section and face this side toward the center of the nuc.  Place a frame of brood next to the honey frame and then slide the other two frames of brood to the other side of the nuc, so that an empty space is available near the center of the nuc.  This is where the special frame containing the queen cages is placed. The queen cages are placed in the bottom of holding frame, with the screen side up. Place this frame in nuc. Lightly spray the nurse bees with fresh vanilla water (one tablespoon of vanilla flavoring in a pint of water) so that the queen pheromones are muted. If there is not ample quantities of pollen in the honey comb it can be helpful to sprinkle a little pollen (store bought is OK) on the top bars of the frames near the inner walls of the nuc.   Don't over do it because the pollen can end up in the queen cages, thereby crowding the queen and her attendants. That's all there is to it.   The queens should be OK in the queen bank for several days and even up to a couple of weeks.  Of course you want to get them installed in their permanent homes as soon as possible so as not to lose valuable honey production time.