How Long Can I Keep a Caged Queen Bee Alive?
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Dave D asks — I bought a queen that it turns out I don’t need; the hive re-queened itself. I decided I would try and make a nuc with her. I put some frames of brood and bees from a strong hive in it. I placed the queen cage on top of the bars to see their response. It is obvious they weren’t ready so I’ve decided to wait several days and try again. So my question is, how do I keep her alive and how long can I expect to do so. There are attendants in the cage with her.
Rusty Burlew replies:
Caged queens can be kept a week to 10 days, and perhaps a day or two longer. But queens lose quality when they are kept from laying for long periods, and the quality of their pheromones decreases, so always keep the storage time as short as possible. I have kept many queens seven or eight days with no problem, but I’ve also had a couple die in that period. A little luck seems to be involved.
Always keep the queen cage in a warm, dark, draft-free environment. The truth is, I keep mine in a drawer with socks and underwear. The drawer fits the “warm, dark, and draft-free” requirement perfectly, even if non-beekeepers think it’s a bit weird. The queen and her attendants will need water. I usually wet my finger and spread some water on the screen of the cage. Just make sure some of the little squares are filled. I usually do this twice a day, morning and evening. If you have lots of attendants, you may want to do it more often.
If they will be caged for more than a few days, I put sugar in the water unless they have a sugar plug in the cage. Also, some of the attendants may start to die simply because they don’t live very long. If you can, take out the dead ones. I’d rather see a cage with no attendants than one with dead attendants because the dead one can grow pathogenic organisms. Some queen producers don’t even use attendants, so don’t be afraid to go without.
We hope this helps!