Introducing a virgin queen to a nucleus with smoke
The conventional method by which a nucleus is provided with a virgin queen using a mature queen cell has been described in 'the nucs' in the 'queen' menu above. It might, however, be the case that a newly emerged virgin queen will become available and another method is required.

The use of smoke to introduce a mated queen to a queenless colony was mentioned by L.E. Snelgrove in his book 'The Introduction of Queen Bees" but he did appear to be much in favour of the method. Although in particular he quotes an author "Fernes who relates that he has used the smoke method 'under every conceivable condition', reduces the hive entrance to about 4 inches in width, and into this he injects 'lots of smoke' until the bees roar. He then uncovers the hive and drops the queen between the combs. He recovers the hive immediately less the queen 'may take fright at the confusion and fly away'. When the bees have become quiet he restores the full entrance."

Snelgrove does not mention this method for the introduction of a virgin queen to a nuc. Perhaps because Snelgrove did not value this procedure little is known of the method in the general bee literature.

However, the method was researched and described in a paper published in 2008 :
"Direct introduction of mated and virgin queens using smoke: a method that gave almost 100% acceptance when the hives have been queenless for 2 days or more" [35]

What seems remarkable about this paper is that it almost guarantees 100% success! when the nuc has been queenless for 5 or 6 days.
I have now used this method on numerous occasions and would agree with this claim.
The technique which I have used with success is as follows:
day 0
Make up the 5 frame nuc using 2 frames of mature brood (no grubs or eggs) with the adhering bees; 1 frame stores; 1 drawn frame and 1 frame with foundation. Shake in more bees if thought necessary. Close up the entrance to the nuc. Put on a jar feeder and leave for 3 days.

day 3
The nuc will now have formed its own identity so the entrance can be opened. The feeder is removed at this time. Any mature bees may leave the nuc and return to the original colony. Bees maturing in the nuc will start to forage and learn to use the entrance. Bees will be seen returning after two days with pollen. The small colony will recognize that it is queenless.

day 5 or 6
The virgin queen has emerged in its retaining cage. It must be remembered that a virgin is very runny and flighty and that if the opportunity is now taken to mark the queen this must be done where there is no chance that she can fly off and so be lost. After marking, the virgin is put into a suitable cage and the action is transferred to the nuc

If the nuc has an open mesh floor this must be closed from underneath. With the smoker primed for lots of smoke, 5 or 6 strong puffs are blown into the narrow entrance and likewise 5 or 6 puffs are blown onto the top bars. The bees will set up a roar showing they do not approve of the experience but they come to no harm.
A cloth is used to cover the tops bars and the cage containing the virgin is placed underneath the cloth. The virgin is released and with some luck will disappear between the frames. However, experience has shown that some queens are reluctant and will stay on the top bars. The cloth should not be removed quickly but slowly with puffs of smoke to ensure the virgin disappears between the frames and so safely into the nuc. Finally 5 or 6 strong puffs of smoke are again blown into the entrance and on to the top bars. The crown board is immediately put on and the feeder replaced. The nuc is now left undisturbed for about 3 weeks.

day 26
The virgin needs about 5 days to mature; takes about 7 days to get mated and a further 8 days for the first brood to be sealed. So all in all if everything has gone to plan sealed brood should be found after 21 days.
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