The Queen bees arrive from Australia around the third week of May. Each year our winter losses are replaced by dividing strong colonies that have survived the winter into two or three nuclei {small colonies}

I try and order the queens arrival to coincide with the blooming of the first flower of spring, the dandelion. Although a nuisance to some, the dandelion is of great benefit to the beekeeper, as for the first time since late September, the bees are able to forage for themselves and the dandelion flower gives a great boost to the colonies.

Prior to the Queens leaving Australia, the Queen breeder places the queen in the shipping cage, which is about the size of a matchbox, along with six worker bees who act as attendants to the Queen during the long journey ahead. A small piece of sugar candy is placed at one end of the shipping cage as a food source which the attendants will use to feed the Queen and themselves. The queens are shipped air mail and within thirty six hours arrive at the local post office.

The Queen with all her attendants.

Weather permitting, we take the new arrivals to a bee yard to begin the dividing and making up of the nuclei. Three or four frames of honey, pollen and bees are removed from a strong colony and placed in a new hive along with the queen still in her cage. It is important to leave the queen in the cage until such time she has gained the scent of the other bees that were taken from the parent hive. In about twenty four hours the bees taken from the parent hive will have eaten through the candy and released the queen. If she is released too soon, without first gaining the scent of the other bees, it will mean certain death.

If the nuclei are properly managed over the next three months they should provide a surplus of honey for the beekeeper.

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