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Queen Introduction Cages

This page is credited in full to Dave Cushman who created it. His voice is expressed in black colour text and any additions or comments in blue belong to myself. Credit: Dave Cushman’s website.



The Introduction of Travelled or mailed Queen Honey Bees

There are many methods that have been used, and there are several types of cage… Many bearing the originator’s name. I have used only a few of the available types, the top part of the list gives the type, No of times used and success rate. (Figures with an asterisk are from memory rather than record.)

Hardwood Nursery Cage
Nursery Cage 20+, 80%* (maybe only 70%)

I was never happy with this item, I thought they were too small and I did not like the ‘single’ candy hole.

The type shown has a hardwood body, mesh on the opposite side and a sliding plastic front (there is a candy hole in the end opposite the queencell plug).

There is another version with mesh on both major faces, Dimensions 39.5 mm wide x 24.5 mm wide and 60 mm tall.

Double width Nursery Cage, devised by Dave Cushman
Double width Nursery Cage
(chantry type), 50+, 90%*

As a result of my dissatisfaction with the standard type I designed a version that was twice as wide, (shown right) it had two candy holes of different depth and a small piece of zinc queen excluder over the inner end of the shorter tunnel. There were two sheet aluminium ‘wings’ that could be folded out using countersunk screws as pivots, to allow the device to be hung between frame top bars. The process of extending these wings uncovered the candy holes. As all dimensions apart from width were as before… They would still fit a nursery frame and mix with the original sized nursery cage as well as others available in Europe.

Dimensions 80 mm x 60 mm x 24 mm

Cupkit Hair Roller new type
Hair Roller (Nicot) 300+, 80%*

Cupkit Hair Roller type Used mainly for their simplicity and functionality, also used with the Nicot cupkit system.

I have used these for queen banking on a small scale in nucs and even mating nucs.

I use both old and new types and have no idea what percentage of each I have used in the past. By the same token I still use both of these types fairly often for minor banking within mating nucs.

The old type is on the left and is single ended, the open end will take a ‘candy cap’ filled with a lump of marshmallow.

The new type has a captive cap at the large end that is similar to the Nicot adaptor and the small end will take a candy cap (the small end is shown in the right hand drawing as an inset).

Jz-Bz Cage
JZ/BZ 14, 78.5%

I tried these when I first stocked them at APEX. I thought they were functional, but rather on the small side. I have not tried the banking facility that is possible with this type of cage. (I no longer have any.)

The drawing was produced from a sample provided by ‘Bee Equipped’.

3 hole Benton cage 38, 81.5%

benton cage The traditional type that has been used all over the world. These are often made from basswood.

Dimensions are 75 mm x 25 mm x 16 mm. Mesh size varies from 8 mesh to 20 mesh.

Steve Taber/Albert Knight/John Dews Method

butler cage 'in situ' Use a Butler cage for the introduction. No workers in the cage of course, and no candy. The entrance is closed with a pre-pricked piece of newspaper, and this is covered by plastic film (shown blue). The cage is placed along the top bar of a frame (in line with the frame) A glass quilt with an extra framing of wood is fitted on the underside equal to the thickness of the cage (or the board Illustrated on Observation?Board and alluded to in the diagram to the right) is then placed on the brood box (or preferably nuc box) and the roof replaced. The bees in the colony will now be able to climb all over the cage. The queen will be fed, but until the workers show signs that they are no longer aggressive towards the queen she is not allowed to be released. This is when the bees are not making the cage look like a hedgehog and biting the wires. It can take several days before the bees have stopped doing this. John Dews had one queen two weeks in the cage before he could release it. Observation through the glass every day or so will give the indication when to allow the queen to be released by just removing the plastic film.

The above text was transplanted from an Email sent by Albert Knight, to the Irish?Beekeeper’s?List. So far Albert and John report 100% success with this method. There are many things that make this ‘the best method yet’ as the cage is lying along the top bar the queen can walk about on the bottom of the cage without her feet coming under attack. I am very enthusiastic about this idea! and have now tried it, it was successful and the monitoring process was also enjoyable (it took 7 days on the first occasion that I used it and 9 days on the second). Since then I have used it a further fourteen times, still retaining a 100% success rate.

There is a method of uniting a frame of bees to a stock, which, if a queen is present, becomes an introduction method. It is a method developed by John and Angela Flint and is called the ‘Newspaper?Bag’?method.

The mechanical methods of introduction are only part of the story… The condition the colony is in at the time of introduction has a major influence on success.

Availability of Queens

The introduction process discussed here starts with the premise that the queens are laying in established nuclei (either mating nucs or holding nucs) or have been mailed from a remote place.

Season of the year

Most established recommendations suggest that the best time to introduce a new queen is during a strong nectar flow in spring, but any time when moderate temperatures and calm weather conditions occur will be OK.

Autumn, even late Autumn is also considered a good time for introduction in areas where bees are found to exhibit a high amount of supersedure.

Do not attempt to introduce queens when robbing is prevalent.

Period of queenless state prior to introduction

The bees need to realise that they are queenless. In spring they seem to ‘know’ in about 15?minutes, but in summer, in a full flow, it may take five or six hours, this is probably due to large portions of the population being away from the hive foraging for extended periods.

Size of Colony to be Requeened

If a queen has been queen banked, transported or travelled through the post I recommend that she is first introduced to a mating sized nuc and then subsequently re-caged and introduced to the full sized colony in a separate operation or the nuc should be united with the full size colony thus achieving the introduction. This is now a much less important feature, since the advent of the Steve Taber/Albert Knight/John Dews method.

Age of bees

Young bees more readily accept a new queen than do older ones. Bees under 10 days old show relatively less aggression and often accept a new queen quite readily, providing that there is not any large racial difference between the nucleus and the new queen. This effect also seems to get worse with increased racial difference.

Older bees can attack a new queen and reject her. Bees of 14 days of age show the highest level of aggression. Strong colonies are more inclined to attack a new queen, which is why using a nucleus is so much easier and more reliable.

There are quite a few more that Dave describes but the above are the usual ones in use now.


The main points to bear in mind before using such a cage is that the bees MUST be queenless.I cannot stress enough that impatience is the killer here. It is far safer to wait an extra three days then to let her out, or let her be let out by the bees after three hours. Note what is said about the bees biting the intro cage, until they are calmly feeding here and trying to attend to her it is NOT safe to let them begin to let her out.

Patience is your ally here.



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