Re-queening Colonies with Russian Queens
Yes, you can re-queen an Italian colony or Carniolan colony with a Russian queen but the process requires attention and skill.
Introducing a Russian queen is more difficult than other honeybee races. The success rate is poor without a clear understanding about the behavioral differences of Russians. Introducing a queen between two frames and then removing the plug to direct release her after 3 days, as with other bee breeds, will not be successful. Direct releasing her, more often than not, will fail. Russian queens emit a strong pheromone. Most colonies need to slowly get use to the new smell. The following instructions are involved but by following them you will increase your chances for success.
MAKE A COLONY SPLIT
- Remove 5 frames with workers, nurse bees, brood and honey/pollen (4 days old or older).
- Do not include any cells containing eggs or 3 day old larvae.
- Place the 5 frames in a nuc box.
- Take the nuc box 2 miles away and open the entrance.
- Return the nuc box to its original location after 24 hours (don’t exceed 72 hours).
- Transport bees back home when it’s dark outside. Remember foragers are in the field during the day.
- Discard any Russian attendants that come with the queen shipment.
- Do not remove the candy plug or direct release the queen. Let the Italian bees release her.
- Place the caged Russian queen into the nuc
- Wait up to 10 days to make sure your Russian queen is laying.
- Assess, do not proceed unless you have successfully introduced your queen.
REUNITE SPLIT WITH COLONY
- Make the Italian colony queenless.
- Wait 3 days letting the queenless Italian colony sit. You are increasing the odds that the old colony will not produce its own Italian queen.
- Check all frames for queen cells that may be started during the 3 day waiting period. Destroy them.
- Place the frames from the nuc box into an empty super.
- Place the super above the Italian colony and separate them with a double screen.
- During the next inspection remove the double screen and again check for and remove any queen cells.
In 21 days
YOU WILL HAVE A RUSSIAN COLONY!
There are other methods of requeening. David R. Tarpy, Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University and Jeffrey Lee, Commercial Beekeeper, Lee’s Bees, Mebane, NC has a detailed paper written on the differences between Russian and Italian honey bees. Steps to re-queen are on page 3. The paper outlines the steps to re-queening an Italian colony with a Russian queen.