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Picking up or catching Queen Honey Bees
and Workers

Often considered difficult by those that have not tried it. While a little practice helps, it is that little practice that is all that is really required.

There are several ways of picking up queens, but only one 'safe' way of picking up workers. It makes sense to use the same method at all times, because you will become more skilled with each session of 'picking up'.

I will first describe the methods that I think are least favourable, I say this from a personal point of view and it is possible that some others may come to a different conclusion. All the methods use the thumb and forefinger, but the differences are in positioning, all require confidence and firmness, but a delicacy of touch is also required. The sensitivity of touch is so important that gloves are not used, although keeping the hands gloved until the last moment will help to keep your fingers free of propolis or honey (neither of which is 'helpful' in this operation) and often the fingers will be soft from a minor degree of sweating inside the gloves.

The first method is one that I have never used myself, in fact I see it as quite difficult to achieve. It involves thumb and forefinger gripping over an area of the queen's dorsal surface with a similar contact patch with the other digit on the ventral surface. The area of the contact patch covers mainly the thorax, but also has a light controlling pressure on the part of the abdomen nearest to the thorax. The finger and thumb can be either in line with the queen's body or transverse to it.

The second variation has the thumb and forefinger approaching from either side of the queen's middle region again with contact pressure on both the thorax and front part of the abdomen. A good variation to this technique is to use the thumb and second finger as the grippers and this allows the index finger to apply additional pressure on the queen's upper surface. I find this method quite easy myself, but I do have rather small hands that have soft skin.

The third and recommended method has similarities with the method used for everting drones in order to establish viability or to collect their semen. It controls the queen by pinching the wing tips.

A tip that I picked up from Mike Palmer on the Norlands list...

"When adding workers to the cage, choose workers who have their heads in a honey cell. Their wing tips are sticking out behind... Making them really easy to pick up."

This is an ideal way of filling a small number of queencages with attendants, but larger numbers of cages are better filled using the Filling Method.

Illustrations will be added when the weather is suitable for photography