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 postal transmission of queen honey bees, using the mail system that is intended for ordinary letters is quite commonplace.
Various sorts of queen cage are used for this purpose, but the 3 hole Benton cage and the plastic mailing cages are the most commonly used.
Many countries will have a code or set of requirements for the transmission of queen bees and the one reproduced below is due to the US postal service.
526.2 Live Bees
526.21 Mailability Requirements…Bees, including honeybees and queen honeybees, must be free of disease as required under federal and state regulations. The following additional conditions apply:
a. Honeybees. Honeybees are acceptable in the continental U.S. only via surface transportation (i.e., at Standard Mail rates). Parcels of honeybees sent at the Standard Mail rates must bear special handling postage. Mailpieces must be plainly marked on the address side with “Live Bees” and “Surface Mail Only”.
b. Queen Honeybees. Queen honeybees may be sent via air transportation (i.e., Express Mail, Priority Mail, or First-Class Mail rates) or surface transportation (i.e., Standard Mail rates). When sent at a Standard Mail rate, the mailpiece must bear special handling postage. Mailpieces containing queen honeybees must be plainly marked on the address side with “Live Queen Bees”.
Queens can be easily sent from place to place in a postal cage, but there are several things that will make the journey safer for both the queens and the general public.
The type of cage should be chosen with care according to how many queens will be mailed in the same package. Some like the queens puzzle cage and the queens guard cage have provisions for stacking. Most mailing arrangements include a half a dozen ‘attendant workers’ in the cage with the queen herself, but some systems known as ‘battery packs’ have individual queens with no attendants, but there is a group of loose workers within the outer packaging that can feed and look after the queens. The JZ/BZ system has a special shipping bar that will accept two rows of cages and several of these can be fixed in one outer package so that a hundred or so queens can be sent in one parcel. If battery pack shipping is to be used, you should ensure that the bees used for feeding duty are related to the queens in the cages as closely as possible, otherwise the queens may not be ‘looked after’ as well as desired.
There is an elegant way of getting attendant bees into queen cages using a Marburg swarm box and special lid.
Whether a single queen is being sent or a hundred or more, adequate ventilation must be provided.
Whether a single queen is being sent or a hundred or more, adequate ventilation must be provided… Michael Mac Giolla Coda uses a ‘wage packet’ to send individual cages, these are strong manilla paper and have many punched holes to provide the ventilation. Larger packages can be of corrugated ‘triwall’ cardboard with either by nails (when I was in business I used to drill the end panels of cardboard cartons using a lip and spur type drill bit running at 25,000 RPM). This produced 3 mm diameter holes that were crisp and cleanly cut, so that no fluffy cardboard fragments could block the ventilation.
Food Provision… If the queens are in cages with attendants they will have access to a feeding space within one end of the cage that generally will be filled with queen candy. In the case of bulk mailing with bees loose within the outer packaging, some form of reservoir is needed to hold candy or a sponge material can be used to hold liquid honey or syrup. Care must be taken that the bees cannot get access to large areas at once otherwise they can end up so sticky that they are unable to clean themselves.
It bears to keep in mind that a good drink should be provided before the queens are entrusted to the post. Having posted more than a few I can assure you they survive quite the thing if treated as above.