the ART of manipulating the resident queen
to change over to a younger or different strain of bees. I stress ART because
that is what re-queening is, an art form.
As with all beekeeping there are rules which have to be followed,
once learnt then re-queening should be a relatively straight forward
Let us deal with the various reasons for changing queens one at a
time to try to clarify what can be a complex subject.
A queen over two years old begins to run out of sperm from her mating
flight, left longer there is a danger she will only lay unfertilised
eggs i.e. drones. The hive will then go into decline and fail. So
it is generally agreed to change queens in their second season.
There are various methods, but our
favourite is as follows:-
Make up a 3 frame nuc consisting of 1 frame of honey, 2 frames of
sealed brood preferably without eggs, and with brood emerging from
the center of one frame. Then shake in one or two frames of young
bees, youngsters are always found on open brood as they're nurse bees.
The older flight bees will return to the old hive leaving younger
bees who are more receptive to a new queen.
About 24 hours later add the queen cage, screen down, after removing
the cork from the candy end run a thin nail through the candy to make
a small hole. Trap the cage between the two center frames and press
the frames together to hold it.
Feed 1-1 syrup.
The bees, now queen less, will eat out the candy and release the queen,
two to three days later she will begin to lay. We usually wait till
the new queen has emerging brood before uniting to the main hive with
the newspaper method after culling the old queen 24 hours before the
What to do with the old Queen? We always pinch her and drop her back
in the box, some even rub her remains onto the new queens cage presumably
to add the old queens smell to the new queen. Questionable I think!
Some take the old queen and keep her for a few days, just in case!
Another way to re-queen is a great deal simpler, just a little more
risky. Remove the old queen by whatever means suits you, and 24 hours
later install the cage as previously discussed. Simple, easy.
A new way of re-queening for the busy keeper with lots of hives, dependent
on a supply of ripe queen cells, more successful when a flow is on.
A ripe queen cell is placed in the center of the brood nest, held
in place and protected by a cell protector. The cell is kept warm
by the natural order of things and in due course the virgin emerges,
mates and takes over the old queens position.
A number of points, first it works on an older queen who is about
to be replaced. Secondly the cell protector is vital, if the bees
didn't put the cell there, then its in the way and going to be removed
by the house bees.
Thirdly, to really prove that this system works it is imperative that
the old queen was marked, otherwise it takes a very practiced eye
to note a young queen from an old one.
Finally, the virgin is quite safe, once she has emerged it is very
rare that the bees will remove her, provided she's healthy, of course.
In spite of what some say, angry hives should be eliminated, one way
or another, even if just to improve the general level of stock. There
are some who say angry hives out produce calmer bees. My answer is,
only because they're robbers! It is my experience that angry bees
will be robbers and cause absolute havoc in the bee yard, robbing
out smaller hives, which is where their extra honey comes from.
The easiest way to get rid of an angry queen's off spring is to change
the queen, but the problem is how? The major problem of course is
handling an angry hive.
There are a couple of products available to help. Tobacco smoke as
smoker fuel has been used for many years. A new product to North America, "Fabi
Spray" in an aerosol can, sprayed over the top bars, does a real
number on angry bees, calms them right down. Ed. With 911 problems
the transport of aerosol canisters is now banned, removing "Fabi
Spray" from the North American market. A new product under trial
is Bienen-Jet, stay tuned.
Another alternative is to remove the flight bees, these usually constitute
the older and more aggressive field bees. Remove the hive from its
current stand , as little as 30/40 feet will be enough. The older
flight bees will go to the old stand leaving behind younger bees,
queen, brood etc, and a greatly reduced hive size, it should be a
simple matter to locate the queen and deal with her in the above fashion,
add the new queen and unite with the old hive bees. It will take approximately
6 weeks to change over to the new queens offspring before you can
determine if the stock is calmer or if the problem was a poorly produced