Re-Queening, 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 straightforward procedure.
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 nonfertilised 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 centre 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 centre frames and press the frames together to hold it.
Feed 1-1 syrup.
The bees, now queenless, 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 unite.
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 queen’s 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 riskier. 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 centre 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 queen’s 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 it is 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 practised 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 be 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 queen’s offspring before you can determine if the stock is calmer or if the problem was a poorly produced queen.