Here is a recap of some of the tips and information provided by Karen Thurlow-Kimball in her excellent presentation to the Androscoggin Beekeeper’s Club from November 12, 2014.
Reasons to Re-queen a hive:
- Queen has a depleted supply of viable sperm.
- Beekeeper wants to change the race of bees (e.g. European, Caucasian, Carniolan, Russian, Buckfast and Minnesota Hygienic).
Fun Aside: The journal article “Gramacho, K. P., and L. S. Gonçalves. 2009. Sequential hygienic behavior in carniolan honey bees (apis mellifera carnica). Genetics and molecular research : GMR 8, (2): 655-663.” does a nice job of describing hygienic behavior and how it is “considered the primary defense of honey bees against American foulbrood, European foulbrood, chalkbrood, and Varroa infestations”.
- Queen is infected with European foulbrood.
- Can reduce swarm impulse by creating a break in the brood cycle.
- Queen is physically damaged.
- Sometimes you have no choice (i.e. the hive is queenless, the hive has a virgin queen that is too old to be fertilized).
Many options for re-queening a hive:
- Introduce a mated queen to the hive
- Introduce a young, virgin queen that will (you hope) get mated and begin laying in your hive
- Introduce queen cells
- Allow hive to raise a queen from fertilized eggs within the hive (i.e. a “walk away split”)
Fun Fact: If you introduce a mated queen using a queen cage with a candy plug and the the hive bees are not eating out the candy plug, there is probably another queen (or queen cell(s)) in the hive!
The practical results of re-queening with a mated queen versus generating a queen from a walk away split:
Karen notes that it will take a minimum of 24-28 days before a mated queen introduced to the hive will result in the emergence of new bees. Time required to produce new bees from either a virgin queen, a queen cell or production of a queen from fertilized eggs is approximately 31 days, 37 days or 49 days, respectively. This will factor into your choice of re-queening method.
- A good laying queen can lay between 1,200 – 2,800 eggs per day.
- About 21 egg laying days are lost to a hive with a queen produced in a walk away split versus a hive re-queened with a mated queen (i.e. [49 days before a queen produced in a walk away split produces new bees] – [28 days before emergence of new bees from introduction of a mated queen] = 21 days).
- Assuming that 1,200 eggs laid over 21 days results in the emergence of a baby bee, the hive re-queened with a mated queen would have ~25,000 more new bees than the hive re-queened as a walk away split.
- A 3 pound package of bees with a mated queen contains about 12,000 bees and costs approximately $110.
- A mated queen costs approximately $25.
- So 12,000 worker bees/drones costs approximately $110 – $25 = $85.
- You are paying about $85 / 3 pounds = $28 per pound of bees.
- If 12,000 bees are ~ 3 pounds, then 25,000 bees are ~6.25 pounds of bees.
- By introducing a $25 mated queen into your hive instead of waiting for the hive to produce a queen, you produced (~6.25 pounds of bees) x $28/pound = $175 worth of bees!
Tips for finding your queen:
- Look on a sunny day
- Look on a day with good nectar flow when most of the field bees will be out
- Don’t use smoke, as this can induce the queen to run around in the hive. Use a spray bottle of water to move the bees.
- Make things easier for yourself and mark your queen.
Karen’s choice for best time to re-queen:
Re-queen just after the summer solstice (i.e. June 21st for 2015). Karen believes this will result in a smaller chance of swarming the year following re-queening as you are going into winter with a young queen.