Replacing a queen

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House Bee
Jan 19, 2010
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East Sussex
Hive Type
Number of Hives
Hi -
If this is well covered elsewhere apologies and I'd appreciate a link.

I'm new to beekeeping and having begun with two colonies last April and July I'm starting to wonder about the year ahead. One colony in particular (the one I began in April) has struggled a bit. It came from a friend and was an accidental swarm that took up residence in some spare supers that were lying around in summer of 2008. They survived the winter so I set up a hive in my garden and decanted them into it.

The queen, therefore, is at least a 2008 queen. There were probably about 3000 bees when I set the new hive up and by the end of the summer possibly about 20,000. Very little expansion (the brood frames weren't really packed with honey so although I put a super on I took it off again at the end of summer).

So I think possibly the queen isn't laying fast enough to grow the colony? If that's the case when is the best time to replace this queen? Do I need to wait until mid summer?

I'm not looking forward to it as this is my first queen and the one I've searched for most regularly. Never executed one before...
The quick and simple answer is to order a new queen from a local source and get it as early as possible in the season, which is probably going to be in about June.

Raising new queens is a different matter and perhaps this colony will do it on their own through supercessation, but it is hit and miss.

If you are just starting I suggest buy a queen. By all means get into queen rearing but read plenty of books first so you understand the fundamentals.
Please can I have the old queens?

See Q rearing Queens required

You say it was a swarm in 2008? That may well mean she is a 2007 queen?

She has done well if she is still there in 2010.

The norm these days is to re-queen regularly, often every year,and if not then every 2 years. Main rason is honey yield.

I would look at her laying pattern and decide whether you want to retain her as a breeding queen, depending on health, temperament and other traits. Pop her in a nuc or other box while the new queen is sorted and make adecision later, as to what you want to do. It is likely she will be superceded before there is any swarming, but one can never be sure. The general rule is a queen will only swarm once, but she may have been a virgin queen (a secondary swarm), so who knows for sure.

Small colonies will build up slowly. There might be underlying reasons for it but think about it. Not many nurse bees means not much brood can be catered for, which means a slow build-up. I would see how the colony gets on this spring and decide then. If a slow build up for no apparent reason, simply change the queen using a queen cell from the other hive, or buy in. Lots of options when the time comes.

Regards, RAB
Thanks for the replies - very useful information. I like the idea of a retirement nuc home for the old queen!

I'd like to get a queen from the person I got the later colony from. He was very concerned about where it was going to go and the colony was very vigorous in just the last couple of months of the season - and he has a very good reputation locally, so I may well ask him to provide me with the replacement.

It's good to know I don't really need to make a decision until after spring is over. :)
Ive had a queen from a swarm of unknown source for 3 years so far and she's still good.

Got an average of 85lb of honey every year and splits as well.

So you don't always need to replace.
Hi BC, does your interest also extend to spare virgin queens, of which there could be a few available in the late spring?

I don't know how much importance you attach to the diversity of supply in your studies.
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Hi Hombre,

That would bee a real bonus, as then comparisons can bee made in respect of the ovaries etc.

If members are discarding old queens then all that needs to happen is place them in a match box pop into a jiffy bag and post them to me.
Please please do NOT kill them.

I think Admin is going to make a request of this a sticky on the boards.

As mentioned before i am willing to pay for any expenses incurred.

How do you need them killed? Presumably not squished as local beekeepers seem to do - frozen?
Hi Steve

Re the old queens, PLEASE DO NOT KILL THEM.

I need them as fresh as possible, so if any members are sending bees to me then just pop the queen in a matchbox still alive, pop the matchbox into a jiffy bag and post them to me.

This goes for old Queens and virgin queens later on in the season.

Thanks for your help.

hi steve
may i put my pennies worth? i have a slow swarm, it could be the queen, check the lying pattern or could it be nosema?? i had to swarms that were very slow building up, i thought it was the Q, but both had nosema that was tested by a forum member, one hive has since died.

Thanks for that TB, I'll have a read up on Nosema.

One thing I have noticed is that this hive always seems to have quite a few dead bees dotted around the front of the hive. I've assumed this was fairly normal (and more obvious with my hive as it has an area of concrete in front of it so the bees are more easily spotted than if they were on a grassy area), but is this maybe a possible symptom of something wrong?

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