The queen is the most important bee in the hive. She is the only one that lays eggs, and therefore is responsible for the growth of the colony. Sometimes the beekeeper will decide that the queen needs to be replaced. This is called requeening a hive.
There are a few reasons why requeening should occur. For example, when a queen gets older, she may not be as efficient at laying eggs. Sometimes requeening a weak hive is necessary for the colony’s survival. But how do you know when to requeen a hive? Read on to find out.
When to Requeen a Hive
A hive should not be requeened without good reason. Queens can live as long as 5 years, and as long as she is performing well, there is no need to replace her. However, certain circumstances require the queen to be removed and a new one to be brought in.
Old or Not Performing
As the queen gets older, she may not be able to perform as well as she did in her younger years. And because the queen’s job is so important to the overall health of the colony, she may need to be replaced.
Old queens may not be able to lay enough fertilized eggs, which leads to a decrease in worker bees. Her laying pattern may become spotty and her pheromone production will decrease.
These are telltale signs that it is time to requeen your hive. Some beekeepers will plan to requeen every 2 years in anticipation of this.
Introduce New Genetics
Sometimes beekeepers choose to requeen to introduce new genetics to the colony. Because different queens may be more resistant to disease, it can help to requeen in order to reduce the chances of disease.
Requeening has been an effective defense against chalkbrood, a fungal disease that spreads through the colony’s brood. Beekeepers will requeen with a queen that shows good hygienic traits, which will cause the workers to clean the hive more thoroughly.
If you have an aggressive colony, requeening can often help. The existing queen is producing workers that are territorial and temperamental. Replacing her with a queen from different stock can help create calmer bees.
Requeening a Weak Hive
Another time beekeepers will consider requeening is if there is a weak hive. Requeening a weak hive with a strong queen can save the colony from dying off by introducing new, and stronger genetics into the hive.
How to Requeen a Hive
The two methods of requeening a hive is direct release and indirect release.
Requeening a hive by releasing a new queen directly into the hive is not usually recommended. While it is possible that it will work out, it’s more likely that the bees will think she’s a threat to the hive and kill her.
A better option is indirect release. This method gives the bees a chance to get used to her before she is released into the hive. To do this, the new queen is placed inside of a small cage. The cage is then put inside the hive.
Some cages, like the one that you receive if you order a queen through the mail, have a candy plug at one end. Over a couple of days, the bees will eat through the candy plug, releasing the queen. By then, the colony will have accepted the queen.
After installing the new queen in your hive, wait one week before opening the hive again. After one week, perform an inspection to see that the queen has left the cage and is laying eggs.
Beekeepers will requeen a hive when the existing queen is old, or they want to introduce new genetics to the colony. There are a few signs that tell them when to requeen a hive. The 2 methods of requeening are direct and indirect.