How to Re-Queen

Method 1

Collect together the same number of spare boxes, floors and lids as the number of hives you want to re-queen what you are going to do is make some mini-hives or nucleus chives. Using a piece of wood, make the entrances to these small hives just one or two bee spaces wide. Place the nucleus hives on the lids of the hives you are going to re-queen, but facing in the opposite direction. Block the entrances with grass.

In the hives you want to re-queen, first make a split by removing from them two frames of emerging brood, one frame of stores and a frame of empty comb. The emerging brood should cover only about half of the frame. Don't brush off any bees because you are going to need them and, as these are brood frames, they are likely to be young nurse bees. These frames must be placed in your new nucleus hive.

Place the brood frames together, and put the stores on one side and the comb on th other. You can fill the rest of the box with foundation. Many beekeepers have nude boxes that hold only four or five frames. Use one of these if you have one. If you haven don't worry - just use an ordinary box with a floor and lid.

Shake the bees off two or three other frames into the new nucleus you are making These will be more nurse bees. Replace the frames in the hive.

As you place each brood frame into the nuc, you must check that the old ir and that there are no queen cells. This is important - the whole thing will fail if you do not  ensure this.

When all is ready, push the queen cage onto one of the brood frames in the nuc should be in a position three quarters the way up the frame, and the cage's escapes should be facing slightly upwards so that any dead attendants won't block it. Don't the cage onto the brood comb along its flat surface because the bees outside nee communicate with the queen. Shove it into the brood frame at an angle. In other w the cage should be between the two brood frames at an angle so that the bees can to Mal most of the sides and with the escape facing slightly upwards.

Three days later, check for eggs and ensure that the bees have unblocked the entra Che If all is OK and eggs are being laid, leave for another three weeks until brood is b capped over and all is well.

Now go into the main hive and kill the old queen. Then unite the two boxes using newspaper method described earlier in this chapter, placing the nuc on top. If you employing a smaller four-frame nucleus box for the new queen, you will first have place all the frames into a normal-sized brood box and then fill the rest with co before uniting.

This method is easy and it works very well. It allows the main hive to continue as normal, with their queen until you are sure the new queen is viable, and it hardly disturbs the colony's life at all. The bees that are accustomed to going in and out of the nuc in the opposite direction will soon learn to adapt, and all will carry on as normal with new, low-swarming, heavy-laying, young queen. Easy!

Method 2

This method also works well and is for those who want a quick-fix, low-tech application. The theory is the same as the first method but, in this case, you install the queen straight into the main hive without using a nuc:

  • Remove and kill the queen of the colony to be re-queened. Destroy any and all queen cells.
  • Leave the colony queenless until the next day.
  • Remove a frame of capped and emerging brood from the colony.
  • Press into this frame the queen cage.
  • Wrap the entire frame in newspaper, stapling the newspaper ends along the top bar (see Photograph 6 in the colour photograph section of this book).
  • Make a few slits in the paper with hive tool.
  • Lower the entire frame into the colony.
  • Check for queen release in three days.
  • Check for eggs a week later.

Basically, there is no method that offers a 100% guarantee of queen acceptance, but the methods outlined above are well tried and tested and invariably work. Remember with the above methods you can substitute a queen cell, either purchased by you or made by your bees. Or you can even purchase small, plastic queen cells into which you can put a virgin queen. A thin film of plastic is placed over the exit hole, and the cell is placed on a frame of brood hanging downwards. I have never tried this but have heard from others that it works.

There will be other occasions when you will need to re-queen a colony (for examp when you find a failed or dead queen or a colony in which the queen has disappeared You can employ these two methods just as easily for these circumstances.

Many beekeepers are very nice people who don't like to kill a queen. I'm afraid I'm as like that so, if she is a one-year-old, you can place her in a nuc and grow the nuc into colony, but you need to take combs from your other colonies to make up the nucs, that may not be in your management/harvest plans. Also, this will effectively double your stock-holding which you may not want (or have sufficient boxes/frames/lids, etc. )and half your stock will be new queens and half one-year-olds. This may make thing difficult for you, so it really is best to kill the old queen. As one commercial beekeeper told me: 'A queen is just a production unit. Nothing more.

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