Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lesson 94: Inspect The Queen After Winter ( 217-427-2678

DavidSheriNew1Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, we’re David & Sheri Burns, certified EAS master beekeeper here to help you succeed at beekeeping. Our contact phone number is: 217-427-2678 and our website is:
In today’s lesson you MUST read carefully so that your hive that survived the winter will survive the early part of spring. Today' we’ll look at how to evaluate your queen following a cold winter.

Lesson 94: Inspect The Queen After Winter
lesson941On the first nice, warm day, it is important to open up the hive and make an inspection to determine the welfare of the queen. In the worst case scenario the queen died in late fall or winter and now there is no new brood and no new bees. The hive will become smaller and smaller and eventually perish. Or perhaps the queen is failing, unable to lay fertile eggs and has become a drone layer. Now your hive will become over populated with drones, and will soon perish.
lesson942Let me walk you through an inspection. First, choose a warm sunny day when the temperature is no less than 67 (F). Smoke the hive and beginning inspecting frames. Depending on when you do your inspection, you'll want to see a fair amount of sealed worker brood and uncapped brood such as eggs and larvae. It is not essential that you find the queen as long as you see eggs. Seeing eggs mean that you have a queen. In fact, if you spot your queen but fail to look for eggs, you have not gained useful information about the state of your queen. You must evaluate her ability to lay.
Several factors might influence what you see. First, if you have a Carniolan queen, she is less likely to lay early in the spring. She will, however, start laying when the nectar flow starts. All queens will lay more once the nectar flow increases. But you should expect to see some brood. How early you inspect your hive may change the results as well. The queen begins to lay more as there is more daylight and the days become longer.
Usually here in Illinois there is a day or two in February warm enough to allow me to inspect my hives. If I spot my queen, but she is not laying yet, I do not become concerned just yet. I will make a note in my log to check on her in two weeks. Or I may feed the hive 1:1 sugar water to see if this will stimulate her to start laying. It's not a bad idea to start feeding 1:1 sugar water to an overwintered colony to stimulate early laying.
nucsWhat do you do if you discover you are queenless or in need of a new queen. It is more difficult to resolve this problem early in the spring. Queen producers often cannot provide queens this early or they already have long waiting lists. Every spring we receive calls from desperate beekeepers who have discovered that their hive survived winter but their queen did not. There is little we can do except to have them feed their hive and keep it going until we can ship out a queen. However, if you discover in May that your queen is not laying an impressive brood pattern, then you should have no trouble buying
a new queen. Replace her as soon as possible.

If you can make a February inspection and find your queen is gone, one option is to purchase a new package. Even though your package will not arrive until April, your new bees and queen will be a huge boost to the failing overwintered queenless hive. But, remember that most package providers are sold out in March, so you'll have to hope for a warm day in February to order a replacement package.

See you next time and remember to bee-have yourself!

David & Sheri Burns