Thursday, February 3, 2011

LESSON 95: When To Replace Your Queen In An Overwintered Hive ( 217-427-2678

DavidBarnHello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms and thanks for joining us for an important beekeeping lessons.
We’re David & Sheri Burns and we operate Long Lane Honey Bee Farms where we manufacture and sell beekeeping equipment, package bees, queens, honey and everything to do with bees! As an EAS certified Master Beekeeper I offer these lessons FREE on a weekly basis and I answer hundreds of beekeeping questions a week, FREE! But, if you want to help us pay bills and live, consider buying all your beekeeping supplies, packages and queens from us. We appreciate your business. We are a family business with a personal touch. Thank you in advance for your business.

In today’s lesson I want to share an important and timely lesson on how to determine when to replace your queen in your hive that survives the winter. We’ll also discuss just how to replace her for increased acceptance.
It's important for beekeepers to be well prepared to properly manage hives that have survived the winter. In our last installment we looked at how to inspect the productivity of the queen. Today we are looking at how to know when to replace the queen. Use this acronym to help you remember how to prepare:

Stimulate For Rapid Foraging Force
Prevent Swarms
Rotate Hive Bodies
Inspect The Productivity Of The Queen
New Queen
Give 1:1 Sugar Water & Pollen Patties

Beekeepers celebrate when they see that their hive survived the winter. However, to make this overwintered colony as productive and as healthy as
possible, the queen may need to be replaced.
As the queen ages, her pheromones are not as predominant and her laying can become insufficient.

beardingThe bees spend their entire working season preparing for winter. The beekeeper should do the same, monitoring the hive throughout the season to
ensure the colony will survive the winter. There are three essential factors that contribute to the success of the colony: 1) A young queen, 2) Strong population build up and 3) Sufficient stores of honey and pollen. If any of these factors are not present in a colony it is unlikely the
colony will do well during the summer and will have trouble surviving the winter.

caste2Without a strong, healthy queen, the colony will not build up in numbers and thus it will not be able to store up sufficient stores of pollen and honey. So the health of the hive is dependent on the queen. Therefore, it is important for beekeepers to keep good records of how well their hives are building up and how well the queen is laying. How is her brood pattern? At the first sign of the queen not performing up to par, she should be
replaced immediately. During the working season, one week with a substandard queen can make a difference on whether the hive builds up sufficiently to survive the winter, particularly if the queen fails during the time when the hive needs to build up their foraging force.

Bee 004In late winter or early spring, when the temperature reaches 67 degrees (f) or higher, inspect your frames of comb and determine how well your queen is doing. If you see several frames of sealed and unsealed brood, your queen is doing a good job. But you must learn not to trust your queen for more than two weeks at a time. She may be laying well now, but fail tomorrow. If you see the brood is lacking, or do not see any brood, you
will need to replace your queen as soon as possible.

Bees June 2 07 007It is believed that "early queens," such as queens purchased in April, may not be as prolific as May and summer queens. This is, of course, debatable and subject to many factors. The reason later queens are better is because as the season progresses the DCAs (Drone Congregation Areas) are better populated with drones than in early spring, therefore, mating is more sufficient.
DSC00030Replace your queen after she has failed your evaluation of her. Some beekeepers replace queens that are laying great, but have a defensive characteristic. Once a new queen is introduced with a more gentle disposition, her daughters will replace the defensive bees within 35 days and the hive will become gentle. But usually the queen is replaced because she is subpar.
Lesson74eFirst, order a new queen. Do not kill your current queen until you have your new queen on hand. When you have received your new queen, go into your hive, locate the queen and remove her from the hive. Kill her and remove her from the apiary. There is no need to place the dead queen back in her hive.
queeenThey will know within hours that their queen is gone. Feed the colony 1:1 sugar water. Queens are better accepted if there is strong nectar flow and feeding the hive can simulate a strong nectar flow. After removing your queen, wait 24 hours before introducing your new queen. Your new queen will come with either a cork or a plastic cap over the filled candy hole. Remove the plastic or cork plug. DO NOT pierce the candy or remove any of it.
Place the new queen cage between the frames at the top of the brood area. Some people believe the hole of the queen cage should face up to prevent any dead attendant bees in the cage from blocking the entrance. However, bees are more than able to remove dead sisters. It really will not matter how you place the queen cage in the hive as long as it is placed between the frames at the top.
Marking A QueenNEVER directly release a new queen. Sometimes they are accepted, but the risk is too high that the colony might kill the queen. In a week, return to the hive to ensure the queen is released and walking on frames. If she is not laying after one week, be patient. It might take a new queen more than a week to establish her presence and start the laying process.
DSC00122How often should you replace your queen? Certainly replacing the queen yearly has its benefits. The newer queen replaced after June 21 will lay eggs that will become the overwintering bees. Those bees will have fatter bodies, more gland enzymes, and will not be worn out from feeding brood and foraging.
This will aid in the colony overwintering well. Also, a young queen has a better distribution of pheromones which can help prevent swarming in the spring. You can replace your queen any time after June 21st all the way up until the first frost.
DSC00123If you choose not to replace your queen each year, certainly that is understandable and your queen might do well for 2 or 3 years. However, keep an eye on her every two weeks. At the first sign of substandard performance, replace her immediately. Once she fails, she will not improve. A $25 queen is a good investment if it means not losing the hive in the winter. Replacing the queen does not guarantee the colony's winter survival, but it's one step in the right direction.
May 24 2010 our next article When & How To Give A Colony Sugar Water & Pollen Patties
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DavidSheriNew1Mailing Address: Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N. 1020 E. Rd
Fairmount, IL 61841

See you next time!
David & Sheri Burns

Long Lane Honey Bee Farms