Midnite Bee-Beekeeper's: Tips TIPS  

It is common procedure for beekeepers to improve their colonies by requeening colonies that are not performing well. Among the common desirable features a beekeeper looks for in the queen's offspring are: gentleness, productivity of honey or pollen, disease and pest resistance, reduced swarming, little propolis use, effective pollination, or a desired body color. Certain Africanized honey bee (AHB) characteristics, such as taking over weak colonies, settling in empty equipment, and showing extreme defensiveness will require beekeepers in AHB areas to regularly evaluate colonies and requeen when necessary. Marking Queens Since the queen is the source of all worker bees in the colony, it is important that the beekeeper be certain that the queen is the one originally placed in the colony. It is nearly impossible to determine that a specific queen has been lost if the queen has not been given a unique identifying mark. It is common practice to mark the queen with a small spot of paint on her back (thorax). A color code exists within the beekeeping industry to indicate the year the queen was introduced. Model car paint may be used to mark the queen. The identifying mark should be small, so that it does not cover any other part of the queen. A 1/16" stick, lightly dipped in paint, is a good applicator. Generally, queens are marked before being introduced, but they can; however, be marked at any time. Paint should be given ample time to dry before the queen is released into the colony. In fact, queens may be purchased already marked by the queen producer. Some beekeepers also identify queens by clipping the tip of the forewing or of both wings. If queens are replaced every two years, the beekeeper clips the left wing(s) on queens introduced in odd years, and the right on queens introduced in even years. The clipping practice may also supplement the paint spot technique as a back-up should the queen lose her paint mark. If clipped correctly, the queen will not be able to fly. Introducing Queen Bees If specific requirements are not met, the resident bees within a colony may reject, even kill, a newly introduced queen. Through the years, many procedures for introducing queens have been published. Unfortunately, no specific procedure has been accepted universally as the best for all occasions. Most of the common procedures require an introductory period of about three days. During that time, the queen is confined in a cage and is fed by colony bees though the wire gauze covering the cage. The caged queen may be released by worker bees eating a candy entrance plug. This procedure allows the queen to emerge into a hive without beekeeper intrusion. However, the beekeeper can release the queen manually if desired. Usually, younger house bees are more receptive to a new queen than are older, more established foragers. Younger bees may be separated from the older bees by turning the colony entrance to face in the opposite direction. Then a different hive with at least one frame of honey, but without bees, is placed facing the original direction. As the foragers leave the redirected parent hive, they will return to the new hive. After a day, most of the bees remaining in the repositioned original hive will be younger bees, while the temporary hive will accumulate most of the older ones. The queen can then be safely introduced into the hive of young bees. Afterward, the two colonies are united, and the queen is established. A good technique for determining if the cage has been in the hive long enough is to observe if the outside bees are clinging tenaciously to the cage, or whether they can be brushed off easily. If they adhere to the cage, don't release the queen. If they can be brushed aside with ease, the queen can probably be safely released. Laying Workers If a colony is without a queen and her pheromones for awhile, some of the workers develop the capability of laying unfertilized eggs. While European laying worker colonies are difficult to requeen, Africanized laying worker colonies are worse. Africanized laying worker colonies are more aggressive and usually will not accept a newer, mated queen. The short development time for the AHB laying worker could present future problems for both honey bee queen producers and beekeepers. If requeening of laying worker colonies is attempted, one should follow normal requeening techniques. Adding a frame of uncapped brood along with a caged mated queen increases the chances of acceptance by the colony. Since laying worker colonies are difficult to requeen, and most of the bees are old, beekeepers frequently decide to combine the colony with another queenright colony. Suggestions for Introducing New Queens 1. Be absolutely certain the colony is queenless and that any developing queen cells have been destroyed. 2. Allow the colony to stay queenless for a day or so. 3. If possible, allow the queen to be caged within the colony for about two days. 4. To release the queen, place the cage between the frames with the screen side down and with the candy plug exposed near the vicinity of young bees and brood. Allow the bees approximately two days to release the queen. Remove the cage as soon as possible to prevent burr comb from being produced in the space around the queen's cage. 5. If the queen is to be manually released, watch the surrounding bees to determine if they are clinging tightly to the cage in which the queen is confined. If they are showing aggressive behavior, do not release the queen until the surrounding workers act passively toward the caged queen. 6. After releasing the new queen manually, watch the surrounding workers to see if they react hostilely to the new queen as she explores the comb on which she was released. 7. If possible, don't open the hive again until the queen has had time to develop a brood nest of her own (about 5-8 days). Introducing queens into hives is never foolproof; but, generally, a good technique and careful handling will be successful. Environmental conditions, changing seasons, food availability, and beekeeper competence can affect the queen introduction's outcome.

This factsheet was prepared by Dr. James E. Tew, National Program Leader, Apiculture, Extension Service, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and The Ohio State University at Wooster, Ohio and Dr. Anita M. Collins, Research Leader, Honey Bee Research Laboratory, Agriculture Research Service, USDA, Weslaco, Texas in cooperation with the USDA Interagency Technical Working Group on the Africanized Honey Bee. .