Requeening a Hive

I installed a new queen today. Here’s the video:

I squished the old queen in the morning because her progeny were always a little bit surly and a bit too much in our faces for our small backyard. We let the pheromones of the old queen fade off into the sunset until they were a distant memory before we installed the new queen around supper time.

We realize that bees act up from time to time, but we have about 120 square metres in the non-gardening section of our backyard (about 400 square feet) — with four hives. It’s a tiny fenced in backyard. The hives are about ten feet from the steps of our back deck where we typically sit back and have a beer while sparking up the BBQ. We can’t risk having mean bees around when we’re so close to them most of the time. We’re also moving a hive so humans are nowhere near the bees’ flight path, thus reducing the chances of altercations.

The bees in Hive #2 are as sweet as can be, even when they have reason to be more defensive.

Hive #1 might also have had a drone-laying queen. We’re not sure, but judging from the inspection today, it kind of looks that way. Either way, requeening doesn’t hurt and it was something we needed to learn how to do anyway. And now we know, thanks to the one and only experienced local beekeeper who came by this morning to help us out. Just being in his presence is a huge boost for us. I’ll talk more about that in a future post, how we’re basically starving for beekeeping mentors around here.

Spotting the queens in both of our hives — for the first time ever — was thrilling too. Once we spotted the first queen, it was easy spotting the queen in the next hive. (Confession: I wasn’t the one who spotted her first.) We also started up two new hives from nucs. It was a fun day for us, our first really enjoyable day of beekeeping in a while, considering the bit of a dark spell we went through over the past couple months. I hope things continue to get better.

August 28th, 2011: The bees in the requeened hive are docile. So requeening made the bees easier to be around. However, the bees from one of the hives still act up once in a while. I’ll walk behind the hives on my way to the shed, and on the way back to the house a bee will begin to circle my head and do everything it can to pester me, and it will never give up. The only way to stop these bees that get it in their heads to pester me is swipe them hard with my hat and kill them. This may be the price we have to pay for having four hives in our tiny backyard (approximately 400 square feet). Or maybe we need to find a more docile breed of honey bee. Either way, our small backyard probably isn’t the most ideal place to keep bees. I would recommend to anyone thinking about setting up a hive in their backyard to make sure the bees have a least a 5 metre (15 foot) radius where humans don’t go unless they’re inspecting the hives. Our problem is, it’s impossible for us not to walk within a metre (3 feet) of the hives when were taking something out of the shed. We need a bigger yard.

For anyone who wants to know exactly why and how to requeen, I offer up Lessson 19 from my peronsal hero, David Burns.

8 thoughts on “Requeening a Hive

  1. We just inspected all our hives.

    Hive #1: We only inspected the top box because we don’t want to disturb the new queen while she’s getting used to her digs. The queen has been released from her cage. We didn’t see her but we saw plenty of fresh uncapped worker larvae. We pulled one frame of foundationless drone comb and replaced it with an empty frame of foundation. All the foundationless frames will eventually end up in Hive #2. They’ve barely touched the frames in the honey super. I’m not optimistic about getting any honey during the first honey flow. The hive is still full of thousands of drones eating up the honey.

    Hive #2: We only looked at the honey super. Nothing going on there either.

    Hive #3 and Hive #4 — the nucs: They’re taking down the syrup in from the frame feeders and slowly eating away at their pollen patties. We had jar feeders on them as well but they’re ignoring them, so we pulled them. We didn’t pull the frames apart. Again, we’d rather not disturb the young queens while they’re getting used to their new homes. We’ll do a full inspection of the nucs next week.

    So it doesn’t look like we’ll get any honey for July, but hopefully most of the drones eating up all the honey will be gone by the time of the next honey flow near the end of the summer kicks in.

  2. I just had a conversation with someone who told me why the bees aren’t building in the honey super. I’ll post about it tomorrow after we’ve taken steps to fix that situation.

    Man, there’s a lot of tricks to beekeeping.

  3. Your experience in the bee business isn’t encouraging, although I know you’re doing it one of the worst climates.

    • No argument here. We’ve made some big mistakes and followed some bad advice, and we’re realizing that many of the basic beekeeping practices need to be tweaked for the Newfoundland climate. But I think the most significant disadvantage for novice beekeepers in Newfoundland is the virtual absence of experienced beekeepers to act as mentors. All the reading in the world is nothing compared to being able to learn directly from someone who knows what they’re doing by watching what they do.

  4. The mean bees from Hive #1 have been playing nice since we re-queened the hive. It could just be a coincidence, or maybe now the bees in the hive realize they’ve got a fresh vibrant new queen to keep them happy. Either way, I’m happy. Hanging out with a bunch of bees that liked to aim for the face was no fun.

  5. We’re picking up three mated queens tomorrow morning. We plan to requeen at least two of our hives and start up a nuc or two. We have to remove the queens from the original hives in the morning, wait for their pheromones to dissipate from the hives, and then come back in the early evening to install the new mated queens. It’s better to leave hives queenless for 24 hours, but we only have access to our hives once a week, so we have to get it all done in one day.

    I’ll be glad when the bees are settled in and we don’t have to requeen them or worry about swarms for a while.

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