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Replacing a queen bee – The Do’s and Don’ts

There will be times as a beekeeper when things will go wrong. Beekeeping is a huge learning curve and oftentimes you’re learning as you go. Sometimes you realized you have to replace an entire hive or hopefully, you find yourself just replacing a queen bee.

New beekeepers who are just starting out may have accidentally killed a queen. Panic sets in and they think they’ve killed the entire hive.

Fear not, all you need to do is replace the queen and here is some more information as to why you may need to and how.

Why would you need to replace a queen?

Once a queen has made it through an entire year she will fly off with half of the hive leaving the other half to create a new queen. The hive that took off is called a swarm.

Usually swarming season is in the spring when the weather is nice. However, sometimes it can happen for no reason or if Queen beethe hive is under a threat of some kind. Typically, mites. And it can happen in the middle of summer.

In that scenario, it’s better to replace the queen instead of waiting for them to make a new one. 

The reason behind this is by the time the new queen has emerged and had time to mate, several weeks have already passed by.

In the meantime, there aren’t any additional worker bees being made, the old ones are dying off and the hive is behind on storing food reserves.

A couple of other reasons why you would want to replace the queen:

  • If she isn’t producing well (sometimes the worker bees will do this for you)
  • The queen died in transit of purchasing a new package of bees
  • You accidentally killed her yourself
  • The queen is producing angry or violent bees

When is a good time to replace the queen bee?

After you have realized that the queen has died, you don’t want to wait too long. The reason why is the worker bees may be in the process or have already started to make a new queen.
A queen bee

With that being said, by the time you actually replace her with a new queen that you have already spent money on, they will have killed her.

Why would they do that? 

The answer is there can only be one queen in a hive and if they have already started to make a new one or are in the process of waiting for the new queen to emerge, it’s pointless.

A good rule of thumb is that the queen’s pheromones dissipate within 12 to 24 hours. 

This gives you time to get a new queen bee and install her yourself to beat them from making a new queen. 

 

How to worker bees make a new queen?

The worker honey bee is the one who decides if an egg is going to be a new queen.

How they do it is they find a fertilized egg that has already been laid by the queen (fertilized eggs are normally worker bees and non-fertilized eggs are drones or male bees).

The worker bees will feed this fertilized egg only royal jelly for the rest of her life. By doing this, it stimulates that egg into becoming the new queen bee.


How to replace a queen bee.

When you purchase a queen bee, she will usually come in a little box with a metal mesh over the top. On the side of the box will be a tiny hole that already has a cork in it.

The reason why there’s a tiny hole is because this is where the queen will come out once the bees have accepted her. The cork is placed there as a makeshift marker to stop the queen from exiting too soon

What you will want to do after this is to carefully remove the cork, place your thumb over the hole, and quickly replace the A box that the queen bee comes incork with a gumball.

I’ll explain the reason why you’d want to use a gumball in the next section.

Afterwards, you’ll take the box that the queen is in and put it in between two frames with the metal mesh facing down.

You do NOT want to put the metal mesh facing against a frame simply because the queen will suffocate and she will die.

Next step is to wait 3 to 5 days.


The wait. And why you should.

Back to the topic of the gumball. By inserting a gumball, you are giving the worker bees something to feed off of while they get use to this new queen’s pheromones.

By waiting 3 to 5 days you have given the worker bees enough time to eat through that gumball for the queen to emerge. Hopefully by this time they have gotten use to the queens scent and have accepted her.

What to look for after the 3 to 5 days.

After you wait, you’ll want to return to the hive to check on a few things, such as:

  • Making sure the queen isn’t in the box
  • Checking to see if you can find the queen
  • If you can’t find the queen, then you’ll want to check to see if you can find any eggs (a good sign that she’s alive)

Feeling like a million bucks.

I’ve had my fair share of needing to replace or install a queen bee. I remember my first time, I was so nervous. First of all, it was my fault she had died in the first place.
Honeybee frame

But after the installation process was a success and I found that she was accepted by all the other bees, I felt like a million bucks!

Successful queen replacement is achievable as long as you know what you’re looking for and how to do it.

Sometimes as a new beekeeper it may be a good idea to find another beekeeper who has been beekeeping successfully for several years and serves as someone you can trust.

Either way beekeeping should be fun!

Please leave your comments below or let me know if you have any questions!

Have any Question or Comment?

13 comments on “Replacing a queen bee – The Do’s and Don’ts

evans

Queen bees are really sensitive among a bunches of bees in hurt..I tends to be the director and controller of the bee hutch…Replacing a queen bee can not be easy for the bees as it is very necessary that their queen must be always available to lead and direct them..Queen bees are usually very much respected.

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Randi

Thank you, I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I’m also thrilled to hear that you are into beekeeping as well! 

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Todd Matthews

Interesting process. I always thought once a queen flew off or died the workers would simply replace her but I never realized one could be bought. It’s an interesting process on how they do choose to make a queen and I can definitely see why it’s imperative to replace her manually if you so choose to. What also jumped out at me was the gumball, which is a genius concept once you explained it. I can also see why this would be nerve-wracking for a new beekeeper or a beekeeper looking to replace a queen for the first time. 

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Randi

Thank you Todd! I agree, it really is an interesting process. Honeybees really are fascinating. Thank you for reading it!

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Paolo

I have always been impressed by nature. And specifically some animals such as ants and bees.Their organization and their commitment to work.

It interesting how bees replace their queen feeding a fertilized egg royal jelly. And it’s even more interesting how we can introduce a queen into the hive. I found the role the gumball plays for those 3-4 days very funny but necessary. Getting used to a new queen may not be easy.

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Randi

Hello Paolo! It is rather fascinating how a honeybee hive works. I’m glad I could provide some insight!

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Shanta Rahman

Thank you so much for giving us this wonderful article. Your article is really very informative and I have gained a lot of knowledge which is very helpful to me .Beekeeping is a huge learning curve and often I am learning something new .Beekeepers who are just starting out get panicked when they accidentally kill a queen .That’s why I have to be aware of the queen bee replacement technique .The queen bee needs to be replaced for queen bees, which helps a tea collect a lot of honey during the summer. I think it is best to replace the queen bees without waiting for a new one when they collect honey. It is not possible to grow a bee in a wheel without a queen bee .

I enjoyed reading your article. I think your article is very important for those who have started beekeeping to start a new business with honey. So I will definitely convey your article to them and they will certainly share their new experiences with you.Can I share your article on my social media?

Reply
Randi

Absolutely, you can share my article. Thank you for asking! 

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sabrinamou

I truly need to initially value your exertion in assembling this incredible site and composing this article. I really liked your article. When I read your article, I know a lot about replacing a queen bee. Frankly, I didn’t know anything about it. I am going to bookmark it. I will share your article with my friends so that my friends will benefit from reading your article. I think your article will be of great benefit to those who are beekeeping. Thanks for the information and sharing. Much appreciated.

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Juan Saladin

I’m just looking for getting as much information as possible in regard to beekeeping. I’m from a Caribbean country and I understand I have a great opportunity (mainly to access high-quality organic honey) for myself and my family. This article has demonstrated to me how ignorant I am as I use to think that there was some kind of chemical link between the queen and the bees that wouldn’t allow me just to replace her.

Royal honey is totally different than regular honey if it can develop a totally different bee from the same egg type. While I investigate more I get more and more interested in becoming a beekeeper. Thanks a lot for your guidance on the process.

Great post!

Reply
Randi

Hello Juan! I’m so excited that you learned something about bees by reading my article! Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions! 

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Parveen

Hey, I enjoy a lot while reading your guide and find it very helpful for everyone. While reading I know that the worker bees will feed this fertilized egg only royal jelly for the rest of her life. By doing this, it stimulates that egg into becoming the new queen bee. The cork is placed there as a makeshift marker to stop the queen from exiting too soon. Thanks for sharing.

Reply
Randi

Ensuring everyone learns about bees was my goal! I’m glad you learned a little bit about honeybees today! 

Reply

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