After reading a glowing article in Bee Culture about Jennifer Berry and her excellent queen rearing program, we have decided to replace the queens in both our hives with queens from Jennifer Berry.
Why requeen? What is most important to me is the bees display what is called hygenic behavior. This means they keep the hive clean, and because of this hygenic behavior, the varroa mite population is lower.
Many beekeepers requeen every year or every two years. Queens don't last much longer on their own. The BeeAnonymous blog lists a few reasons:
* Older queens are more prone to swarming
* Replacing a failing queen
* Better stock traits like pest and disease resistances
* And in my case, improving bad attitudes
Our hive at the Maple Knoll Farm did amazing for its first year, giving us a few frames of honey to harvest. We opted to leave the majority of the honey in the hive, and also fed both our hives a lot of sugar syrup to get them through the hard winter we have up here in NW CT. Our bees are not aggressive, but we do want a to improve the stock of our bees, as we don't want to have to use miticides to combat the varroa mite and tracheal mites.
The hive that is in our yard, which is in a shed to protect it from bears, did not do nearly as well last year as our hive at Maple Knoll Farm. I checked on them last month and I think I heard them in the hive. This hive will benefit from a new queen.
Our hive at Maple Knoll may not need a new queen. The hive was great last year, and we saw them doing cleansing flights in 38 F degree weather. And whenever we went to check on them, the hive was alive with energy, tons of bees coming and going.
So I am thinking that we may split this hive. A split is where you take some of the bees from a healthy hive, some frames of brood, eggs, and pollen, and place them in a new hive with a new queen. A split allows you to populate a new hive without buying a package of bees, and it allows you to choose where your queen comes from. I've been reading up on how to divide or split a hive and I think we can do it.
I do believe the queen in the Maple Knoll hive has been replaced by the bees. This may be a natural thing, or it may have been due to us being clumsy when working the hive. We weren't always good at pulling out the first frame, making room to pull the other frames up and out. We may have killed the queen, as we did find what we think were opened queen cells on a few frames in the middle of the summer. Finding this queen will be a challenge, since she was not raised by humans, she is not marked on her body for easy identification.
To requeen a hive:
• Find and remove the existing queen.
• Wait a day if you can.
• Put in the new queen ( in her queen cage) in the hive between 2 frames, make sure the sugar plug is pointing up so no dead attendants can plug up her exit, poke a small hole in the sugar plug to get the bees to eat through it.
• Leave the hive alone for a week.
Our new queens arrive in May, we'll make a GardenFork Show when we do the re-queening. Jennifer Berry's Queens are only available through Brushy Mountain Bee Farm.
Beekeepers: what can you add to this post? Please comment below.