Beekeeping Bees DIY

How to Requeen a Beehive: My Latest Adventure

A queen cage-the queen bee and five attendants

Beekeeping is never predictable.  This is why I think I enjoy it so much.  They are very much in control of their world.  I am only a privileged observer, trying to help anticipate and tend to their needs.

When we last left off, Briar was going gang busters and had yet to be fully inspected for the spring.  The numbers were excellent, so my mentor and I deferred from Briar and focused our energies on Willow-my recently struggling hive.  Upon my previous inspection, there was little brood and I could not see any visible eggs or larvae.  I did not see the queen.  So, luckily, I was able to pick up a queen from the local association.  My mentor would be over tomorrow to help me split Briar.  Late in the afternoon, I laid the queen between two frames in Willow and used the empty candy board as a shim.  The bees immediately came to investigate the new queen in her cage.

Investigating the new queen in her cage.

Tomorrow came, and we decided to do the split first.  However, when we opened up my bustling hive,Briar, no queen could be found.  Was this hive queenless too?  Three of us scoured the hive looking, seeking and hoping to see signs of her or discover her on a frame.  We never did.  This hive needed a queen.

Next we took a peek in Willow.  Unbelievably when I peeked into the queen cage, two of her attendants were dead-most likely stung to death.  Was there a queen in the hive after all?  Last time I went in there were no signs of a living queen.  We did a complete inspection.  There was very minimal brood.  Then in one frame we saw eggs.  She had laid quite a bit of them since I was in there last.  Then, we found the queen.  She looked good, plump and moving around the frame.  Perhaps, she had been stunned by that one chilly evening we had a little over a week ago when it dipped down into the 20s.  So we removed the new queen from Willow and placed her in Briar.  The bees immediately surrounded her.  There we placed her on top of the frames, with the candy board shim, inner cover and outer cover in place.  In approximately three days, if the bees have not eaten through the candy plug, I will remove it and hopefully she will begin to lay.

An inverted candy board makes a great shim

To say these last few days have been an adventure would be an understatement.  The learning curve has been high.  I have been wrong.  I have been disappointed in myself.  Yet, the bees are teaching me lessons about myself as a person.  I am enjoying being wrong.  I am enjoying not predicting what has occurred. I am enjoying not being in control of a situation.  I am enjoying letting nature take its course. I am enjoying learning to let things just be. I am enjoying not having answers.  I am enjoying not knowing.  I am enjoying being a beekeeper.

How to Requeen a Hive:

1.  Do a thorough hive inspection and look for the queen or signs of the queen.  If you see the queen you will need to squish her.

2. Remove any queen cells. (Some folks just leave them be and let the new queen deal with them. It all comes down to personal style.)

I removed this capped queen cell from Willow.

3. Remove the cork on the side with the sugar plug.  Leave the other side’s plug intact.

Two corks on the cage.  Remove the one on the side with the food.

4. Place the queen cage between the top of two frames so the bees can tend to the queen.

5.  Wait three days.  Check the hive again to see if the queen has emerged.  If not, you can remove the plug and carefully release the queen down into the hive.

Photo Credits:  Tilly’s Nest

  • I enjoy watching the Bees now but I still don't think i could be as brave as you.
    Do you wear Michelin style protective clothing and hoods? Even then I'd still freak out.
    What is the reason for replacing a queen if she's still alive?
    Thank you for an informative post.

    Linda

    • Hi Linda, yes, I do wear a complete bee suit. My kids call me the white Darth Vader. Most beekeepers replace the queens every 1-3 years. They go on one mating flight in their life time. They try and mate with as many males as they can. That being said, laying so many eggs in their lifetime, they can run out of sperm.

  • Kp

    Every 1-3 years? I didn't know bees could live so very long!

    • Yes, only the queen lives that long. The other bees live about 3 months in the winter and only 6 weeks in the summer. They literally work themselves to death. I find it all so interesting!

  • So fascinating! We will be opening our hive here in a few days to check for the queen. We brought our nuc home last week and my husband did a quick check. The bees seemed kind of aggressive, so he closed up the hive early. He is scared to death that he squished the queen somehow! Maybe that's something that all beginners worry about? I sure hope so anyway!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and for taking the awesome photos. There is so much to learn about bees and I'm trying to soak it all in!

    • How awesome! I have been following your adventures. I love that we all can share our experiences back and forth. It is just so wonderful! Just move with a gentle purpose and definitely use the smoker until you get comfortable working the bees without it. As I am sure you know, only take a peek inside when it is sunny, with little to no wind, above 55 degrees and between the hours of 10am and 4 pm. Do keep me posted.

  • It is an amazing adventure…this beekeeping hobby! I took a look inside our last week and found swarm cells…many of them. Since our hive began last July, and I hadn't been through a spring before, I immediately called my mentor. It's great to have someone with experience to rely on!

    • Oh wow! What did your mentor say? Did you prevent the swarm?

  • Hi Melissa,
    I always look forward to your posts on the bees. In fact, you have also inspired me to take up this extremely interesting hobby!
    Thanks.
    Look forward to reading & learning more from your posts.
    Regards,
    Rick aka City boy

    • Oh Rick! I am SO excited for you and I am touched that you found me and my experiences inspiring. Thank you.

  • I never knew that you could replace a queen with one from another hive. Did your mentor supply this one or do you order her from somewhere. The six worker bees that come with her, do they survive the transition period in the pod? Do they become happy members of the new hive? I appreciate you documenting your bee journey. I am keen to establish some native Australian bees on our property to help with the fruit trees and veggies but they are less maintenance and produce no honey.

    • I purchased the queen separately. Most aviaries raise and sell queens. The worker bees that come with her in the queen cage, I believe continue to be her attendants. I believe that my bees have some Australian genetics in them. I didn't know that they don't produce honey. Thank you for sharing this with me.

  • Many thanks for sharing your valuable insight with us. Really nice to read it. Described very nicely with useful information and good quality content. Keep sharing.