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. This week I found it necessary to requeen one of my hives.

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 to requeen that hive.  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.

Requeen a beehive
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 and not predicting what has occurred. I am enjoying not being in control of a situation and letting nature take its course.I am learning to let things just be. It’s okay to not having answers. 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. It is not difficult to requeen the hive. Most times the bees will accept the new queen. She should begin to lay once comfortable in her new home.

Photo Credits:  Tilly’s Nest

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