The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861
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Cover Story

Re-Queening Hot Hives

- August 1, 2017 - T'Lee Sollenberger - (excerpt)

Left shaker box is made from a bee box. The right shaker box is made from riveted galvanized sheet metal to keep the surface somewhat slippery.

Spring sprung early here in North Central Texas. In fact, Old Man Winter kind of did a skip, hop and a jump, taking his wares back to Canada. No snow, no ice storms. Very boring indeed! So, the belly flowers bloomed early, cute little bluets, the foreteller of spring. The bees were soooo happy! Warm winter, plentiful honey reserves and time on their hands to look for pollen. With the insistent urgings of her household, Her Royal Majesty, (HRM), decided she was done with her winter power nap and began to lay eggs. Lots of eggs!

By the beginning of March, it was evident to me, splitting colonies earlier than usual would be a wise mandate or lose the lot to swarming.
All of my resident queens were two-year-old supersedures bred in a highly Africanized area or were from last year’s swarms, (of equally dubious parentage). Their bloodlines had long ago eschewed domesticity. Italian was what they stung for lunch. Smoke had little influence on their behavior making it obvious re-queening was a necessity.

I wanted to re-queen with purebred Italians with no chance of Africanization. Not an easy thing to manage on short notice when queen breeders were already booked. But with diligence, patience and a good cell phone plan, Big Island Queens promised and fulfilled my request for 25 Italian matriarchs by the first week in April.

On April 5th, I split my 10 nasty colonies into 25 nasty nucs. Normally, the parent colonies would not be able to recoup enough brood and bees to make a honey crop for the current year, but this looked like my best opportunity to rebuild my colony numbers.

I introduced my new Italian queens into nuc boxes using a Queen Introduction Cage, (QIC). Then I waited, while the island girls settled, matured and began to lay.

Finally, I began the task of re-queening nasty bees using three different methods—Direct Method, Split Method and Double Screen Method—based on various conditions within the hives needing the re-queening and specific goals I had for a particular bee yard.

The designated candidate colonies for this method are building queen cells, (some with eggs or larvae or completed). They want a new queen and you are going to oblige them.

You will need:

Queen Introduction Cage, (QIC)
Replacement queen
Spray bottle filled with sugar water laced with Honey B Healthy, (see below)*
Shaker box
Empty super
Bee Quick

You must first find and dispatch the existing queen if she is still in residence. If you can methodically look for her frame by frame, without being stung to death in the process, do so. Once found, behead Her Royal Majesty, (HRM), and toss the carcass far, far away.

However, with hot hives, a shaker box, (photo 1, right), will speed up the process of finding the evil queen. A galvanized sheet metal funnel is riveted together and screwed to a wooden bottom designed to sit firmly over the bee box. The sheet metal gives very little purchase, so the queen, young house bees and drones cannot easily climb out as you shake frames of bees into it.

A quick shaker box can be made using a bee box with a metal queen excluder attached to the bottom with a couple of screws (photo 1, left). A deep box will give better results than the medium super shown here.

Here’s the setup using your mean hive:

  1. Invert the outer cover onto a hive stand.
  2. Remove the honey super of bees from above the queen excluder. Set the honey super inside the outer cover. In most cases, the evil queen in question will not be in an upper honey super, (however, there are always surprises)! If you are not using a queen excluder, you will need to examine every frame in the honey super for eggs, larvae or brood of any kind. If none is present proceed.
  3. Set your empty super on top of the honey super full of bees. Set the shaker box on top
  4. Examine each frame in the brood box below the queen excluder for the nasty queen as you remove them. If you get lucky, really lucky, you will find her, ….