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Best way and time to replace a queen?


#1

Hi everyone. I’m new to beekeeping and have a couple questions about replacing queens. While attending last month’s bee club meeting, the guest speaker discussed varroa treatments. He wrapped up with talking about the VSH bee strain. Researching them further, I think I want to eventually replace my queens (three colonies) with VSH queens.

  1. What is the preferred time of year to replace a queen?

  2. What is the most successful way to replace a queen that is still present in the colony?


#2

I am assuming you are in the Fall (Autumn), if so, then now is a good time, that way your colony over winters with a new queen and gets a jumpstart for Spring. You will either need to dispatch your old queen or better still, cage her and donate to a worthy cause… such as a facebook friend who’s hive is queenless… Its surprising how many people run into trouble but don’t talk about it, suffer in silence.
Replacing is very simple… best to make your hives queenless before introducing the new queens, that way they readily accept her. Most reputable breeders send her in a cage with a candy end, allows the colony to eat the candy out whilst allowing the scents to mingle for a couple of days.


#3

@Rodderick answered your question pretty well. To add my 2 bobs worth. Do you need to replace the queens? When I started out, I started replacing queens every 12 months, do you know why? Because people told me I should. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was throwing good money away. On a lot of occasions I killed queens in strong colonies & replaced them only for the hives to go backwards. I quickly put a stop to that. I haven’t bought any new queens for about 6 years. Even then I only bought 15 & I was running about 40 hives. Out of the 15, only 8 were successful. I’m happy to let the bees make their own. The one on my profile photo only got started laying the other day. She’s in a flow hive.


#4

Thanks for the feedback guys. I’m not yet convinced that I want to replace my queens, but if I do, it’s so that I can get the VSH genetics into my colonies. Being free of chemical treatments sounds very interesting to me.


#5

Yes I wholly agree with your approach Jason, unfortunately a total chemical free approach may be detrimental to your colony with such parasites as Varroa. But saying that, in Australia we are mostly forbidden to use chemicals and antibiotics in our hives to treat such things as Nosema, EFB and AFB.


#6

Pardon me Jeff & Roderick, but I think you might have missed Jason’s point. He is talking about requeening with queens that are specially bred to pass traits of hygienic behavior that targets varroa mites, “Varroa-Sensitive Hygiene” or VSH. I haven’t researched it thoroughly myself, but apparently it may be possible to avoid chemical treatments if your queen has mothered a whole hive of bees capable of noticing & grooming away most of the mites. Seems a worthwhile option to explore!


#7

The ‘process’ is still the same regardless of the strain you are seeking regarding the questions he asked though


#8

Exactly, Kirsten - I’m eager for the answers to those questions too :wink: …what say you, Jeff, Roderick, or other experienced beeks?


#9

That’s what I’m saying Rodderick & Jeff already replied to those questions


#10

MAY is the operative word, though.
Varroa resistance,tolerance,immunity …whatever, is multifactorial. Add DWV variants to that.
The USA is years ahead of the game compared to the UK. Here we do have documented colonies that survive DWV because the predominant variant is the benign one, hence they tolerate varroa levels that would annihilate other colonies. We have Hygienic bees available that supposedly clean out infested brood. The breeder…Sussex University…suggest that the queens pass on a sufficient amount of hygienic behaviour if they are open mated but that flies in the face of how these characteristics are supposed to be inherited. They further suggest that although treatment cannot be abandoned it can be reduced to just ONCE per year in the TOTAL absence of brood. Not simple.


#11

Jason,

What part of the world will we find your Apiary at ?! This is Gerald n I live SE of Seattle in the foothills. The clock is ticking n page just about to flip into September.

VSH queens are a great goal to move into…but until your ready … As my mom use to say, “You’ve got bigger fish to fry !” Are your colonies ready for winter. Are your boxes near full of honey/nectar/pollen or close enough !? Have you checked for mites … If not ! I’d get caught up on doing a sugar roll mite count A.S.A.P. !! Then if high enough choose a workable treatment to get the mite count down…

Some on here don’t do treatment but they probably have less too loss than you n I. They may already have the semi-resistant VSH bees as well. As your bee population drops thus the mite count rapidly increase rationally ! A hive at 15% infection can quickly surcome n die-off. I’m am far from trying to SCARE you.

Just make sure you get your bees safely wintered over one season like I’m going for. Then work on securing new Queens n other tacks in more organic beekeeping.

Just my 2 cents worth here,
Gerald

. Sharing a few pix’s of helping a friend get his hives treated for mite n ready for winter. He has about 60 to 80 hives with 10 to 12 colonies in 5 or 6 locations…


#12

I stand by my previous post … Fall is a good time to replace a queen


#13

Thanks for all of the feedback. Gerald, I’m in south Louisiana, so it will be around November before it starts to cool off down here. My three colonies each appear to be pretty prepared concerning their winter honey stores. This is my first year of beekeeping so I haven’t harvested any honey. I haven’t yet conducted any mite counts, but I am prepared to treat with Apivar strips this fall.

The guest speak at our monthly bee club meeting was from the USDA Bee Lab in Baton Rouge. His presentation was about Varroa Mite Control. He discussed drone brood trapping which he stated as largely ineffective. He talked about powder sugar shake as a control measure as well. However, this also was largely ineffective. He stated that the only way this has shown to be effective is if it was conducted every week and only when there is no brood. His summary of this was high labor, little return. From here, he turned his focus towards chemical treatments and although he suggested that there were several types and methods that have proven to be effective, it sounded like he was a fan of Apilife or Apiguard. Lastly, he discussed Varroa Sensitive Hygienic (VSH) queen bees. He was a huge proponent of VSH bees. He said that they effectively remove 80% of brood infected with the varroa mite. This is the reason that I am so interested in this strain of bees and potentially replacing my queens with VSH queens. Over time, this may be the future of beekeeping and the return of feral bee colonies.

This article from Scientificbeekeeping.com got me even more excited about VSH bees: http://scientificbeekeeping.com/choosing-your-troops-breeding-mite-fighting-bees/

Scroll down to the VSH section to read about some pretty impressive results.


#14

Yes they do…some strains are so focused on this that honey production drops
VSH bees are the way to go if all your neighbours have them too so that your queens mate with VSH drones…or you replace your queens regularly.
I agree though…it’s the way to go


#15

Sorry about my knee jerk there, Rodderick :flushed: …scanning too quickly on my phone I suppose. Thanks for the details!