Help needed with requeening

The other day I transferred five lovely frames of bees out of my nuc box into an eight frame box for someone. We didn’t see the queen until the last frame where she was surrounded by bees in what appeared to be a balling situation - but we weren’t sure. They were easily dispersed by smoke and let her go. He took the bees home and sure enough three days later there are two queen cells in the hive.
Now, we could just let nature take its course and let the hive raise its own queen or purchase a new one to install. The new beekeeper is so discouraged that I wonder if the second option is not better in this case. He is leaving for an overseas trip at the end of March and was hopeful that the bees would be ready for the flow super before he left and I wonder if raising a queen (and the brood numbers dipping down before the queen gets going again) could make that difficult.
If he decides to go that way, I know the queen cells have to be broken down but could anyone tell me the minimum time they would wait between breaking down the cells and installing the new bought queen?
I am really sad to see they dispatched my queen because she was performing well but the breeder has great queens too.

Hi Cathie, If the queen died from the balling then I would wonder what the reason might have been, or were the new queen cells supercedure cells in preparation for a swarming because of the nuc being over crowded. On the other hand was she just being protected by the bees on the last frame.

I’m thinking I would leave the queen cells in the hive and to do a more natural re-queening; but there is argument for and against in both options. If you decide to introduce a new queen I would take the queen cells at least 24 hours before introducing the queen.
I would decide on the choice to be made but time is still on your side to make your own queen from a known good one so her progeny should follow with her genes, with enough time to have the colony back to being strong again.

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I would just leave them alone for now and check in 3 weeks or so.
Regarding those queen cells, were they charged?
Just leave them to their business. The queen may be ok or they make a new one. No problem.
The bees know best how to maintain a viable colony, as long as they have the resources.
If the bees were easily dispersed by smoke, that wasn’t killer balling. They probably tried to protect the queen.

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I would leave them to their own devices as far as the queen is concerned. As for even thinking about putting a super on a nuc while its building up, well I would not do that unless the broodbox is really full. That is one of the problems with the Flowhive, it makes people very honey centric but that is only my opinion.



Thanks for your advice @Rmcpb @Webclan @Peter48. It is definitely the way I would go and my friend is thinking the same way. Re supering in late March, the five frame nuc was ridiculously full with lots of brood and had filled the lid with honey. They were so ready for an eight frame box and if the queen had survived I would have expected them to continue to build up well. In ten more weeks I thought they might have been ready to have more space but maybe I’m wrong… late March will be cooling down, maybe it would be the wrong time to add a super.
All my colonies seem to have grown so fast over spring that I am constantly wondering if they have enough room.

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Yes, I’m constantly working my hives. Extracting, adding or taking off various supers, splitting, shifting etc. Has been a busy season.


The phenomenon you describe…balling of an well accepted queen…I have observed before…and have never been able to explain it or totally accept explanations for this behavior…it happens in the world of bees.:unamused:

Back to your question…if you wish to get a new mated queen accepted, this is what I do in these circumstances. With the understanding that you are upsetting the natural process of the hive rearing it’s own queen…it’s already started, start by a hive reset. By this I mean:

a) shake the bees off all the frames in front of the hive…allow them to march back into the hive (this is important)…perhaps on a piece of plywood
b) remove all queen cells…this is easy now as there are no bees on the frames…and reconstruct the hive.
c) leave the hive for 2 hours and then put the caged queen into the hive ensuring bees have access to the screened surface of the cage…at this point they cannot raise a new queen because eggs/young larva don’t exist.
d) Wait 4 days and then put a nail hole in the candy plug.
e) check back in 10 days for a brood check and cage removal

This is an interventionist strategy that works most of the time…and it helps if there is some type of honey flow going on at the time…if not, try to get some sugar syrup on them so “they are looking into the future…not back at the past”.


Hi Cathie, I have a couple of tips that might help in the future. I always have my nucs in 8, but mostly 10 frame brood boxes, using a hive mat. That way they can expand into extra frames if they need to. The hive mat will insure they move across instead of up into the lid.

I have seen enough balling events to come to the conclusion that it happens more frequently than we’d realize. I broke one ball event up, the queen scurried away & survived. Others weren’t so lucky. It seems to me that young queens are vulnerable to balling, whereas older, more mature queens are safer.

I believe now that when we see a young queen vigorously moving about, it’s because she doesn’t want to get balled. When we see a queen more relaxed & not moving around so quickly, she doesn’t feel that threat.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that it’s best to leave a colony undisturbed for about 4 weeks during the queen rearing process. I have better results by doing that, than if I frequently look in. I’m sure that I’ve triggered a lot of balling events by frequently looking in.


Hi Cathie, It is worth remembering that March is still hot for other parts of the world compared to what we have. I have added supers as late as June and my decision is made purely because the colony is strong in numbers and short on space. I find the queen is still laying big brood sizes any month of the year.

It has been a good Spring with me extracting on average at 5 week intervals. I supered on last July 1st after realizing there was a heavy flow of nectar and pollen coming into the hives and I figured there wasn’t going to be any cold spells.

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