Honeyflow.com | FAQ's | Community |

How to re-queen when the bees are antsy


Hi. I’m in Victoria Australia. I am having trouble inspecting my hive due to the bees being very defensive. I thought it would settle down after they got over a honey harvest in December and then a second one in early Feb. My bees have always been a little feisty ( I think some of them have tatts and small leather jackets) but it hasn’t settled down and I get stung most times I inspect and am now finding it hard to get down into the brood boxes (2) to check them out. I have a host of guard bees flying around when the super is off and don’t want to dismantle the 2 boxes in case it all gets a bit frenetic. My ultimate question is: how do I re-queen my hive when I’m having a tough time just inspecting the hive??? I’m a new bee keeper and my technique is probably not smooth, and maybe its the time of year. I could ask a local bee keeper to help me but I’m reluctant to ask someone to step in to the mix. Any tips?


Michael has it.


You are a gem. Thanks


Tea towels (or pillow cases) help too. Drape one over the frames that you aren’t inspecting - it stops the bees from flying off those frames, and seems to keep them subdued with the dimmer light under the fabric. I use 2 for each box, and just move them sideways as I inspect each frame.


Sounds like your bees were influenced by “Sons of Anarchy”! (Love the leather jackets) Are you using a smoker to calm them? Do you have ample safety protection?


Thanks Dee that was helpful! I don’t have an aggressive hive at this moment but I learned from your article.


You’re so helpful to people! Thanks for being on this forum as I’m learning a lot from you and other kind knowledgeable souls.


Thanks Dawn. I will give that a go. Thanks Martha too. In answer to your question, I’ve been using smoke and mostly that subdues them but when I start taking boxes off that’s when all hell breaks loose smoke or no smoke. I am going to have to be brave. I like the idea in Dee’s article about breaking up the hive into 2 and then managing the parts individually. I don’t feel super-confident but will give it a go.


That’s the spirit. :ok_hand:
Confidence will grow with each inspection, show 'em who’s boss. :).


Hi- just wanted to catch you up. Was brave and went in today. Had lined up an experienced bee keeper but it fell through so inspected with my trusty friend Clare with an extra layer of clothes under my bee suit, plenty of smoke, covers for the boxes ( thanks Dee), gentle handling and a zen attitude aka Hilary Kearney. It was much easier doing it with assistance.

My new queen arrived 3 days ago (a hippy/ peace loving one). Had intended to find the current queen, do the bad deed and then requeen in 2 days but when I got in, there was no queen visible, and also no eggs, brood or larvae but plenty of honey. I was surprised given the hive is still pretty active. I found one emergency queen cell already vacant but figure the queen hasn’t made it- no eggs.
Decided to install my hippy queen in her cage on the spot. If there is another young queen they may have to thrash it out.
I’m hoping this all sounds okay. Thanks for the help amd I’m glad I pushed through rather than deciding to be a non-interventionist bee keeper (hmm I nearly convinced myself).


If there is another queen in there they won’t thrash it out. The bees will kill the queen you are introducing. It will be worth having a quick look at what they are doing to her from outside the cage. If they are calm and have their proboscis out through the holes trying to feed her you are fine. If they are biting the cage then you are in trouble. Is there a candy plug in your introduction cage and did you leave it protected?


Her cage is capped. I could go in again today (I’m in Australia) to see how things are going. Im not really sure what to do if there’s hostility. If there was already a queen in there, I thought I would see eggs but there was not a scrap. I looked quite exrensively for one.
I’m worried my hive might collapse- no eggs etc and am wondering if even this queen will be able to lay enough in time for them to be nursed by the current bees. The hive is still pretty active.
So… a couple of questions… Should I consider putting in a frame of capped brood from elsewhere to tide the hive over? Also I realised after my rather extensive but nerve wracking inspection that I should have taken out a few honey frames and replaced them with foundation for the queen so she has more room to lay. So… would it be best to go in today ( then I could check the response to the queen) or leave it for a few days?


No harm in pulling a couple of frames if you can replace them with drawn comb. It’s a job that can be done in less than a minute. If you have another hive that can supply brood did you try a test frame?
A test frame is a frame of eggs: young brood.
A hive with no queen will make queen cells. It can be used as a test of queenlessness


I suppose the seeming queenlessness and absence of brood caught me a bit unawares and I felt the situation was a bit dire. I had really just expected to replace my queen (a lesson in monitoring my hive more closely perhaps). I only have one hive so would have to get brood from elsewhere for a test frame.
For my own learning, what might you (or other experienced beekeepers) have done in this situation. I have the idea that going in frequently is disturbing to the bees but maybe with better technique it would be easier. I wonder if other newbie beekeepers find the same.


I agree that going into the hive seems such a disturbance. We have to go in quite a bit in reality…and they will probably make a certain number of inspections mandatory soon with the varroa issue anyhow. One hive is difficult because (it seems to me from my own experience and others I have read about), bees seem to leave themselves queenless from time to time.


Let’s say I only had one hive. I always have extra equipment. I make it a rule to have 50% more equipment than I think I need, which takes into account unpredicted losses from damage or wear and tear. It also means that you never have to face a dire emergency, because you have already planned for it.

Having kept bees for a long time, I know that there is no such thing as too much spare equipment. So in your case, as a minimum, I would have a spare wood nucleus hive and some follower (dummy) boards.

So getting back to your case, I agree you needed to replace the queen, and you had a nice new one. The problem is how to get her to live while you find the old queen. One method is to make a 2 or 3 frame nucleus, with a small number of nurse bees on the frames, but at least one frame of capped (and emerging) brood plus one or two frames of honey and pollen. Use the follower (dummy) boards to fill up the remaining space. Put the nucleus at least 20 feet from the parent hive, or if you can’t do that, turn the entrance 90 to 180 degrees from the main hive. That will make the flying bees in the nucleus re-orientate, and mostly not abandon your hive. Now your new queen is safe.

Meanwhile, you can go through your old hive repeatedly, looking for eggs, larvae and queen cells. Once you are ready, you can merge your mini-nucleus with the parent hive. That would be my plan.


Grace, just because you mentioned your technique and your antsy bees, I wonder if there might be a way to do something different with applying the smoke. You might do this already, but lately I am puffing in at the entrance and trying to wait…a minute or so before opening the top. Something I wondered too about when my tobacco insecticide was ineffective on the Braula fly the other day. I forgot to open the lid a bit when I did it. That must allow the smoke to draw right up through the hive and get all the bees, because last year I did that and it worked much better. I wonder how far the concentrated smoke goes through the hive with the lid on? (my lids have no ventilation holes either…perhaps yours does?).


Thanks dawn. I have caught up with the other thread too with the requeening dilemmma and learned a lot. I think my head might burst with all this new info


Thanks Dan. I will bear that in mind. I’m also thinking I might smoke and then leave the hive for 10 mins before I go in. Re genetics and aggressive hives in Australia (from the other thread) - many of us aussie’s are a bunch of migrating renegades after all. :grin:


Hi Grace, 10 minutes might be too long. One minute sounds better. The reason for my comment being that by the time 10 minutes are up, the bees may have sensed that the fire threat is over & they have re-deposited the honey back into the cells.

I keep my smoker going well. I puff in front of the entrance, wait a few seconds, then gently lift the lid while puffing smoke in. Then puff smoke slightly above the bees, not directly onto them. It’s worth remembering that bees are constantly moving air around, smoke will get drawn in with that action.