Hypothetical Re-Queening in Difficult Circumstances

I want to post this scenario, not for advice, but just as a learning experience for everyone. After all, it is good for us to stretch the grey matter (or ganglia, or mushroom bodies, depending on your species).

OK by way of background, I was an academic doctor, as was my husband. Our job was to teach medical students and nurses/technicians etc by proposing very difficult problem-solving scenarios to them. Some of them were based on real cases, and some were a bit of a stretch from reality to make a point. The intent was to increase confidence and skills in solving a particular problem.

With that concept in mind, I would like to put forward the following problem. Please bear in mind that this is intended to generate productive intellectual discussion, with no absolute right or wrong answers. It may be hypothetical, or it may be real. It doesn’t matter, your opinion can teach many people how to think about bee issues.

You have 2 hives in an urban setting. It is now early spring, and there is a minor nectar flow. One hive is very gentle, but not very strong. The other hive is very strong, but very hostile and has been that way for more than 9 months. You are in an Africanized honey bee area, so raising wild-mated queens is not an option, and is discouraged by your local city regulatory authorities.

Your neighbors have complained about bees, so you decide to re-queen the aggressive hive. You order gentle queens from Hawaii (no Africanization there) and one arrives on Wednesday.

On Tuesday (the day before she arrived), you went through the whole hive twice (2 brood boxes = 16 frames) and didn’t find the queen. On Wednesday, your new queen arrives late in the day, but in good shape with attendants. You give them a drop of water, and drop of honey that is from the hive they should be about to populate.

On Thursday, you search for the queen in the established hive again. You don’t find her.

Now what?

You can’t let the old hive live with such aggressive tendencies. But you don’t want to let your nice new queen die. She will die within a day or two if you don’t do something. So what do you do?

As I said, no absolute right or wrong, I am just interested in people learning from each other.



Just to make it more exciting… you have 3 more days to solve the problem, or your purchased queen will die. Two weeks after that, your neighbors may file a law suit to have your bees removed. Other than moving the bees away, what are you going to do to be a hero? :wink:


Just some thoughts on a little experience that I have had to deal with a couple of similar scenarios.

  1. Never give up… keep diving back into that aggressive hive on a daily basis till you get that queen, remember “you are the boss”, they are your livestock and you are responsible for taming those wild aggressive genes so they do not harm others.
  2. Some recent advice I received… upon opening up the brood box of that hive and when the aggressive bees are just lifting off, take the whole box to the other side of the yard to inspect, thus leaving the majority of aggressive guard and foragers behind.
  3. And I have done this successfully, take each frame several metres from the hive and dump them onto a large white sheet, I then sift through the bees looking for the queen, if she is not found, chances are she will not make it back to the hive anyway.
  4. Don’t Panic! … your mated queen in a cage should happily live on a few drops or water and a drop of honey per day for up to two weeks. For me, I have kept a queen alive this way for 1 week.
  5. Take a split, make sure the queen is not amongst the frames you take and introduce the new queen the next day to the split. Recombine the two hives later after you find and dispatch the old queen. Use the newspaper method.
  6. When you finally find that old queen, don’t muck-about, dispatch her immediately between your fingers and leave her body either on the bottomboard or on top of brood frames, that message will ripple through the hive in a very short timeframe, you can either place the queen cage in the hive straight away or wait till the next day. It’s up to you.
    Assumption: that you are confident in locating the queen and doing the deed. Sounds all a bit harsh but its not, it’s just farming which is what we are doing afterall.

I’ll have a go:

Day one: In the morning remove 4 frames one with brood- three with less brood and/or honey/pollen from the gentle hive- shake all bees back into the weak hive and place bee-less frames in a NUC. Take Nuc to mean hive: shake every bee from the super into the NUC (it’s spring- there is a flow- and you have a super). Leave Nuc immediately beside agro hive with reduced entrance.

Late afternoon- introduce new queen to Nuc.

Day Two: Move agro hive 5 feet in front of NUC. Place Nuc with entrance exactly where nasty hive entrance was. Remove every frame and shake all the bees onto the ground. Take 4 of the now bee-less frames: two with brood / two with stores- and put them in the gentle hive replacing the four you took yesterday. Place the remaining frames back into the aggressive hive and situate it beside the Nuc.

Day Three: move the Nuc to the side- place nasty hive in original position- and then reunite the Nuc with the nasty hive!


now- this will result in the loss of some nurse bees probably along with the nasty queen. But hey- desperate times- desperate measures. On the up side- the weak hive should get a good boost from the frames of brood and extra stores. Both hives will be a little nasty maybe as the last of the africanized bees die out.

an alternative idea:

Divide and Conquer:

day 1- make a taranov split of the nasty hive. Then kill the queen when you see her walking up the white sheet. :wink: (Worst case scenario you don’t see her- but now know she is in that split.)

Day 2- Introduce the queen to the now queenless mean hive

Day 3- recombine the queenless taranov split to the mean hive via newspaper method. Or- if you never did see the queen- maybe now you can find her in the much smaller split hive- and then re-combine. If you can’t: Dump the bees from the split on the ground and let them sort it all out.

edit: and just BTW Dawn- is this a scenario you dealt with this spring? I assume at the end you will tell us what you did?

EDIT- judging by the days you mentioned- a tuesday and a Thursday… I am wondering if you are contemplating this all right now- it being a Friday and all- and springtime in the USA?

Second Edit: if this really is something you are facing right now- perhaps the Taranov method would work well? As the mean hive is a double brood- you could have one brood box under the taranov board- and one at the original location. First you would move them both to the side and commence dumping all bees onto your sheet- once you have emptied one box put it back in the original location with the now bee-less frames. Position the other underneath the taranov board or to the side.

You could also swap a few good frames of brood over to the weaker hive to give it that boost.

Whilst it seems dramatic the taranov split is actually quite easy. I did one early in spring at a friends and it all went exactly to plan. The bees showed zero aggression- but then they were not africanised… the easy thing about it is no need to find the queen- you know pretty much for sure she will end up underneath the taranov board in the cluster that forms there. You will have plenty of bees in the other box to look after the new queen. And you will have divided the nasty hive into two more manageable boxes.

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  1. take the 2 brood boxes off the hive complete with all bees and frames and leave just the bottom board. Place the boxes 6 feet in front of what remains of the hive - ie. the bottom board.

  2. place a queen excluder over the bottom board and put an empty box on top of it.

  3. spread a sheet out in front of the hive like a fan leading to the entrance and proceed to shake and brush every bee off every frame onto the sheet as best you can and place the cleared frames in the empty box as you go, covering them up with a towel of course. After 8 frames you will need to place another empty box on the hive - perhaps use the one you have just emptied.

  4. once all frames are back in the hive. put the lid on the hive and watch the bees continue to fly and crawl into the entrance. After most of the bees are back in the hive check for the queen on the sheet and at the entrance. Presuming you don’t find her, close the entrance off and remove the boxes again. Hopefully, trapped under the queen excluder, will be that elusive queen. Much smoke will probably be needed with this method to move bees on and subdue as required.


Ok I’m out, you lost me there, four words with eight or more letters in a row…

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There are all some great plans here but if I was to do it I would move the agressive hive to another location in my yard and put a box with some frames and a bottom board on it.

I would close the entrance and place a queen exluder on top of it along with another brood box or super box on top of it. I would then frame by frame go thru the agressive hive and shake all the bees into the top box sitting above the queen exluder. If all goes well the queen should be left on top of the queen exluder. She can then be pinched.

Then the hive can be placed back in its original location and left without the queen overnight. The next day I would then put the new queen in the hive in the cage. I would remove the cork and put candy in the open end if there isn’t some already and leave the hive be for several days.

A few days later I would check to make sure the queen got out of the cage and had started laying.

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I am dealing with something similar right now, but my main motivation was to get some other ideas for when we get a question like this:

I hoped that if I asked a related question to challenge everyone, people would be stimulated to get creative. Of course you know that I have some experience and will take responsibility for my decisions and actions, so it is safe to make lots of different suggestions in that context.

I am actually already doing a combination of the things @Rodderick suggested, but as many different thoughts as possible are always welcome. :wink: We should all be willing to learn something new from whoever is being constructive. :blush:

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If someone had a stored dead queen, they could try pinning that to a frame inside the hive and see if that attracted the live queen to that area some time later.


Skeggley, I take it that you are not a sesquipedalianist :slight_smile:

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Considering that it’s early spring, with this scenario, I would split the two brood boxes & place them in a new location in the yard, still separated.

I would add a new bottom board & lid to the second split.

Assuming that all is well with the weak colony & they have a good temperament, during the honey flow, I’d move that hive to the position of the angry hive, so that the angry bees will move into that weak colony.

Don’t touch either split for 3 days. By that time most of the mature bees will have moved into the weak colony. Also one of the splits will be making emergency queen cells. That tells you which split to look for the queen.

Because most of the more aggressive bees have left, it will be much easier to find the queen. Plus only 8 frames to look at in order to find her.

In this case you would order 2 queens. One for the split where you found & killed the queen. One for the split after you break all of the emergency queen cells down.

The angry bees that entered the weak colony will tone down to the temperament of the weak colony, plus they will expire in the coming weeks, not before doing some good in the weak hive.

The two splits will become two separate colonies, therefore each colony wont have the spare personnel to go around stinging indiscriminately.

It’s early spring, a perfect time to do splits.

Also an ideal time to weed out any combs that need replacing with fresh foundation.


I had this problem on two hives recently & did as Dan2 suggested by putting qx under brood box then shaking all frames in front of hive , nurse bees in first then the rest, next day queen was on base board under qx .


Some would say we have mushroom bodies/fungi in our brains, so it may not be good to grow these more in our brains :wink: But fungi can help our brain :brain:

And on another thought, did you know mushrooms have a lot of similar DNA to humans? More than plants.
And on another thought, I have been thinking about mycelium, and how they look like neurons and fascia etc through our body. Like cures like some say with food and how it looks.
I have been researching funghi recently and it’s medicinal benefits on the body :stuck_out_tongue:
Also how funghi extracts can help bees :honeybee:
Food for thought, while the countdown is on to save the queen!


Faroe, I love mushrooms too - let’s start a Fungi Forum :mushroom::mushroom::mushroom::deciduous_tree::mushroom::mushroom::two_hearts:

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I would caution against shaking cranky bees, particularly if neighbors are already upset. You might get away with shaking one frame (I wouldn’t even do that), but shaking the whole strong colony? No way!!!


It can certainly be a test of character! Plus a test of your neighbours’ tolerance… :blush:

Don’t forget in this scenario, time is of the essence. With the split method, three days after the split the old queen is still not found and the new queen is dead. This is an elusive queen too, where the beekeeper had already been through the hive twice and couldn’t find her…


seeing yet another bee hive in the yard would be unlikely to make the neighbours any happier, presuming they can see the hives (they may not of course).

We are not told if the neighbours are on talking terms, but perhaps if the beekeeper was to advise the neighbour that they are going to, “get the nasty queen and put a good one in”, and to stay inside for a little while during the search, that is on option, or talk to them to see when they might be out for a few hours, which may be a regular occurrence most days. The shake off and excluder method should be quickish. I’d use pine needle smoke through the process as the pungency seems to make it more effective.

Eight times now. Still no queenie. Pinned dead queen trick didn’t work - she was freshly warmed up from the freezer, so oleic acid pheromone shouldn’t have been overwhelming. :blush: Action has been taken though. All will be revealed when the game is over. :wink:

FYI, the hives are difficult to see behind dense vegetation, but with binoculars, or a spotting scope, they could be possibly observed. The yard is not big enough to move anything around, and there is not enough space in front of the landing board for a Taranov. Great idea in theory though, and it may well help somebody else with a similar issue.

Dan, you probably haven’t dealt with “angry” bees yet. My strategy is for what I call “angry bees”. An angry, hot hive of bees is a colony where you DON"T shake bees for your or your long suffering neighbors sake.

Dawn, shaking a whole angry colony not only tests one’s character or neighbor’s tolerance, it also tests our bee suit & veil, also the thickness of our gloves.


True. I must take a photo of David’s gloves after this week’s efforts. They were new. Probably several hundred stingers in them, and that wasn’t from shaking. He probably got stung about 20 times. I have been stung about 6 or 7 times. The worst one was when I was walking around in the back yard 3 hours after the last attempt, with no veil on. :cry: