Hypothetical Re-Queening in Difficult Circumstances

Ohhh Dawn, that is a ripper. I want to see you smiling with your next selfie :slight_smile:

Edit: I picked up a swarm during the week from a flow hiver who didn’t have time to pick it up. He & his wife both work. He has had a few swarms over the past 6 months. I cautioned them about upsetting neighbors. It only takes one disgruntled neighbor to put a stop to our backyard beekeeping activities.


Dayum! I hope the swelling goes down fast!


Hi Jeff.

I think one problem with the splitting of the hive to make three is the time one. Time is of the essence in this scenario, and with the solution you proposed the new queen has died. That puts the imminent lawsuit that bit closer, as a new queen will have to be ordered and posted, all taking time. Further, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush so to speak, in other words there is no guarantee you will get a new “live” queen in time for the start of Court

Talking about proceedings, we are not sure where this scenario is taking place. Making the assumption it is in San Diego, there are local laws there which prima facie appear (in most cases) to make more than two hives illegal…I have only looked at it quickly, but it doesn’t appear to make an exception for splitting. Therefore, the third hive is illegal unless there can be 600 feet between it and an adjoining residence, so that seems to rule out that option. It may be that we need more information as to the size of the land the bees are on, however given that we are told neighbours have complained, the scenario is an “urban setting” and 600 feet is nearly 183 meters, the limit is most likely two.

Wow, I am impressed with how hard you guys are working on this! :smile: The scenario is within the “incorporated” region, which has slightly different rules from unincorporated. These are part of the regulations with the full hyperlink:

Here are some more, which in this scenario allows up to 5 hives in a location which is normally limited to 2 hives:

The following are tiered levels of apiaries applicable to this chapter.
Tier A: 1-2 colonies per apiary location with up to 5 colonies on a temporary basis (up to 30 calendar days) to prevent swarming.

OK, I have made it too complicated. But urban beekeeping requires us to think of neighbours. This hypothetical apiary is fully compliant with Tier A standards and registered with the city.

  • ok, so as the split is not to prevent swarming, isn’t it still illegal?
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Queens older than one year are a swarming risk. This queen will be older than one year in Spring 2018… :smiling_imp:

Also, Africanization increases the risk of swarming. Any worries about partial Africanization should stand up to legal examination on the need to control. :wink:

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Hi Dawn, ok, I assumed it was only a little over 9 months :weary:

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Isn’t the Africanized hive illegal anyhow, or is there a technicality regarding “partial Africanization”? :face_with_monocle:

In southern California, 60% of feral hives and swarms are Africanized. Even in urban areas.

This hypothetical is not a feral hive, but how do you know if your hive surreptitiously changed the queen? Yes, you inspect. Everything seems OK, but even with marked queens, you may not see the queen every time. The replacement (unmarked) queens don’t wear little banners saying “Africa 4 Ever!” :smile: So it might take you several months to tumble to the concept. Then you have to be allowed to do something constructive, so what do you do? :wink:

Aside from this particular hypothetical, I think the regulations will let you have 30 days to sort it out. After that, you have problems.

Anyhow, I really didn’t want to get so local/regional. The original concept was to help other beekeepers all over the world to solve a difficult problem that we all face occasionally. :blush: I have my own plan, it may not work for others. The solutions discussed above might help a lot though, and that is what I wanted. :wink:

I appreciate that :smiley:. Everything is such a case by case basis that it was almost inevitably going to head that way… eventually. I think it was great that you put the scenario to us, as there were many great options, and I’m sure the suggestions will help other beekeepers, so thanks!

I hope we don’t get those Africanized bees here. We think we have angry bees from time to time in Australia, but from videos I have seen and from your report, those Africanized hives are something else again.

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Thanks Jeff caution noted, colony wasn’t real strong & I was on 5 acre block in semi rural area BUT I’ll definitely be weary in smaller blocks :blush::blush:

Actually they were relatively good at the time, I’m guessing it must have been because it was just before the Marri flow & I had been feeding after our summer dearth.:honeybee::honeybee:

Dum spiro, spero


Hi Dan, I should set the record straight. Splitting the hive is not the main part of my strategy, it just makes it easier to move the hive & find the queen later on, after the main part of my strategy.

The main part of my strategy is to move the hive away so that the field, guard & all of the mature bees move into the weak colony, provided everything is fine with the weak colony. There should be no need to inspect the weak colony until most of the angry bees have expired.

Believe me, once the mature bees have left the angry hive, leaving only nurse bees, the job of finding the queen will be so much easier. Also the queen will be easier to spot on a frame with most of mature bees gone.

If people are counting numbers of hives in the yard, by all means leave the two brood boxes together.

When it comes to saving a queen vs a law suit, there are times when it would seem trivial to place importance of saving the queen. Avoiding a law suit would seem more important to me.

Probably the best thing to do would be to move the hives away.

I wonder how far you’d have to drive out of San Diago before you hit a semi-rural area. It wouldn’t take long before you found someone willing to have bees on their property in exchange for honey.


Hi Jeff, I’m with you, and your solution has much merit of course.

Just in relation to my proposal, one of the issues with repeatedly looking for a queen by eye is the disturbance to the hive, and also how very elusive the queen can be. I’m wondering if Dawn had a queenless hive :smiley:. Each time a frame is removed to look at it increases the risk of stinging, as does each day the hive remains with the bad queen laying more eggs. Given the scenario outlined and the impending legal action, I was thinking of what I hoped might be a quick solution with the aid of the excluder.

I just read your solution. I’m against shaking & brushing every bee of a strong angry hive, even without neighbors to worry about.

Shaking or brushing every bee of a strong angry colony will not only upset one lot of neighbors but all the neighbors.

You are probably missing my point. By moving a hive to a new close by location, then placing another hive in the original position, most of the bees will move into the new colony, leaving mainly nurse bees. Once that happens, it will be a sinch to inspect the frames & easy to spot the queen. Nurse bees are not defenders yet. Therefore the aggression level will be minimal - zero.


Hi Jeff, thanks very much. I completely understand what you are saying and will probably try it one day.

It seems then there was an absolute wrong answer…mine…:worried:

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Don’t feel bad Dan. Have you seen this video we made a few years ago?

This is what I would call an angry hive. You can see what I did to make finding the queen much easier just by taking the brood box several meters away.

It’s the memory of that colony & several others, even worse than the one in the video is the reason for the strategy that I outlined.

The reason why that colony had so much chalk brood was due to the fact that it was near impossible to do a brood inspection without taking the steps that I took in the video.

I haven’t even mentioned this, however once most of the bees leave the hive to populate another hive, leaving only nurse bees, that hive is very vulnerable to SHB damage, should they be in the area.


Not at all. In a different location, or with slightly less aggressive bees, your ideas might be just fine.

My mentor is a commercial beekeeper. When he has a hive like this one, he takes it to one of his remote apiaries. He sets up two brood boxes with a queen excluder between them, then shakes the bees off into the upper box, while his helper sprays them with 1:1 syrup and smokes them down. The syrup helps to keep them from flying up again, as they are weighed down and too busy licking it off to fight the beekeepers. I could ask for his help as a last resort, but i wanted to try to solve it myself.

We thought about that, or a supersedure with an unmarked or virgin queen running around. But we have seen nicely placed eggs, uncapped larvae and capped workers in the last 5 days, so that doesn’t fit. We last saw a marked queen 3 weeks ago, so the timing is wrong for a new queen to be laying already.

Meanwhile, I am finding the discussion here fascinating and very informative. Many thanks to everyone (and I mean everyone) for their input. :blush:

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Hi Dawn, there’s a couple of lessons to be learnt here. One being to consider using one brood box. In my video you’ll see that even with one brood box the job of doing a brood inspection is difficult in these circumstances. That’s why the chalk brood disease got bad on some of the frames. I’d hate to have a second brood box under those circumstances.

I guess it goes without saying that at the first sign of a colony being super aggressive, take the hive somewhere else.

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Hi Dawn, I wondered about sugar syrup to calm them down but have never tried it. I have tried the method you mention that your mentor uses with the queen excluder (apart from taking to a remote location) and I have no idea why, but I didn’t capture the queen. I think that experience prompted me to come up with the solution I did, but to be honest, I’ve never tried it!

This thread and beekeeping generally reminds me of the poem, “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns and the interpretation of it - you know, best laid plans etc. Poetry has gone out of fashion but still worth a read.

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Sometimes I feel it is more like a quote from the wiser heads in the military, “No battle plan ever survives first engagement with the enemy”.