I have a poor brood pattern with lots of drones. I think I should requeen. How long can I wait before requeening? What happens if I wait too long? It’s early spring where I am.
Now is a perfect time to requeen, assuming that you can find the old queen. If not, and you have laying workers (which can also result in a lot of drones), then requeening may be very difficult, as the laying workers will kill off any new queen. Let me deal with your questions first, and then I will make some suggestions.
It depends on how much worker brood is in the hive. If you have capped worker brood, you could wait a couple of weeks. If you don’t have any, you need to requeen as soon as possible. The queen needs feeding by young nurse bees (less than 3 weeks since they emerged from the pupa), and her uncapped larvae also need feeding with royal jelly. Older worker bees can’t make much royal jelly, so they may not be able to sustain the queen and the new brood.
If you wait too long, you will have more and more drones with fewer and fewer workers. Drones eat honey in the hive, and don’t forage or do any household chores. So the hive will reach starving point and eventually die out. Also, if the hive is queenless, the longer you wait, the greater the risk of laying workers developing - usually starting about 3-4 weeks after the queen has gone.
- Contact a local bee club and ask an experienced beekeeper to help you find the queen and mark her. If you are going to requeen, you will need to find her and remove her before you can put the new queen into the hive
- Ask to buy a frame of brood in all stages (eggs, uncapped larvae, capped brood) from a club member. This will not only boost the hive, but the uncapped larvae make brood pheromone which suppresses the development of laying workers. If the hive is currently queenless, they can use eggs and larvae up to 3 days old to make a new queen. If it is not queenless, the hive will accept the frame of brood with no problem, and get a big boost from it. A frame of brood shouldn’t cost more than about $30-50. You will need to put it into the hive right away, so that it doesn’t get chilled
- Feed the hive aggressively now. I would suggest sugar syrup, but also pollen substitute if they don’t have good pollen stores. Bee larvae are feed royal jelly, and then “bee bread”, which is pollen mixed with honey and beneficial microbes. If there is no pollen, the hive will not allow the queen to lay new brood. Also, if you have tons of drones, they will be eating a lot of honey. You can replace that temporarily with sugar syrup
I was hoping that @Martha might be able to help you, but she is probably very busy with her day job at this time of year. I am sure that other forum members may have some ideas for you too
I agree with what @Dawn_SD said, however I’m not a fan or requeening unless it is straight forward, that is find the old queen, kill her & insert the queen in cage.
In regards to your drone count. It’s important to note if the drones are born in drone comb or worker comb. If they are all out of drone comb, you probably have too much drone comb available for the queen to lay in. I keep the drone comb down to a minimum, so as to maximize worker comb.
If you are seeing a mixture of workers & drones in worker comb, to me that is a failing queen & needs to be dealt with. If you are seeing all drones in worker comb, with no workers at all, to me that indicates a laying worker.
In preference to requeening, depending on what you find, I would introduce a frame of BIAS. If you have a failing queen, I would slowly look for her, find her & kill her. Then after 4-5 days I would look for queen cells to see if the colony is making a new queen.
If you have a laying worker, it can be dealt with, however it requires a different strategy. We can deal with that later on, if necessary.
Thanks for the kind words in aiding locals. I am normally able to assist. However, this year finds me as a caregiver to my 90 year old Mom. I’m late dealing with my bees myself. When I get in a queen pinch I order a queen from Kentucky (our local companies have sold to other name brand companies so it’s manlake or kelly bees) and it’s close enough to ship or drive to get. Plus it takes them time to rear and mate the queen unless they are on hand. Local facebook and craigslistings might find a queen as well. I hope the hive is rescued.
Thank you all for your help!!