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Should I re-queen or let nature take it's course?

Hi fellow bee keepers. I purchased my flow hive the beginning of this year and all has been going swimmingly. However… The queen decided to leave this morning and took a bunch of followers with her. The swarm is high up in a gum tree which I can’t get to (I live next to a national park).

I did an inspection and the hive is healthy with a lot of capped and uncapped brood. There are also a number of queen cells - a couple are capped with a few uncapped larvae.

The question I have is - should I buy a new queen or let nature take it’s course and allow the queens that are being raised to hatch?

Thanks in advance

I would be inclined to let nature take it’s course through natural selection. Sometimes, not always, colonies can issue a secondary swarm, followed by another one, leaving the original hive greatly depleted in numbers. You can safeguard against that by randomly selecting one queen cell & destroying the rest. That is a decision you’ll have to make.

I certainly wouldn’t buy another queen.

If you had another brood box, you could split the hive by putting equal numbers of queen cells in each split. That doubles your chances of getting a successful mating.

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Why buy a new queen when the colony is making a new queen by natural selection, she will likely have a lot of the genes of the original queen and will be readily accepted by the colony.
What you should do is join a local bee group or find a local mentor so that you can learn to do a split of the hive rather than have half your bees up a gum tree.
I agree with Jeff’s advice. Welcome to the forum.
Cheers

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Thanks to you both - that is a great help. Yes - I think a split hive next time is a worthwhile idea.

Cheers

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Welcome to the Flow forum!

I agree with the comments above, but I would also suggest that at this time in your season, there is significant risk of a cast (second) swarm from the same hive. To prevent this, you might want to take a look at page 16 of this excellent booklet:

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Thanks heaps - the booklet is very informative. I have a mix of capped and uncapped queen cells. I think I might take the ‘leave one queen cell’ option. I agree with the writer that leaving a capped queen cell is the better option as it will be closer to hatching than the non capped cells.

It seems that a colony likes to make a ‘play queen cell’ even when they have no need for it, maybe it is just to have it on stand-by. I used to knock them down but in 48 hours another was made.
When I do a split I leave at least 2 queen cells in the split so that if one doesn’t emerge then there is the spares to emerge and complete the natural cycle. The queen remains in the original hive but if I miss finding her then I go for queen cells in both the split and the original hive and let the bees work it out.
Making splits is a better option than having a hive swarm, I think this way, a swarm means you loose 50% of the bees, a secondary swarm then more have gone, and so you end up with a much weaker colony. At least making splits you have a saleable nuc if you don’t want a second hive, and all of the bees in the original colony are still working for you…
Cheers

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The one & only time I broke every queen cell down bar one, I came a gutsa because the one I left behind turned out to be a dud. That put an abrupt end to that strategy for me. If I was going to leave just one queen cell, I’d choose one with a nice looking grub in it. Therefore I’d be tearing down the sealed ones.

At the end of the day, I prefer natural selection above random selection. Therefore I’d be doing what I said earlier & splitting the colony in two, evenly distributing the queen cells. That way you double the chances of a successful mating, plus each split is less likely to swarm with the first virgin queen that emerges. Plus the added advantage of a naturally selected queen.

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Thanks Peter/Jeff - Hopefully my capped queen will hatch in the next couple of days (I chose this option because it will happen sooner than selecting a non capped grub).

My original thought was that I didn’t want another hive yet (yes, I suppose I could sell the second nuc).

A question… If I had created a second nuc (transferring a couple of queen cells and a couple of frames of bees/brood), would this stop the original queen from swarming? Or will she always leave every spring?

I really appreciate everyone’s help with this. It’s definitely a learning experience.

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You’re welcome Graham, What I do is preemptive swarm prevention splits. I never wait for a colony to produce queen cells. I’m doing a lot of that at the moment. I let the splits make emergency queen cells. I remove mostly sealed brood with the splits. Sometimes if there is queen cells in multiple frames, I’ll split the splits. There is so many options available to us. One thing to bare in mind is: @Dee pointed it out one day that one full frame of sealed brood will produce 3 frames of bees. I see evidence of this all the time.

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I’m doing my bee keeping along the same line as Jeff especially in preemptive splits of the hives I have. Like Jeff I try to do my splits before the hive has queen cells being put into use. Doing that certainly cuts down the swarming urge, as the hive has less bees in it and some new frames of foundation giving the bees work to do. A colony can become bored and more angry. So in doing a split the bees may think that the colony has already swarmed, it seems to be that way in my apiary.
A mate in Sydney did a split, advertised it on Gumtree and sold within an hour !!! When I decide to sell a split the split goes straight into an 8 frame brood box and after a month add a QX and a super and a month later offer it on Gumtree if it hasn’t been ordered already. What I sell is a complete hive.
It is normal colony behavior in the Spring that the colony wants to swarm if you don’t intervene with a split. To me it is a ‘no brainer’ to do a split as a part of good hive management.
Glad to pass on advice, one thing about bee keeping – you never stop learning. :grinning::grinning:

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Thanks so much for your advice. That makes perfect sense. I will look at doing a split next year. I have been considering having two hives, so by then my knowledge should be vastly superior to current.

Thanks again!

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They actually don’t do that in the booklet. They look for cells which are being guarded that might have a fully developed queen in it, and release her. They say that nurse bees hold mature virgins in the cells until one gets free and the free queen then goes round killing (most of) the rest. What they are trying to do is release all of the queens simultaneously to prevent a cast swarm. If they do that, the bees won’t swarm again, because there is no remaining queen “in the bank” and no eggs as the only laying queen has already swarmed.

Please note, this is not swarm prevention for primary swarms. They only recommend it to prevent cast swarms. :blush: As in all things beekeeping, there are many ways to do it. :wink:

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Hi Jeff, Do you have to remove the nuc from your area to prevent your split bees returning to the original hive if they do not have a queen when you split?
I have 2 hives and they are both very healthy. Some people at the bee club are suggesting we add another brood box to our Flow Brood and super set up, but I am concerned what are we going to do with all the bees and equipment through summer.

I’ll leave Jeff to answer your question to him.
Sydney has a range of climates depending on your location but either a single or a double brood hive will work well there. As a new bee keeper I would advise to keep it simple and have a single brood hive. Your inspections will be quicker and so less disruption and stress to the bees so they will settle down much quicker after you have finished. It will be less stress to you also if you need to check that the hive is queen right in trying to look for her.
I lived in the Hawkesbury (Richmond area) and so because of the cold Winters there I had double brood hives. Now living on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland I really appreciate that I can have single brood hives and my inspection times are much shorter and less ‘drama’.
Either way you go in Summer all your gear should be in use on the hives with the exception of a spare box that is handy for placing frames in when you are doing an inspection.
Maybe a spare base board, frames with foundation fitted and a migratory roof as a standby if you need to make a split or you come across a swarm.
It is your Winter when you will be might have the need to pack down your hives that you will have gear off the hive and need to store it in a way to protect it from the ‘nasties’ like wax moth, SHB and ants.
Keep it simple for yourself and enjoy your bee keeping.
Cheers

Hi Maria, I agree with what Peter said about keeping it simple. One brood box, however you might need to reduce some brood from time to time to prevent swarming.

To answer your question: I move the splits away from the parent hives on account that I don’t want the bees returning to them. My main reason for splits is to stop swarming. Therefore I don’t want those older bees returning because they could contribute to the colony wanting to swarm, sooner rather than later. Another reason for not wanting the bees to return to the parent hive is SHB related. If too many bees vacate the brood in the split, that brood will be more vulnerable to SHB activity. I learned my lesson there. Once bitten, twice shy.

Some good came out of my bad experience because I’m now able to pass on the information so that others wont suffer the same fate.

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