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Swarm Queen- old or new?


I am building up a medium sized swarm I was given one month ago- today for the first time I saw the queen through my observation windows. She is HUGE. I had theorized that the swarm had a virgin queen because I inspected it some 14 days after I hived it and saw no evidence of eggs, larvae, etc- even though there was quite a bit of comb. When I inspected 12 days later there was capped brood and larvae visible so I assumed the queen had successfully mated and started laying:

However- the queen I saw today look to my untrained eye to be an old one- for one reason- she has almost no hair at all on her thorax? Does that mean I have the old queen? Does the degree of hairlessness give you an indication of how many years old the queen may be?

The frames of capped brood are nicely laid- not patchy- and the colony seems to be booming building out there six frames well. I assume if she managed to swarm from her old home- she must have been at least a relatively successful queen. Nevertheless: given her possibly advanced age- should I be thinking of re-queening down the road? Or should I just let her reign until I see some sign that she is faltering?


If she is laying well and the colony is thriving why don’t you let the bees decide when she needs replacing?
Swarm queens are often superseded


That would certainly be my natural inclination. I was just curious about how others build up swarms into colonies.

When you say swarm queens are often superseded- is there a time in the season when that would likely occur?


If the bees replace her they often do fairly quickly. She seems a good’n though.
You don’t need to build them up at all, they will do that themselves, that’s what they are programmed to do. I’m sure that’s why queens are superseded…to optimise growth, to make sure they are fit and strong to reproduce the colony and survive winter…if you have one.
Good luck with them


Before swarming, the old queen stops laying very much so they can slim her down to fly and so they have a lot of unemployed bees to spare for the swarm. The young emerging bees have no brood to care for so they are not needed. Not finding eggs and brood does not mean they are queenless…


Not at all. If the laying pattern is patchy, or you are getting a lot of drones, she may be an older queen. Otherwise, just enjoy her productivity! :blush:


Hi Jack, I must confess that I don’t take much notice of the queens laying pattern with the view of replacing her down the track. I let the bees do that. I haven’t bought any new queens now for about 6 or more years. I’m happy not to into the future also.


I didn’t think they were queenless- I just assumed the queen was a virgin. Your explanation explains the slight delay in her staring to lay. Just out of interest: if a swarm was somehow queenless- would you be able to tell from their behavior/temperament? I suppose without intervention a queenless swarm would be doomed. What does a queenless swarm usually do? Do they just disperse trying to beg their way into other hives?

@JeffH I like the idea of not buying things. Queens included. I am all for letting the bees do it. :wink: a few months back though I read about a commercial apiarist in South Australia who runs 1000 hives: the article said they requeen every hive, every year with queens they buy in. At $12 a queen they spend $12,000 on new queens each year…


Hi Jack, yeah well that commercial beekeeper must have done his/her sums & worked it out that he/she was better off financially by requeening every year. When I first started beekeeping, I was told that I should requeen every year. I started doing that, but found on several occasions that I requeened a really strong hive, only for it to go backwards. Then I wondered “what was the point of that”.

The queens in my hives are all naturally selected. When you buy queens in, you only get queens that are randomly selected. I believe that natural selection has to be miles in front of random selection. Not only are they better, but also free. The thing I found with buying queens in was: You can’t get them when you want them, when they arrive, you have to be available to get them into hives as soon as possible, regardless of the weather. Then you always get the odd hive that rejects a new queen. Or you might get the odd dud queen. That’s what I found.


The only concern i would have is if she is genetically predisposed to swarming. My friend started a hive from a swarm in the autumn and it has swarmed 4 times this spring despite their splitting the hive at the first sign of queen cells and there not being much left in the original hive by the time of the last swarm. She is hanging out for a new queen to arrive.

She now has 4 new colonies descended from the original queen! I havent asked what she is going to do with them… i suspect recombine.