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The queen and other questions

The queen we have is not marked. She is also at least a year old.

Sometimes I find her, and sometimes I just see the eggs (I think they are eggs) and brood so I know she is there. I like the idea if the queen being marked so I can know where she is and be extra careful and do not squish her accidentally.

How easy it is to catch the queen with one of those catchers? I admit I am terrified attempting to catch her, and mark her. I know practice makes perfect but I really don’t want to practice on my viable queen. Is there any equipment which is easier/safer for these tasks?

Does everyone just replace their queen every two years regardless of her performance? And if so when is the optimal time of year to let the colony make a new one with the least possible disruption to the hive - just before spring?

Thank you for your time to help me.

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Hi @BooBees, practice on the drones until you get the confidence. Then when it comes time to do the queen, change colour :joy: or you’ll find yourself with a lot of drag-queens…

Sounds expensive and unnecessary for hobbyist. My philosophy is the bees will know when to replace her. Spring is a good season to raise new queens.


Freddy, that was the best answer I could ever get. You made my day!
:laughing: :laughing: :laughing:


BTW, I was not planning on buying a new one, I’m a student on a shoestring budget. I was hoping they will make their own.

You being a student on a tight budget, I like your idea of letting the bees make their own queen. I’m not on a tight budget, I’m just a frugal beekeeper. I let my bees make their own queens.

I have never felt the need to mark queens. I think it would make us look for the dot instead of the queen. I’d encourage you to leave them unmarked so you can get good at finding them. I always look for evidence of a queen, not the queen herself unless I specifically need to.

It’s always a good practice to be gentle with the brood frames regardless of whether the queen is on them, or not.


Thank you Jeff, actually I am frugal too.

I like your reasoning on unmarking the queen. I’m glad I asked the question.

I am very gentle when handling frames, but there is always a bee that goes in the wrong place at the wrong time and I really hate having even a single casualty. Maybe I am doing something wrong.

For example when I put the super back on, after I smoke the edges of the brood box and queen excluder to clear bees, there’s always a couple of bees that manage to crawl on the edge and get squashed. The super being heavy and bulky, it is very difficult to know whether I am squishing bees or not. It saddens me the next time I make an inspection to find bees dead between the boxes.

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You’re welcome, I agree it IS sad to see bees that have been squashed. You could make the super lighter by removing a few frames from the middle. You could also screw some cleats where the handles are to give a better grip. I do that on boxes that have shallow grips.

If you’re using your smoker to remove bees before you replace the super, you’ve done the best you can. By making the super lighter, coupled with better hand grips, that will help because you’ll get it back on quicker, hopefully killing less bees.

Hi @BooBees, there are a lot of possible answers to your questions. As I said before, the best first question is why, to what purpose?

Do you want to keep any particular strain of bees? Then you need to get help from queen breeder (note, not a queen bee producer).
Do you want to keep local mongrels and see how good they are? Kill your queen and repeat this operation 3-4 times as soon as they laid enough eggs to keep population up.
Don’t care either way? Do nothing.

As to when? Again it depends on particular circumstances and goals. If one introduces mated queen disruption will be minimal anyway if colony accepts her. If one wants to let colony raise own queen there will be disruption.
Season-wise, there must be drones present for mating to start with. If one cares for honey production, such interruption before nectar flow is detrimental to the purpose, but may increase honey production if done close to the peak of major nectar flow in strong colony and no other flow is expected soon in the area. Don’t like either option? Let them to produce a queen after the major honey flow.

There are other possibilities too :grinning:


Not everyone marks their queens but I do so that she really stands out if I need to find her with the spot on her thorax. It also tells me the age of the queen in a hive and if I find an un-marked queen then I know she has been replaced.
I terminate my queens after two years as a part of swarm management based on the evidence that the older a queen is the more likely the hive will swarm, everything else being equal, but it is never equal. I do that when there is plenty of drones about. My mentor was a commercial bee keeper and I follow his advice about that. Of course he was all about honey production.

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Thanks for the encouragement Jeff. We are working on a better setup in the apiary too, will make handling easier.

Thanks again ABB. All food for thought. I’d be lying if I say I’m not keeping bees for honey, but the fun of keeping them is equally important. I’m learning that keeping bees is a very finely tuned machine with plenty of levers. Thanks once again for your thoughtful replies.

What else to keep them for? No, wait! There are also pollen, wax…, propolis… :thinking:

It would be peculiar if you admitted that you keep them as house pets, but “for honey” is not a particularly unusual case :grinning:

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What else to keep them for?
I suspect it’s sacrilege to say it on this site of all sites but, I’m not a huge fan of honey and have them mostly for pollination and I love learning about bees. I’ve pretty much stuffed everything up to date as far as the hive goes. I look forward to getting it right and eventually giving the honey away to family and friends. I will of course keep plenty for guests and to use in cooking.


I suspect ABB was being cheeky. We can only consume so much honey, and was looking forward to have some excess honey so we can sell to pay for some of the costs involved. I personally get more thrill in opening up the hive and have a look at what they’re up to, than the honey itself. Maybe that will change in the future.


A queen or a new split turned nuc is a sale-able item. I wouldn’t be squishing queens every 2 years :wink:

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Hi @Outbeck. It was a joke. I had a feeling that @BooBees was a bit uneasy saying that honey was included in the sphere of his interests. We started a conversation about finding personal angle in beekeeping before, so I couldn’t help myself :slightly_smiling_face:

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Sorry. I was.

Yes, it may change. But it doesn’t really matter. I love bees because of those almost endless “first time” moments.

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Yes ABB, so far I’ve been stung 5 times - each sting was in a different part of my body for the first time.

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And this is just a beginning! :wink:


Hi ABB - Didn’t mean to stand in the way of a good quip and take a detour :grin: It just dawned on me that there cant be many around these parts that got into beekeeping without some kind of honey hankering.

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Neither my husband nor I really like honey much. Yes, I use it in cooking. I do like lavender honey, but I can’t get it as pure myself as buying it in France. We keep bees for the fascination and the pollination. Helps to keep my brain alive. :blush: