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  1. #1
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    Default Requeening, what do you think?

    I read people's beekeeping stories. I like to hear people's experiences throughout the years. One thing that pricks my ear though is how people talk of requeening. I have kept my bees without treatments of any kind for eight years. From the onset, I was intent on developing a diverse gene pool of bees that would produce well and be disease resistant. Then I read stories of people keeping bees for so and so years and such and such a hive they have owned for so long, but the queen gets replaced every year.

    In my perhaps more natural understanding of a beehive, when you replace the queen, it's not the same hive anymore. It's a different hive. These bees are not related to the previous bees, they're just living in the same house. Am I right?

    The idea of simply replacing one of my queens or even a bunch of them every year seems distasteful to me as a matter of practice. I do purchase queens to head up splits, because like I mentioned, I want to be genetically diverse and want to add new blood to the group. But as far as replacing a poorly performing queen, I'd rather pinch her and let them start over. This queen may not be performing well, but her line has stuck around this long, and maybe there's something one of her daughters can offer.

    I've had one hive now for eight years which has not been intentionally requeened ever. They are not the best producers, but they do produce every year. Considering that they are one of twenty original packages of non disease resistant stock originating over 2000 miles away, I think they have something to offer.

    What are your thoughts?
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Requeening, what do you think?

    You don't mention your honey crop, or if you are losing hives sometimes.

    Those things aside though, if you are happy with what you are doing, keep doing it.

    Your method of pinching the queen & letting them raise a new one, can with very little effort, be improved upon to get a higher quality queen. Remember also that each time the bees, for whatever reason, produce themselves a new queen, you'll get a 50% gene change.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Requeening, what do you think?

    During the natural biological life history of a successful colony, it will naturally re-queen itself periodically via swarming and supersedure. Success for a colony depends on a vigorous queen at the helm, and queens do have a limited amount of semen they can store, so as queens "wear out" the beekeeper can choose to take a chance on supersedure or re-queen with a well mated queen (or a queen cell) of desirable ancestry. IMHO providing a hive with what it needs to thrive is not "distasteful" but good husbandry. The most successful beekeeping operations are very diligent about keeping a young fecund queen at the helm of their hives. I see re-queening as helping the colony to do what it wants and needs to do to thrive. A colony can often do this on its own, but there many will times beekeeper assistance will greatly increase the odds of success of the colony as a whole. Productive robust hives speak for themselves.
    Last edited by JBJ; 01-22-2011 at 02:24 PM. Reason: word ommission
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  4. #4
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    Re: Requeening, what do you think?

    Quote Originally Posted by WiredForStereo View Post
    I do purchase queens to head up splits, because like I mentioned, I want to be genetically diverse and want to add new blood to the group. But as far as replacing a poorly performing queen, I'd rather pinch her and let them start over. This queen may not be performing well, but her line has stuck around this long, and maybe there's something one of her daughters can offer.
    By bringing in outside queens, you are already creating new genetics in all of your colonies. The new queens produce new drones, so when your original queens swarm, supercede, or when you pinch poor producers, the daughter queens are mating with a mix of the outside drones and the drones from the original stock. Creating a new mix of bees in the hive... everytime you have brought in new queens, you have added more of an outer mix than the original mix.

    That genetic diversity has surely spread to all of your colonies during the 8 years that you have had them... Thus you do not have the same bees that you had when you started... So their survival may be more due to the new genetics that you have added than the original genetics that you started with.

    Its not really different than someone requeening their hives... either way they are producing drones whether they be in the splits or the original colonies.

    That said... Quality queens are at their best in the spring of their 3rd year... IF they have not swarmed or superceded and the 3rd year queen heads the hive during the spring you will have a superior build up that most do not get... But she needs to be replaced one way or another after that spring.

    Emergency queen quality is "hit and miss", so you could be doing more harm than good for your colonies by pinching the queen without giving them a good cell, virgin, or laying queen to replace her. Nutrition and wax condition are the main factors there. Having a queen that was raised under optimal conditions, selected out of thousands of hives, and mated to drones that are from colonies that were selected out of thousands of hives can boost your production and add drones to your apiaries that can add great traits to your other hives when they requeen themselves.

    Hope this helps!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Requeening, what do you think?

    "Quality queens are at their best in the spring of their 3rd year... " rrussel

    This may be the case sometimes, but it really depends on how much semen the queen acquires during mating and what demands are placed on the hive. If one is expanding an apiary and queens are encouraged to brood early and often, they may use up more of their semen stores. This is often the case in a commercial setting when one is trying to increase to replace dead outs or make more productive units. Every operation that I know of that is running 2%-10% losses annually, are very thorough about annual re-queening. That being said we have many 3+ year old queens in our breeder population as a result of our selection program. Unless the colony in question was superior and exceptional in many ways re-queening is usually preferable to supersedure. When a hive begins to show signs of wanting a new queen, help them out and give them what they need.
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  6. #6
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    Re: Requeening, what do you think?

    I agree. That's why I said a "Quality" queen. A well mated queen will have no troubles producing mass brood in her 3rd spring. After that, I suggest requeening no matter what. However, to most, they will never truly know if their queen has made it to the 3rd spring without swarming or being supercede... tags and clipping helps to identify if the original queen is still heading the colony.

    As a breeder, I should probably just keep my mouth shut... but its something that people should try at least with one hive just as a neat study. I believe that people should be studying their colonies more to bring a better understanding to the new generations. This will ultimately be a benefit to our industry as a whole. As I have said before, it is encouraging to me to see people close the books and open the hives.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Requeening, what do you think?

    Great discussion.

    I do lose hives, like everybody. Maybe I could have saved some of them if I were more intensive with my management practices, maybe not. Production gets better every year, but everything is always in a state of flux as I haven't yet reached my development goals.

    Here's another question. I've noticed a few queen producers advertising breeders that are at least two years old. Is there enough focus on queen longevity or are queens more like bottle rockets? What are the issues there?
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Requeening, what do you think?

    Quote Originally Posted by WiredForStereo View Post
    What are your thoughts?
    I think it all depends on why you are keeping bees. If honey production was your top priority, then you'd probably want to requeen with different genetics.

    If keeping bees treatment free is your top priority, then I think you're on the right track.

    I've pondered my plans for 2011. I usually buy some nucs and queens to diversify my genetic base. Mail order queens come with their own baggage, and sometimes I'd be better off tossing a $20 bill into the smoker. Shipping stress, banking stress, early season mating...it all takes a toll on the quality of the queen.

    Over the years, I've been intentionally raising my own queens from the best producing hives. Adding new queens from outside sources has not seemed to really help me.

    I think this year I'm not going to add any new genetics from commercially-raised queens, and I don't mean to be critical of these beekeepers. I'm going to focus and refine my purpose of locally-adapted, region queens from my own stock.

    Grant
    Jackson, MO
    Beekeeping With Twenty-five Hives: https://www.createspace.com/4152725

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Requeening, what do you think?

    I kind of agree with you. If I had an 8 year old treatment free hive that I was satisfied with. Raise all you're replacement queens from that hive. Some people make a good living selling queens from exactly those kind of hives.

    There are probably other hives within a couple miles to keep genetic diversity.
    Dan

  10. #10
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    Re: Requeening, what do you think?

    Most likely, the issues that you guys have had with queens have not come because they were commercially bred, but more so because they were poor stock. I wouldnt give up on the practice of bringing in outside queens, but rather give up on the breeders that have been selling you junk queens.

    The two largest issues with queen quality in the US today are
    1. Not enough drones provided for mating yards... resulting in poorly mated queens.
    2. Poor grafting and selection practices that cause inbreeding... this is not so much a problem for the breeder as it is for the customers of the breeder.

    Selecting the best hive and grafting all replacement queens from that one hive will leave you with an entire apiary of inbred stock the next season.

    Sure the grafted colony is half-sisters, but only of 15-20 lineages at the most... and being a half-sister is not enough to keep inbreeding down. The proof of that is in the overall quality of queens over the past two decades.

    The problem with poor breeders is doing this to their customers... each queen that they produce may be a great queen, but when the customer orders queens, they get all sisters and requeen their yards with them... a few years later they have a dwindling stock and cant figure out what went wrong... so they buy more queens from that breeder and get a "shot in the arm" that will last for a few more years.

    Good breeders graft from multiple queen mothers of different lineage and plant cells in their mating nucs in such an order that if they catch 40 queens in a row, each one will be from a different mother... this way the customers get a mix of lineages instead of only getting one.

    Even we buy queens from other producers all over the world. These queens are tested thoroghly and if approved we add them to our stock to add lineages each new season.

    Record keeping is the most important process to a good breeding operation.

    Not treating your colonies is a great way to find and promote the resistant stock that you have... but for how many years have they gone without treatment in your yards compaired to the ones that a Good breeder's yards...

    Buying queens from stock that has been selected for its resistance can move you ahead very quickly in building apiaries that do not have to be treated and it will add lineages to your stock.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Requeening, what do you think?

    Quote Originally Posted by rrussell6870 View Post
    Even we buy queens from other producers all over the world.
    From where, and how do you get them into this country?

  12. #12
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    Re: Requeening, what do you think?

    From many places. All legal imports, special permissions, and semen imports. Back when we first started importing (in the 40's), there were less restrictions, but less communications as well... there are many great strains in other nations... of course, I am the a huge advocate of selecting bees of your climate, but by researching an exporter thoroughly, and selecting strains from similar climates, importing queens can be very useful for adding lineages. It is also an extremely expensive method and thus not possible for most operations. Shipping is expensive itself, but inspections and permits are much worse.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Requeening, what do you think?

    Great discussion. Very helpful. Exactly the thread I was hoping to find.

    I am ready to start my 3rd year as a beek. The old-timer that I bought my hives from told me that my queens were both first year queens. I let both hives build up a second brood chamber the first year. One also gave me a medium super full of honey at the end of my first year. The other hive seemed to be struggling. Small colony, struggled just to draw all the comb in the second brood.

    Then sometime toward the end of the summer the weak hive really came to life. BIG increase in activity and population. I pulled the upper brood chamber off and inspected the lower chamber where I found 3 or 4 open supersedure cells near the top bar of a couple of the frames.

    That hive was more aggressive during inspections my second season, but boy, did it ever come to life. All in all, I feel pretty confident that they must have made a new queen.

    During my second season, my two hives gave me about 120 pounds of honey. The new queen actually out-produced the older one.

    I was considering re-queening my other hive - for no other reason than having read that I should do so every other year. But from what I gather here, it seems like I should let her go at least another year. I keep wondering back and forth whether to re-queen or just let them make a queen for themselves. I guess I can put that decision off for another year.

    Thanks again for the discussion.

    - Dan

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Requeening, what do you think?

    In my view, if she's working out, leave her alone. But on the other hand, you have few hives and may not want to lose any productivity at all.

    I don't know how closely you keep track, but do you know for sure that the hive hasn't swarmed lately? In that case, the queen has already been replaced.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Requeening, what do you think?

    Quote Originally Posted by rrussell6870 View Post
    From many places. All legal imports, special permissions, and semen imports. Back when we first started importing (in the 40's), there were less restrictions, but less communications as well... there are many great strains in other nations.
    Yes I'll vouch for that. When I was first involved in exporting queens, about the only paperwork involved was a declaration that there were no diseased hives within a certain radius of where the queens came from. I signed it myself and there was no independant verification.

    Now, whole different ball game. Paperwork has got much worse, very quickly. I've been out of exporting for some years but just recently I was going to organise a small shipment of my own queens, along with queens from some other breeders, to Robert. Then I discovered it's a paperwork nightmare now. A hundred or so pages of documentation required including independant verification and expensive site inspections by third parties. It was all such a mission that bad as it made me feel, I had to tell Robert I couldn't do it. Cost was WAY out of proportion to the product.

    Anyhow from one perspective it's a good thing, a country has to protect it's borders. But bee imports to your country can happen, long as procedures are followed.

    Then there's "other" ways, back in the 1970's there was a beekeeper in my country who started advertising bee breeds for sale that did not exist here. Turned out he had been overseas and simply walked back in through customs with the queens tucked away in his bag. Although he advertised them openly, he was never prosecuted because he just claimed he had "bred towards" the traits of the bees he was selling, even though he privately admitted to everyone he had imported them.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

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