This spring we requeened our two hives, splitting one hive into two, for a total of three new queens. After a week or two we realized one hive had a bad queen - she was there, but not laying eggs. We quickly got a replacement, but of course by this time the hive was a few weeks behind. In the past we had a similar experience when a queen we purchased produced nothing but drones. That hive didn't survive because her replacement was too late. And just for the record, we had picked up these queens directly. They weren't mail ordered.
After this second experience I've decided our lesson is that we should not requeen in the spring unless we have to for some reason. I now think we should requeen in the fall. That way if something goes wrong, we don't lose out on the honey flow. But I'm wondering what others think. Is this a good idea?
I only requeen in the spring if they are failing. Otherwise I try to do it in the fall. Besides I can raise my own by then.
Another way to requeen is simply dequeen right before the honey flow hits (or do a cut down split) and then the bees won't swarm, because they are queenless, and they will make more honey because they aren't busy caring for brood that won't emerge soon enough to help with the harvest anyway and 28 days later you should have a young laying queen to give you some young bees to get through the fall and winter.
spring or fall that is a good question. i lean towards the spring to go into the swarming season with a very young queen to reduce swarming.it is also easier to requeen with less bees in the spring. i think it was just a bit of bad luck with those spring queens and you should try it again. if you requeen in the fall and it fails you could lose the hive in the winter. if you requeen in the fall introduce in a nuc first and then unite.
as for removing the queen before the honey flow to stop swarming might not be a good idea. since the bees will focus on queen rearing. i have read every bee book there is and NOWHERE have i ever read to take the queen out before the honey flow. i have had hives that went queenless right before or during the flow and they stop putting incoming nectar in the supers and start putting it the top brood box since there is no brood in it. pretty darn hard to requeen then in my experience. anyway beekeeping can be a little more difficult with only a few hives to work with , one simply doesnt have enough extra bees or equipment to do what is always recommended in the books or by other fellow beekeepers. sometimes its just a shot in the dark(lol). remember its a hobby and just have fun with it
A lot has been written on cut-down splits and increasing foragers by decreasing brood and encouraging early-age foraging. The concept is in most comb honey books and sevearl studies. Some people leave the queen in the main hive and let the split raise a new queen. Some put the old queen in the new hive and let the main honey producing hive (the old one) raise the new queen. This is done sometime no more than two weeks before the main flow.
If you want to read more, I'm afraid the study that used to be online no longer seems to be available, But Killian and Taylor talk about cut-down splits in their books.
The man who taught me had a mild recommendation for re-queening when the honey flow was starting to wind down. The rational is, the hive has already given you a profit for the year, and if you get a drone-layer for a queen you have time during the summer to take care of it. It also avoids disturbing the bees when you want them focused entirely on nectar and brood.
I noticed that he re-queened any time, but then he had a lot of experience. He gave no hard and fast rules, it was just a suggestion to a newbie.
I like this summer requeen idea. I think next year I'll leave the hives alone that look strong in the spring. Of course we also seem to get a decent fall honey crop here in the Texas hill country, so I'll have to consider that as well.
This makes me wonder about a couple other things:
1. Do most people requeen every year? I've had queens go three years. I requeened only because I thought I should, not because she showed signs of slowing down.
2. Do most people requeen naturally? I've always purchased domestic queens. Supposedly the Africanized bees have hit central Texas, so should I be worried about that if I let nature take over?
Since you are in The Texas Hill Country I assume you are in an africanized zone. I recommend you requeen every year. New queens reduce supercedure. Naturally mated queens in an africanized zone will likely turn mean.
I like to requeen in late September/early October for the following reasons:
1. Queens are less expensive.
2. Since we have a honey flow that starts in early April,getting queens before April is difficult. You can get queens from Hawaii, but I suggest you order them well in advance.
2. Requeening in the fall allows you to evaluate your new queens and, if necessary, requeen before the honey flow.
3. Many people think that fall queens stand a better chance to be well mated as drone populations are higher in the fall than in early spring.
4. In the San Antonio Area we often have a moderate nectar flow in October with good natural pollen availability.
"3. Many people think that fall queens stand a better chance to be well mated as drone populations are higher in the fall than in early spring."
I am told the queens I buy are artificially inseminated, so should this matter? Also, would you mind telling me where you usually buy your bees. Do you typically have them shipped? We have been buying out of Navasota, Texas. It's a few hours drive from Liberty Hill, but we can avoid the mail if we want.
Usually AI or II (intramental insemination) are very expensive. The only advantage is knowing excactly the genetics and they are popular for breeder queens. But a natural mated one usually lays longer and does better as a production queen.
If you are buying queens from Navasota, I suspect you are buying Weaver queens. I don't think that either of the Weavers are selling AI queens. AI queens are normaly $60+ and probably not your best choice unless you are breeding your own queens. I personally think that Weaver queens are some of the best queens you can get and likley worth the extra cost. If I remember correctly, BWeaver was advertising that they have not needed to treat for Varroa for 3 years? I would still recommend treating or at least checking for varroa. I prefer their "All American" line for our area.
I have used B.Weaver All-Americans for the past two years here in northern NJ, and I have not used ANY treatments for mites or other disease. All my colonies came thru last winter (severe) and are fine. I requeen in late summer by putting a nuc on top of a single deep; bees will quickly combine and fill upper deep with winter stores. I have never had a queen lost this way (knock on wood). My experience is young queens going into winter do best, and rebound in spring very well with little swarming or supersedure.
Now that I have multiple hives, I either combine or split according to what's happening with a hive at risk...
A sterile queen this spring caused a hive to be vulnerable, so I did a combine with newspaper on the neighboring colony, and in a few weeks, I split them apart, adding frames of brood, and pollen from the parent hive.