The Basics Of Requeening A Hive

Does the idea of requeening a hive scare you? Don’t let it. It is great for your hive and in turn, great for you as a beekeeper. If you are unsure about the concept of requeening a hive or how to requeen a hive, stick around. I have lots of information to help you along in the process.

What Is Requeening?

Requeening a hive is a very important process that should be considered every one to two years. The benefits are many for both the hive and ultimately you. However, many people avoid requeening a beehive because they are scared of the process and the expense. If you choose to raise your own queens the expense part of it can be avoided. But what, exactly, is requeening?

Requeening is when the beekeeper ‘disposes’ of the previous queen and replaces her with a new one.

But how would you go about doing this? The process really isn’t as difficult as you might think. The two ways to requeen are direct and indirect.

Direct requeening is the less recommended option. If you release the new queen directly into the hive the bees will often kill her. They are not familiar with her yet, and you will run the risk of them thinking she is a threat to the hive.

Indirectly introducing the new queen into the hive is your better bet. There are two ways to go about this.

  1. The first way is if you raise your own queen. You will need to invest in a queen cage. They actually look like a large clamp. It will close in around the queen so she is protected. You will place her in between frames so as the fresh brood hatches they are familiar with her.
  2. The second option works best if you purchase your queens. When you buy a queen she will most likely come in a box that will go directly into the hive. There will be a cork in this box that you will need to pull out before placing her into the hive. Beneath this cork is a candy plug. You will have to take a small pin and poke a hole in this candy plug. This will draw the bees to the box and allow them to eat through the plug. This whole process of eating takes about two days. By the time the bees eat through the plug, the queen will have been accepted into the hive.

The process of requeening may sound intimidating but it truly isn’t. You just need to choose the best option for your hive and where you are in your beekeeping.

When Should I Requeen?

The simple answer to this question is: whenever you want,  as long as it is during the warmer months.

We actually just finished helping some friends of ours requeen their hives. We raise our queens and the process went great.

The more complex answer to this question is: September. Why September? Because you can get greater benefits the following spring.

If you requeen your hives every September you give the queen enough time to become well established within her hive over the winter months. Also the brood she lays will become winter bees which actually live a few months longer than other bees because the first few months of their lives are spent hanging out in the hive, riding out the cold weather. This means when spring hits she will be ready to lay and cause your hive to boom with productivity.

The only downside to requeening in September is the nectar flow. Bees are more likely to accept a queen during a time of good nectar flow. September is not during that time. So though the long-term benefits may be great, you could face some difficulties in the short-term outlook.

In my opinion, you need to do what seems to work best for your personal goals with your bees. If you are satisfied (for now) with your bees and their productivity then wait until September. If you are not then go ahead and requeen.

Why Should You Requeen?

There are two very good reasons to requeen your hives.

1. Genetics

Remember when I mentioned earlier how we helped our friends requeen their hives? Well, this was the reason.

They had a really hot hive. If you’ve ever had a hot hive you knew it quickly, and it will most likely be an experience you will never forget.

If you don’t know what I mean by saying they had a ‘hot hive.’ I am not talking about temperature. Hot hives are very temperamental little boogers. They will go to extreme lengths to defend their hives.

Saying they are territorial is the understatement of the year.

Anyway, if you have a hive that just has bad genes then don’t tolerate it. Give them a new queen and weed that problem out.

I’m serious. Hot hives can literally take the joy out of beekeeping. Don’t endanger yourself or anyone else for that matter. And certainly don’t give up on beekeeping.

If you give them a new leader that has a better temperament then you will soon see new bees being produced that have much better personalities too.

2. Productivity

Queen bees have very important jobs. They keep order in the hive and strengthen the hive by laying and increasing the numbers.

However, as queens get older this job becomes more daunting. She becomes slower, lays less brood, and the overall productivity of the hive suffers.

This means less honey for you.

When this happens, it is time to pull out your oldie but goodie and replace her with a newer model. It is also important to put things into perspective by remembering that you only think you are the beekeeper.

In reality, the queens keep the bees. They are what the whole hive centers around. So your hive will only be as strong as the queen that leads it.

Do you have any helpful hints or tips when it comes to requeening hives? Do you have any great experiences to share in regards to requeening hives? We’d love to hear from you.