Requeening Feral Hives

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  • 1. Re-Queening Techniques Or these wild bees are too much- what do I do?
  • 2. Feral Requeening  Not all feral removals or swarm captures should be kept without re-queening.  Some feral bees have traits that make them dangerous of difficult to handle.  These traits can be removed by introducing a more docile queen.
  • 3. Traits to watch out for  Nervous and “Runny” bees.  Bees dripping from the frames when lifted from hive.  Overly defensive.  When opened, the bees all come out and beard around the top of the hive and climb up everything.  Scared of smoke and flee in a large mass when the hive is smoked.  Little honey in the broodnest when a full flow is in progress (not always an indicator).
  • 4. Defensive levels  A small nucleus hive should NOT be very defensive. A head buzzer or two would be OK, but not a dozen.  Only a few guards should give you problems with a full sized deep. If you are hit with 2 dozen or more, you need a new queen.  Defense levels are relative to what the beekeeper is willing to tolerate.  A simple test for defensive levels is to wave your gloved hand across the top bars (in a single pass) when the hive is opened. If the bees have a high defensive element, they will spring forth after your hand.  You can also exhale slightly on them to judge their reaction. A strong reaction could indicate defensive problems in the future.  Be careful when assessing defense levels, defensive traits are suspected to be genetically linked to survival instincts. We do not want to lose these.
  • 5. The basic idea…  A queen bee (normally purchased) is introduced in a small cage after a short period of queenless-ness, normally from finding and killing the old queen.  After a brief period, the queen is released and the feral hive accepts her.  This queen takes the place of the old queen and lays her own eggs, replacing the eggs of the old queen over time.  As these eggs hatch, the less desirable old workers are replaced with workers that possess the traits desired.
  • 6. Re-queen when feral hive is still re-establishing itself.  As a rule of thumb, re-queen sooner rather than waiting until later.  Try to re-queen when they are weak and trying to re-establish their colony.  When the numbers are back up, re-queening may become difficult or impossible.  Re-queening a 3 month old removal is a far different thing than re-queening a 3 year old established colony – especially a defensive one.
  • 7. There can be only one. Make sure she is a good one.
  • 8. Basic Re-queening - Step-by-step  De-queen the hive.  Wait a minimum of 1-2 hours.  Place new caged queen in hive. Check for queen cells first, if more than a few hours has elapsed.  Leave in place for at least 3-4 days.  Check queen for acceptance and either direct release or let the bees eat through the candy plug.  Check back in a week to see if she was accepted.  Check back in two weeks to see if she is laying.
  • 9. Methods of requeening There are several general methods available, some more successful than others.  Caged queen: the most common basic method. Not always successful with large or feral hives. 75-80% success  Nucleus re-queening: A small 3-5 frame nucleus hive is started and the new queen introduced to it. This nucleus hive is then introduced into the full sized hive with a newspaper combination or by simply moving to a new box in place of the old brood chamber or above it. 90% success when done properly.  Queen cell re-queening: A protected queen cell is installed in the hive. Can be done above an excluder if unable to locate the old queen, but be prepared to introduce more than one queen cell (50-70% success). Sometimes done in combination with the nucleus method (90% success).
  • 10. Finding the old queen
  • 11. Queens can be difficult to locate  Finding a single bee in a colony of nearly 40,000 seems a fools errand, but it can be done.  If using Langstroth equipment, divide the boxes with queen excluders, then come back in a week and look in them for eggs. The one with the eggs has the queen.  Top bar beekeepers will have to be creative or have very good eyesight and patience.
  • 12. Get rid of the foragers  After you determine which box she is in, you can move it out of the hive stack to a new position about 30 feet away.  This will accomplish two things ◦ the foragers will fly out and return to the old hive stack leaving (hopefully) easier to manage nurse bees with the queen – who can now be searched for at a much more leisurely pace. ◦ The old stack of now queenless forager bees can also be re-queened by sliding in a nucleus hive in place of the brood chamber, if you have one available.
  • 13. Once the foragers are gone.  Get an empty hive box and sit it on the ground near the brood chamber.  You can go through the brood chamber a single frame at a time, outside to inside, and place the removed frames in the empty hive box.  Normally the queen will be found in the middle someplace, hiding from the sun- light.
  • 14. The bees will show you where to look.  Look in the middle of the cluster of bees as seen from the top of the hive. The queen is normally in this cluster.
  • 15. If all else fails…  An empty hive box and bottom board can be sat beside the hive to be re-queened, and a queen excluder placed on top.  The bees can then be sifted one frame at a time through the excluder, will the beekeeper watches for the queen to be filtered by the excluder.  Usually works, but some young or small queens can squeeze through.  Downfall is a lot of bees flying in the air at one time.
  • 16. What if even the nurse bees are aggressive?  With bees possessing heavy African traits, the beekeeper may have to kill over half of them to be able to work with them enough to re-queen.  The queen excluder method can also be used between hive boxes, using Bee-Go or smoke to run the bees up through the excluder grating to sift out the queen.  This method limits interaction with the aggressive bees, but can be very difficult to perform successfully.  Some times, the feral hive simply flies away.  These colonies SHOULD NOT be allowed to abscond! We don’t want them getting back into the wild to spread their possibly dangerous genetics.
  • 17. Re-queening bees with African traits  Bees with heavy African traits are notoriously fickle about accepting a new queen.  It is best to dequeen and allow to be queenless for 3-4 days, then knock down queen cells. This gives them no choice but to accept the new queen.  Be prepared for it to take multiple re-queenings. An indirect method using a nucleus is usually the best method.  I have observed bees with these traits removing eggs laid by other queens from brood frames inserted.  You may have to get creative.
  • 18. Indirect re-queening using a queen cell, without dequeening.  A queen cell (or cells) is installed in the honey super above the queen excluder.  When this cell hatches, the virgin queen, having no smell, silently infiltrates the colony and kills the old queen.  Used by commercial beekeepers and for very defensive hives when other methods have failed.  Drawbacks are a 50-60% success rate and the need for possibly more than one queen cell.  Multiple cells introduced at once have better success rates.  The cells are best installed using cell protectors, as feral bees may tear these stray queen cells down since they did not make them.
  • 19. Summary  Nervous, runny, drippy or defensive bees should be re-queened.  Re-queening a feral hive can be difficult, but it is not impossible.  Using a nucleus is the best method for successful introductions.  Move the brood chamber a short distance away for re-queening to get rid of the more aggressive forager bees.  You may have to get “creative” when dealing with defensive colonies.
  • 20. Thank you! You can contact me at:  Black Mesa Bees honeybees@lus.com