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Or these wild bees are too much- what do I do?
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.
Traits to watch out for
Nervous and “Runny” bees.
Bees dripping from the frames when lifted
When opened, the bees all come out and
beard around the top of the hive and climb
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).
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.
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
As these eggs hatch, the less desirable old workers
are replaced with workers that possess the traits
Re-queen when feral hive is still
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.
There can be only one.
Make sure she is a good one.
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
Check back in a week to see if she was accepted.
Check back in two weeks to see if she is laying.
Methods of requeening
There are several general methods available, some more successful
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).
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
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
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
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-
The bees will show you where to
Look in the middle of the cluster of bees
as seen from the top of the hive. The
queen is normally in this cluster.
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
Usually works, but some young or small
queens can squeeze through.
Downfall is a lot of bees flying in the air at
What if even the nurse bees are
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
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.
Re-queening bees with African
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
Be prepared for it to take multiple re-queenings.
An indirect method using a nucleus is usually the
I have observed bees with these traits removing
eggs laid by other queens from brood frames
You may have to get creative.
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
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
The cells are best installed using cell protectors, as
feral bees may tear these stray queen cells down
since they did not make them.
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
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.
You can contact me at:
Black Mesa Bees