Saturday, September 6, 2008

The most aggrevatin'-ist thing

• Re-queening a beehive is the hardest, most tedious task in beekeeping.

"It's the hardest, most aggrevatin'-ist thing you can do when you keep bees."

My anonymous friend was talking about re-queening a hive.

I second that emotion.

I ordered new queens for all five hives this year, being told that good bee management says you should re-queen your hives at least once every two years. Some people re-queen every year, which is even better bee management. A hive with a young queen will produce more bees and is likely to stay healthier and ultimately produce more honey.

The problem is getting the queen into the hive. Actually, the real problem is finding the old queen and killing her so the new queen will be accepted. A queen is somewhat longer than worker bees and thinner than a drone. She has pretty much the same markings as the worker bees, although her wing shape is a little different.

Since there is only one queen per hive, you have to find this one slightly different critter among as many as 30,000 or 40,000 other critters. It's a real life needle-in-a-haystack problem.

So, here's the score. My friend Jim Brown has been helping me, mainly because I'm not experienced enough to recognize a queen by my self. On our first go at it, we determined that two of the hives (Hives 4 and 5) had lost their queens -- which made it pretty easy to get the new queens in. Jim found the queen in a third hive (Hive 2). We could not find the queen in Hives 1 and 3. Jim has been back once to look, and I have been in the hives three times for a total of around five hours looking for the queens.

No luck.

So far, new queens 3 - old queens 2.

I saw Coley O'Dell at the farmer's market this morning, and as usual, Coley had good advice. He described the method that he uses to find a queen that otherwise won't be found. I am going to give it a try this evening or something tomorrow. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

UrbanKeeper said...

Early this season we caught two swarms. We put them in hives and they have been thriving. However, both have less than adequate queens. We bought two queens and tried to requeen. We have tried twice now for extended periods of time to find both the queens to get rid of them. We cannot find them and I feel we are now hurting the hives by opening them up and taking out all the frames to search for the madames. What if we can't find the old queens? What can we do to requeen? The new ones are marked so we will not do this again. I am afraid the new queens will die while we continue to search. How did you determine the hives lost their queens?