By Ian Northrop, Arcadia Bee Keeper and Volunteer
Edited by Marsha Johnston, Arcadia Farm Education Volunteer
After more than a month of waiting for the weak hive to improve, I decided to replace the exisiting queen. Each hive has only one queen. The queen lays eggs non-stop for the first three to four years of her life. The colony of bees will take on her genetic traits, such as aggressive behavior and disease resistance. Because this queen wasn’t laying eggs fast enough to grow the hive, I decided I needed to replace her, and I was running out of time to do it. It’s important to give the hive enough time to grow with a new queen and prepare the hive to survive the winter. From a bee’s perspective, some of the best months for storing food for the winter have already passed. Summer months are often not as good for finding pollen and nectar.
I found a replacement queen bee online from another beekeeper that has queens that are a mix of the three most popular breeds: Italian (heavy honey producers), Carniolan (gentle and better winter survival rate), and Russian (strong pest/parasite resistance). The beekeeper mailed the queen bee overnight to me in a small plastic vial that was sealed on one end with sugar.
Back at Arcadia with my new girl, I put her in the hive after finding and removing the old queen. Introducing a new queen can be tricky, as the bees will sometimes kill a new queen (most likely old queen loyalists). In the photo above, you can see how I placed the new queen cage in between two frames using a paperclip. Leaving her like this for a week will allow the bees to get used to her without being able to attack her. They should eat through the sealed sugar end, at which point they will accept her (or not) as their new queen. I’ll give an update on the queen after my next visit!
During this visit, I also inspected the stronger hive. The top hive body is living up handsomely to its role as the “honey super,” with some frames already more than half full with honey. In the photo at left, you can see the white waxy area on the frame in the photo – that’s the sealed honey! This hive is doing really well.