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Requeening Hot Bees

A really vicious hive is in great need of requeening, but is also the most difficult to find a queen in. Between the distraction of a hundred thousand bees trying to kill you and the bees running all over the combs, the vicious queen is also usually quite mobile and hard to find. Also, though, keep in mind that a queenless hive can get vicious, so try to make sure you have eggs or signs of a queen before you spend a lot of time trying to find her. Also check for signs of queenlessness like a dissonant roar when the hive isn't even being opened. When I need to requeen, here is what I have done under those circumstances.

First, Be prepared to be stung. Be prepared to walk away for a while. Be prepared to run away for a while. I find running through some brush is a good way to get rid of clinging and following bees.

Divide and conquer. The object of this is to split the hive up into manageable parts. One part will be an empty box at the old location to draw off the field bees, who are usually the hardest to deal with and we will know there is no queen there. If you have a dolly and some help, you may be able to move the hive in one piece 10 yards away or so and put an empty box at the old location to get these field bees out before dealing with the hive at all. I never have that much help, so I just do a box at a time from the start. We want all the rest of the boxes of the hive on their own bottom with their own top. Each will need a queen, so order one more queen than the number of boxes on the hive. Now set as many bottom boards, ten steps away from the original hive, as there are boxes in the original hive. Make sure you have a full bee suit, have rubber bands on your ankles to keep them out of your pants, have a zip on veil and leather gauntlet gloves. Put as many lids as you have boxes next to the hive and one extra bottom. Get the smoker going really well and smoke the hive until smoke is rolling out. Now pry the top box loose leaving on the lid. Set it on the bottom and set one of the lids on the top of the main hive. Carry the removed box to one of the bottom boards. Take note of any that seem to have the most bees (most likely to be brood or have a queen). Repeat this until there are NO boxes left on the original bottom. If you didn't move the whole hive, now put an empty box with frames on the bottom board and a cover on that. This is to catch the field bees coming back. Now walk away and come back in a hour or a day.

When you come back start with the most populated boxes that are most likely to have a queen. Set another bottom board and an empty box (no frames) on that. Smoke lightly this time. You don't want to run the queen around too much. Wait a minute. Open the box and look for the frame with the most bees and pull it looking for the queen. If you find her, kill her. If not put that frame in the empty box and keep going through all the frames. If you can't handle them at this strength then split the 10 frames into two five frame nucs. Let the nucs settle down and then look through them. Find the queen and killed her. Leave as often as you want to let them calm down, but stay at it until you are done. Look for clues. The box with the most bees is probably the one with the queen. After the queen is dead any box that has been queenless at least 24 hours is ready to be requeened. Introduce a caged queen. Don't open up the candy, just put the queen in with the screen down so the bees can feed her. Some vicious bees will not accept a new queen. Don't worry about it for now. Whatever ones do can be combined with whatever ones don't. After three or four days I take out the cork and poke a hole in the candy or, if the bees seem eager to get her out and are not biting and posturing at the screen wire, I might just pop open the screen and let her out.

Four or five weak vicious hives are much less aggressive than one big vicious hive so immediately they should be somewhat calmer. In six weeks or so they will be much calmer. In 12 weeks or so they should be back to normal.

If you want to save even looking for the queen you can wait overnight after you do the break up, and put a queen in a candy cage in each box. Come back the next day after that and see if there is a dead queen or one where they are biting the cage. The one where they are biting the cage or have killed the queen is probably the one with the queen. Look there. If you have to put half of the frames in another box and let them calm down again and search even less bees. Afterwards you can pull the cork on the candy end and let the bees release the queens in each box. If the new queen for the box with the queen is dead, you can combine it back with one of the boxes with a queen cage. You can also requeen the field bees, but they will be more difficult. You can also do a newspaper combine with them after you get the queen accepted in one of the splits

Michael Bush

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Copyright 2006 by Michael Bush

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