Do you name your queen bees?

By | June 1, 2013

There’s some simple maths for queen bees in beehives.
In general for a healthy colony you need more than 0, and less than 2.
They truly are a special and important part of a honey bee colony.

In Spring, the number of bees within a hive grows very fast. Sometimes, the colony also┬ádecides to grow a new queen.. i.e. 2 queens in a colony. This can make those tending towards Aspergers uncomfortable. The colony also wants to reach the equilibrium of 1 (if you’re wondering this is not an official term, I just made it up).

With 2 queens in a hive, the old queen takes half the bees away to find a new home (called a swarm), and the new queen inherits the current beehive. The jury is still out on issues of inheritance tax.

This is how everything should go anyway. This year, it’s been a little problematic for me. The old queen, lets call her number 1 for arguments sake, decided to grow a new queen (number 2), and number 1 swarmed out of the beehive taking half of the bees with her to make a new home. I didn’t want that to happen so I caught the swarm, and put number 1 back into a new beehive, a different hive from number 2′s inherited hive. She was still in a cocoon.

Unfortunately in the swarm collection process number 1 was lost or died, so I started to bank instead on number 2. There is a risk with a new virgin queen, as she needs good weather to fly out of the hive on mating flights, and mate with around half a dozen males (drones) from other hives. You don’t know who she is mating with, and you might get a poorly tempered colony.

So, I bought a new queen in from a breeder, number 3. And, killed cocoon number 2.┬áNumber 3 seemed good, and she started to lay eggs – hooray!

Not sure what happened next, but a week later number 3 was also lost, or rejected and killed by the colony. So the colony started to grow an emergency queen, number 4.
Emergency queens can be risky because of the weather / mating above, but the bees often have less time than usual to feed royal jelly to a chosen emergency larvae. This might result in a poor quality queen – number 4′s chances didn’t look good.

So, I went to another breeder, bought number 5, and killed number 4′s cocoon.

Number 5 so far looks promising and I’m hopeful I don’t have to wield the Henry VIII style axe again. But lord she might pay a lot of inheritance tax after that chain of events. As this has happened over 3 months, I trust this answers the whole naming issue.

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