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What to do if a colony lose its queen at the end of winter?

In this article, I will share with you my end-of-winter experience from last year.

What to do at the end of winter if one of your hives loses its queen? You don't have a queen in store, there aren't any drones yet, and it's too cold for a reunion. Here is a method to save bees without a queen.

After the period of intense cold at the end of February, I go to the apiary to check if there is still candy on the frame covers and if necessary to add more.

Before this check, I take a look at the flight boards and on one of them, I see a corpse too big to be that of a bee. I take it gently and indeed, it is the dead queen who was expelled by the bees.

If you haven't found the corpse of the queen, here's how to determine if there is a queen in the colony.



What to do when a queen bee is dead?

Even if the bees do a royal breeding, there are not yet drones to be able to fertilize the new queen.

There is still the solution of merging colonies but the weather conditions are still precarious and opening two beehives when it is 9°C at the best time of the day seems premature to me.

Layering the beehives

I do have a colony which was a little weak in December during the control treatment of varroa with Oxalic acid. Luckily, it's just placed next to the hive that has lost its queen.

I decided to overlay the hive, which orphan, on this hive by inserting between the two a queen excluder and a frame cover drilled in the middle of a 10 cm hole.

Small problem, one colony is on seven frames and the other on eight. Small ultra-fast visit of the hive on eight frames, the one that has lost its queen, to eliminate one frame. In passing, I noticed that there were no eggs but that there was still some capped brood.

Advantages of the method

  • The colony without a queen receives heat from the hive below.
  • The brood of the orphan hive can hatch
  • As the hive below will be strengthened by the young bees that hatch above
  • In the unlikely event that a queen is present in the orphan hive, the queen excluder will prevent her from descending into the colony with a queen

Disadvantages

  • Beehive opening at 10°C but without handling the frames
  • Small cooling of the colony below from which part of the heat escapes upwards

Three weeks later, I take advantage of a hot and sunny day to visit the beehive. In the upper body where we left the orphan colony, only empty brood frames and three reserve frames remain. The bees are therefore well down into the lower body where the queen is located.

The lower body is well developed on five frames with brood at all stages. I took the opportunity to add a reserve frame as well as a frame to build on the edge of the brood to allow the development of the colony.