Re-queening a defensive colony
In the summer of 2020, led by Louise, Peter, Denise, Fiona and I went to Swanmore to deal with the defensive colony we moved from West End. Several allotment holders and passers-by had reported being stung at distance and the colony was also highly defensive during inspections.
Having moved the hive to Swanmore, we decided to find and kill the queen allowing the colony to raise a new one. The genetic attributes passed on by the queen influence the whole colony’s characteristics including productivity, frugality with stores, resistance to disease, swarming behaviour and gentleness. it’s hoped that by removing the queen, the colony will raise a new one with a more favourable temperament.
Louise arrived at Swanmore well prepared. She was wearing two suits, three pairs of gloves and had even decided against her usual wellies which have holes in the back! I filmed (some of) our adventures on my mobile phone. We had planned to make the first of a series of ‘how to’ videos for the website.
Unfortunately, the resulting film, despite its obvious comedic value, is not as useful as a teaching aid as we’d originally hoped. I decided not to wear full protective clothing, or gloves, as I needed to work the camera.
“How likely is it” I thought “that I’ll get stung when all I’m doing is filming?” Big mistake! Part way through, I had to abandon the others in order to get properly attired which meant I missed several of the key moments. Also, I wasn’t working the camera properly which resulted in several inexplicable close-ups; sorry Louise!
To make sense of the video, I have added these notes.
1. Assemble the necessary equipment some distance from the defensive colony.
We set-up about 50 metres from the troublesome hive. We prepared an empty brood box, a queen excluder, and an empty super. The super was placed on top of a plastic crate. The queen excluder was then placed on top of the super and the brood box on top of that.
2. Move the hive containing the defensive colony next to the prepared equipment.
Using a hive carrier, Louise and Peter moved the hive 50 metres away from its original site and placed it next to the prepared equipment. In this case, our hive had two supers on it and using the carrier again, these were immediately returned to a floor on the original site. This gave the flying bees somewhere to return to. The purpose of moving the hive is to substantially reduce the number of flying bees and therefore the potential for getting stung!
3. The hive is now positioned alongside the pre-prepared equipment.
The bees from each frame are shaken or brushed off into the empty brood box.
Worker bees crawl through the queen excluder (the flyers can then return to the original site) but drones and the offending queen will be trapped on the queen excluder.
4. Search the brood box to find the queen.
Many workers will escape through the queen excluder, drones sit listlessly on the grill but some workers will crawl up the side of the box. Every part of the box will need to be searched until the queen is found. Performing this task in bright sunlight is very helpful. We were doing it on a slightly grey evening and resorted to using a torch!When the queen is found, she can be caught and dispatched. If you have a swarm post or suitable low-hanging branch, you can squash her on to that. Her pheromone will help to attract future swarms making collecting them easier.
6. Now queenless, the hive can now be carefully reassembled.
Gently brush the bees back into the hive and return it to the original location. If it is a strong colony, it can be split, perhaps into a nucleus hive. If you decide to split, make sure there are eggs in both sides of the split. Ensure there are extra stores in the part of the split not placed on the original site as there won’t initially be any flying bees in that box.
Feed the bees if necessary.