Carniolan hybrid honey bee queen

Installing new honey bee queens from B.C.’s best breeders

We’re back right as rain, just as the rain hits. I managed to install new honey bee queens in a number of hives last night, fixing a self-inflicted problem that started when I de-queened the hives as part of an experiment in treating for mites. Stupid me, I then killed almost all of the banked queens in two separate accidents.
Honey bees have an amazing capacity for fixing the troubles we inflict upon them. By the time I managed to get eight replacement queens from Heather Higo in Langley, the hives had been queenless for at least 11 days. Experienced beekeepers know what that means. You can expect to find lots of emergency queen cells studded on whatever frames of open brood were left when the old lady was first removed.
Indeed, I found most of the hives festooned with emergency cells, all capped and days away from emerging.

Young honey bee queen

Young honey bee queen on new plastic comb. Jeff Lee photo.

These are not honey bee queens that we want in our hives. There’s lots of evidence that queens raised in an emergency situation can be less productive as those bred under optimal controlled conditions. This is also getting to the end of the mating season, when drones get punted from their homes and there is no assurance the virgin emergency queens would be properly mated. I want well-bred layers, especially as we head into our inevitably cold, wet weather. Next year’s honey bee hives need to have a strong foundation.
I took care to shake the bees off all of the frames so I could methodically cut out the cells before introducing the replacement queen. Each one was in a cage plugged with candy and a little bit of tape to ensure an extra-long release time. I’ll go back in a few days and make sure the captives have been freed.
As soon as I wedged the cages in between two target frames – one drawn but empty and the other containing a mixture of pollen and honey – bees started climbing all over, feeding the queen and helping spread her pheremones.
To help with acceptance I also fed the bees a 2:1 syrup with a bit of Pro-Health and some Caspian Solution. That will, as Heather said, keep the bees happy and quiet and more willing to adopt the new queen.
I owe Heather a tremendous amount of thanks for helping me out of a sticky situation (pun intended).
As we head out of summer and get ready for fall, some of us are doing late requeening. It is a useful element of integrated pest management and can help keep the mites from overrunning the colony. For those – like me – who don’t yet raise their own queens, this can be a tricky time if you don’t have a queen supplier lined up.
In British Columbia there are at least three queen breeders that I know of who have some excess queens.
The first, of course, is Heather Higo, who so graciously helped me.
Liz and Terry Huxter of Kettle Valley Queens also indicate they have about 50-100 excess production queens.
Lastly, Scott Gordon of Bee Natural Apiaries in Maple Ridge also has some extra queens. We’ve got some of his stock in our hives and have not been disappointed.
Liz, who has – like Heather – been working with the University of B.C. on a queen trait selection program, says her available queens are “just regular old queens, nothing special.” But I think she, like Heather, is being too modest. Anyone getting queens from the aforementioned breeders will not be disappointed, I will wager.
None, however, are selling breeder queens. You will have to wait until next year for any possibility of that.
There are likely other bee breeders who have excess stock. Try any of the folks listed at the B.C. Bee Breeders Association.

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