FAQ: Queens

Q1: Should I remove any queen cells in a colony before introducing a new queen in a cage?

A1: Yes, you should remove the queen cells. Look very carefully to make sure you don’t miss one. Shake the bees off each frame to make sure you can see the entire frame. Accepted queens are sometimes killed by virgins that later emerge from queen cells.

Q2: How old is a queen when you replace her?

A2: We re-queen if a queen isn’t doing well or when she is in her third year.

Q3: Are your queens for sale?

A3: We sell a limited number of queens but do not ship outside of Canada. More information on our queens can be found here.

There are two other Buckfast breeders in Ontario:

Q4: What do you use as candy for the queen cages?

A4: You can make the candy using honey and icing sugar but, the candy you see in the tubes in our videos are purchased with the cages from Mann Lake beekeeping supplies and their Canadian distributors. In Ontario, it’s not legal to use honey in queen candy if you are distributing queens. Honey can contain American Foulbrood spores. A specialized, non-drying, sugar syrup (Nulomoline invert sugar) can be used instead of honey. In any case the candy must be made dry enough that it’s crumbly.

Q5: How can you tell if a colony has a virgin queen?

A5: Virgins are smaller and have a ‘brand new’ look. They also run around more and are harder to find. What may be easier to find are queen cells that virgins have emerged from – a telltale sign that something is up. Look closely for these cells. Often beekeepers think that they don’t have a queen because there are no eggs, but either a virgin is on the way or she hasn’t yet started to lay.

Q6: If a queen does not mate, how long until she starts laying unfertilized eggs?

A6: Virgins only lay unfertilized (or male) eggs if they can’t mate. Reasons for this may be she has a damaged wing, it is too late in the year for drones, or a long stretch of bad weather. Queens are able to mate between 5 and 10 days after emerging from their cell. After that, if they haven’t mated they will start to lay unfertilized eggs.

Q7: When to buy vs when to raise your own queens?

A7: There are no hard and fast rules here. We suggest that Raising queens and breeding queens should be viewed as two separate operations. Get good at raising them first and then think about breeding. If you have less than 10 colonies, consider purchasing your queens from a local supplier. If you are raising queens, you will need to select a breeder queen. If you have less than 50 hives consider purchasing breeder queens from someone in your area to raise queens from.

Q8: What queen rearing schedule is used at the HBRC?

A8: A queen rearing schedule example can be found here: https://hbrc.ca/queen-rearing-schedule/

Q8: How long should you leave a colony queenless before requeening?

A9: We have our best success with requeening when the colony is queenless for 24 hours before introducing a new queen.

Q10: Why should I look for the queen when I work in my hives?

A10: You do not need to find the queen every time if you are only doing general hive inspections. However, you should find the queen if you are doing the following:

  • If you are going to requeen the hive
  • If you are going to split the hive
  • To see if the queen has been superseded
  • For transferring bees and brood from one hive to another
  • When monitoring for varroa mites using an alcohol wash
  • To mark and clip the queen