How and When To Buy Queen Bees
In order for the bee colony to function properly, it must at all times have a healthy and viable queen.
Therefore, it is necessary to replace the queen on a regular basis. Doing this every year or two is recommended as the optimal schedule for maintaining a colony of healthy, highly productive bees and minimizing the possibility of encountering unwanted problems with reproduction, the amount of honey produced, or health issues that may arise.
Why Should the Queen be Replaced?
Although queen bees may live for many yeas, they are only commercially productive for one of two years. During this time period, their ability to reproduce in large numbers is at its peak. As the queen bee ages, her ability to produce large numbers of worker bees decreases, resulting in a decline in the productivity of the entire colony.
If the queen bee is not replaced and the colony is left unchanged, the rate at which it produces honey will decline noticeably with a time period as brief as six to 18 months.
When Should the Queen be Replaced?
It is necessary to replace a queen bee if:
• you notice that the bees in a hive have begun to display a significant increase in aggressive behavior;
• you see that the production of a particular colony is not keeping pace with the other hives in the apiary and have eliminated the possibility that disease is responsible for the change in the rate of productivity.
• you find that the queen is swarming more frequently. Although swarming is a natural tendency, young queen bees tend to swarm less often than older queen bees.
What is the Best Method for Choosing New Queen Bees?
As with every other species on earth, queen bees vary genetically. While these genetic variations are nearly imperceptible, they have a significant impact on their offspring that is clearly demonstrated in the behavior of their worker bee progeny.
Queen bees are deliberately bred to produce offspring that have:
• high potential for gathering honey
• calm and docile temperament
• high level of resistance to disease
• low potentiality for swarming
• a specific color that is less of a consideration for the economy but rather representative of the bee keeper’s personal preference.
There are many different species of queen bees often available to choose from. These include the most popular species… Italian, Caucasian and Carniolan. No particular species is superior to the other, but different genetic traits among the species make for the availability of a broad variety of queen bees from which to choose. For this reason, it is recommended that you purchase your new queen bees from different dealers in the event you choose to buy them rather than breed them yourself.
One of the best things a bee keeper can do to achieve their goals of increasing their stock of worker bees is to select the right queens for their bee colony.
How to Obtain New Queen Bees
It is possible to get new queen bees by either breeding them yourself, or purchasing them from commercial suppliers. It’s worth checking out our queen bees for sale blog post to find more tips and help.
Breeding Your Own Queen Bees
It takes a specialist to breed queen bees of superior quality. This is not a job that can be done by anyone without a specific set of resources and specialized experience. That notwithstanding, breeding and raising your own queen bees adds a new element to your beekeeping. It can also be a lot of fun for you as well.
Buying Queen Bees from a Commercial Breeder
The information in this section will help you understand some of the crucial rules in purchasing queen bees, including how to find a commercial bee breeder; when to buy new queen bees; the types of queen bees available; how much you can expect to pay for your new queen bees; how to care for your new queen bees; and when and how to introduce them to the colony.
How to Find a Commercial Breeder
Beekeepers who offer queen bees for sale normally keep the beekeeping community abreast of their offerings by placing ads in beekeeping magazines, journals and newsletters.
When to Buy New Queen Bees
Throughout the year, the demand for queen bees might peak and ebb. Beekeepers should be aware that breeders could be overwhelmed. Therefore, it is advisable to place your order several months in advance if they find that they will need to order a large number of queen bees in a particular year.
Although queen bees are generally available beginning in early spring when there is still a chance of a late freeze, beekeepers are advised to delay the purchase of their new queen bees until the weather is consistently warm. After that, they are safe in purchasing them through early autumn. Low temperatures of late autumn and winter cause a decrease in drone numbers. Therefore, it is not advisable to purchase queen bees during these months.
The Types of Queen Bees Available
Breeders sometimes advertise queen bees for sale as ‘untested queens,’ meaning that the queen bees for sale are considered to be normal production queens. Most of the queen bees for sale fall into this classification, a clear indication that the queen is ready to be mated or artificially inseminated and lay new eggs for her new colony.
How Much You Can Expect to Pay for Your New Queen Bees?
Prices for new queen bees range from $15 to $25 per bee if you are ordering only a small number of queen bees. The cost of individual queen bees decreases however, when you are ordering a larger quantity of bees.
It is important look at the big picture and refrain from selecting your queen bees based on price alone; and remember that it is a huge mistake to expect that every queen bee you purchase will result in your making a fortune. A good rule of thumb is for you to expect that ten percent of your attempts to breed queen bees will fail shortly after being introduced into the colony. There is no rhyme or reason to this statistic, but history bears it out.
Occasionally, what are known as breeder queens or artificially inseminated queens are offered for sale. Their offspring normally are uniform in characteristic traits, including appearance and behavior tendencies. However, these bees are quite costly, and in many cases, too expensive for production hives. The sale of these special queen bees is normally restricted to beekeepers who choose to breed and raise their own queen bees.
What Is the Best Age Range for New Queen Bees?
Queen bees are captured and caged for sale anytime after the hatching date. However, according to research, the age at which a queen bee is removed from the colony, affects her survival rate within two and 15 weeks after she is introduced to a new colony.
Statistically, the survival rate of queen bees is significantly higher when she is captured at 21 days of age as opposed to 14 days. Research reveals that when captured at 21 days, the survival rate of queen bees increases to 82.5%. By waiting to capture queen bees at 28 days of age, that survival rate increases to 90%.
Looking at the benefits reaped by beekeepers in another way, the rate of loss is 21% for queen bees captured at 28 days of age and 30.5% for those captured at 21 days. When taking this research into consideration, it is clear that queen bees caught at 28 days have a far better chance for survival after being introduced to a new colony.
Beekeepers in the market for new queen bees can expect to pay more for a 28-day old queen bee, than for one that is caught at 21 or 14 days, but when you take the time to consider the increase in the survival rates of older queen bees, the additional initial investment is definitely money well spent.
How to Care For your New Queen Bees
If you elect to purchase your new queen bees from a breeder, you can either make the purchase in person or through mail order. If you choose to order your new queen bees through the mail, they will arrive when your letter carrier brings the rest of the mail. Normally, your new queen bees will reach their final destination in good condition, but you have to assume some responsibility on your end. Primarily, when expecting a delivery of queen bees, you must make sure your mailbox is cool and free of ants. When you are expecting your new queen bees to be delivered by mail, you might want to make a small investment in a post office box where your package will be stored in a climate controlled building until you retrieve it or make it a point to be waiting for the letter carrier to arrive with your package.
Each mailing cage will contain worker bees, referred to as ‘attendants’ or ‘escorts’ to accompany the queen bees on the journey. Upon examination, you will find that one end of the cage will contain a plug made up of icing sugar and irradiated honey. This plug is referred to as ‘queen candy.’
If you are not planning to immediately introduce your new queen bees to the colony, protect your investment by storing the mailing cage in a cool part of your house away from insecticides, moth balls, sunlight, drafts, ants and fly strips. When the weather is particularly hot, protect the bees inside by putting one drop of water on top of the cage when it arrives.
When and How to Introduce New Queen Bees to The Colony
Before introducing the new queen, it is essential that you take out the old queen. If you are unable to find the old queen and remove her, your attempt at ‘re-queening’ will fail. It is important that your bee colony have a slow transition from the old queen to the new queen.
When you introduce the new queen to the colony, place the mailing cage in the hive, but leave the plug of irradiated honey and sugar icing in place.
Put the mailing cage in the middle of the brood nest between frames with the opening where the queen candy was removed facing upwards. Putting the cage in this position will facilitate movement between the frames and the mailing cage in case an escort worker bee dies. If the opening is at the bottom, the passageway could be blocked.
The bees may take up to a few days for bees to remove the queen candy and release her. This is a good ‘get acquainted’ period, which gives the population of the hive time to get used to the presence of the new queen.
After she is released, resist your urge to check on the progress and leave the hive alone for at least a week. The bees are doing what comes naturally. Any interference from you may delay the process. Once the new queen bee is fully introduced to the hive, it could be a week or so before she starts to lay eggs. When you go back to re-inspect the hive after a week and see evidence of new eggs, you will know that your attempts to introduce a new queen bee have been successful.