Is September too late to requeen?

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Posted by Andy Sivell | Posted in Beekeeping advice, Requeening re-queening | Posted on 03-10-2010

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I got my very first colony at the beginning of July. By mid-month I’d already lost my queen.

Beekeeper beginner

Getting started: I'm smiling, but minutes later I accidentally squash my queen

I think I must have accidentally squashed her. Sadly, in the brief time I had her I never saw her, despite poring over each frame on every inspection. She came as part of a swarm from Robert, a local and highly experienced beekeeper. I couldn’t even give her a decent burial. I never found the body. I just guessed that she wasn’t there because capped and hatched larvae wasn’t being replaced by fresh larvae. I never saw any eggs either. Again, I guessed that they were there once because I could see small larvae growing into large larvae. Hardly an auspicious start.

For four weeks I did nothing, hoping first that I was wrong, then that no-one would notice, and finally that the bees themselves wouldn’t notice. I did keep telling Robert that I thought I’d killed my queen. He kept telling me that I hadn’t necessarily killed her – I’d lost her. I’m still not sure whether he was being kind, or whether it’s considered impolite to mention homicide in beekeeping circles.

I consulted Ted Hooper’s Guide to Bees and Honey, the beekeeping bible. Frustratingly, it mentioned that squashing one’s queen is not uncommon amongst beginners, but then didn’t spell out what you’re supposed to do about it. I did gather however, that if I could get a frame of eggs and larvae from another colony and introduce it into mine, then the chances were that my desperate bees would create new queen cells.

Back I went to Robert. Borrowing a mini-nuc for the day I swapped a single frame of mine for one of his with eggs and young larvae. Then I stuck a drawing pin in the top and placed the new frame in the centre of my brood chamber. By now my bees had been without a queen (and fresh brood) for four weeks. Would it be too late? Seven days later I had the answer: 18 new queen cells front and back.

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