07917 677667 beesatbobs@btinternet.com RJ beekeeping, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

(Abusing) THE QUEEN

The queen can be regarded as the lynch pin of the super organism that is a colony of bees but she is prone to some real man meddling! Now here we could debate about importing versus local progeny and further argue about how genuine Apis Mellifera Mellifera is . However there are abuses to the queen frequently carried out which are preached as “normal”.
Now I have been as guilty as most up until now. So what are these abuses?

It is often recommended that colonies going into winter should be headed by a young queen. Yet I have found that the important point should be that colonies should be headed by a queen who is laying well in the run up to autumn, her age is irrelevant. If the bees feel the queen needs replacing then Supersedure can occur. Following on from this I don’t cull queens as a rule. I may be right or wrong but I will always put any queen from a colony producing charged queen cells into a Nuc with brood and food to give her another chance (obviously there are limits). This also gives a bit of insurance.

Where a colony is bad tempered then the first step is to move it away from the public if at all possible. Then if it can be left (and then wintered) temperament may improve; bearing in mind that when the queen mated she hopefully received sperm from “several” drones of various origin and so the temperament can alter/change/fluctuate.
Again obviously there are limits and good natured bees are an argument for replacing the queen if this problem persists and body armour becomes the norm under bee suits!
The build up of colonies in Spring to swarm is the natural procreation of the species. Today’s litigatious society means we have to do artificial swarms but that is my only means of increase and colony creation now. I don’t think putting bees with a queen who is not their mother (or derived from a naturally raised queen cell in that colony) a good move any more. Now this may upset those who use a means of queen rearing and those who carry out artificial insemination. I did invest in “kit” myself to raise my own queens but I can honestly say it was a total waste of my money and has never been used. This sounds like and is a means to more natural bee keeping that I am heading towards (though as I said before there are limits). There are many traits to a queen and just because one of these traits does not meet OUR expectations is not a good reason to re-queen a colony.

There are exceptions; a case in mind is where the queen is lost during the active season or a new queen doesn’t come into lay, or is a drone layer. Then obviously radical means are called for and a queen cell or eggs from a good colony are the saving grace.
Now let’s look at other types of abuses:
“The queen excluded!” Should we really dictate where the queen goes, do we need to? I am beginning to think that queen excluders should be used just for honey removal (if at all).
Depending on how you remove surplus honey, there is a case for finding the queen on inspection prior to this and restricting her movements just until the supers are removed.
Clipping the wings is a real “no no” so far as I am concerned. Which leads onto marking the queen: I have recently adopted NOT marking a new queen (indeed marking can sometimes lead to rejection by the colony as she is seen to be imperfect).

Droning On.


I have been keeping bees for a time now. I have my own way and view of bee keeping. I have long felt that different means should be thoroughly investigated and tried (before being condemned!) and have been doing this of late. I began looking at the variety of different hive types, aside of the popular and traditional ones. Hives such as the Rose Hive, the Dartington Hive, the Zest hive, various Top Bar Hives and the principles of how bees are kept in each of them. I have invested in these hives and put bees into them to see how they perform.Then there is the subject of materials from which hives are made: wood, polystyrene, plastic, (straw, and clay) Looking at hive designs brought about the question of frames and foundation: full frames with and without foundation and how they perform against using top bars only with just starter strips.
This led me to investigate the way in which the bees are housed and handled using these structures and in general. As I investigated I began to question what I have learnt and been taught: ways and means, hives and frames, to suit the bee keeper, not really the bees. I am beginning to wonder if I have got it wrong, that we have got it wrong, and that the “powers that be” are badly wrong. This is a serious deliberation and one that will require an awful lot of thought and further investigation. It certainly should not be dismissed or discounted just because it is not the way we are accustomed to. The recent increase in bee keepers is a good thing – as a generalisation (though I feel there are serious issues as to the teaching) but I feel that what is being taught may not be the best way for the bees.

I urge EVERYONE to take a good look at what I am saying here, and take the time to look at what has been written by people such as John Harding, Rudolf Steiner, David Heaf, H. Storch to name a few. I am prepared to make redundant all that I have invested in, and start again if need be to get it right, because what matters most to me are the bees.
How about you?

Droning On!