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

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.