So You Think You Need a Mated Queen...
I can’t count how many calls we get from beekeepers asking for a mated queen because their colony swarmed, their package they bought from an importer failed, their queen stopped laying or they have a colony of laying workers. The only time you need a mated queen is when you are splitting a colony late at the end of the season, if you want to get all the genetics from our stock in order to make splits, increase your yard the following winter or if you want to switch up the genetics of your colony to a local VSH stock. Please understand that true quality mated queens take time, labor and love to produce. Let me tell you the story of four beekeepers…
First up is Sally. Sally has a busy life and forgot to check her bees regularly during the season. Her colony became overcrowded and honey bound during the summer flow. The end result was the colony swarming on her. Sally called Lloyd St. Bees to order a mated queen to replace her queen that left during the swarm. When she put the new queen she received into her colony, one of the many virgin queens that her colony had produced killed off her new precious queen.
Moral of the story: If your colony has swarmed, you need to wait 30 days before purchasing a queen because it could take that long for your colony to exhaust itself in attempting to produce a mated queen on their own. The good news is that you can make a few nice splits on your own from the swarm cells your colony created!
Our second story is about Billy. Billy bought a package early in the season from a bee importer. Sadly, the queen failed and the colony has dwindled down to a few frames of old bees with no brood. Billy orders and installs a healthy queen into his colony in hopes that it will rebound. Unfortunately the colony fails to grow large enough to ever become anything and his bees die in the winter because they cannot thermal regulate due to their small cluster.
Moral of the story: If your package fails early in the season before they could get a foot hold and turn over their population twice, then it will most likely not survive. If your colony is as small as Billy’s then you need to purchase a nuc to rebalance the age of the bees in your colony and give your new queen a shot at performing.
My Queen Isn’t Laying Anymore
Betty had a really great queen that was laying eggs like crazy and her colony size was growing great. All of a sudden her queen stopped laying around the end of July. Betty thinks that the queen has failed due to running out of sperm so she orders a new queen to replace her. Her new queen gets accepted but shortly after this new queen also stops laying. Ay Caramba what will Betty do!?
Moral of the story: Betty had a great queen to begin with but the colony was low on protein to be able to sustain brood rearing. The workers in the colony were consuming the eggs the queen produced in order to limit the brood they could manage to take care of. If Betty had fed the colony pollen sub continuously during the pollen dearth, the colony would have begun raising brood again.
I Have Laying Workers
Our last story is about Paul. Paul opened up his split he had made this season to find out that his queen failed to survive her mating. Unfortunately he had waited too long between inspections. As a result, the colony has failed and is now being headed by laying workers. Paul thinks it would be a great idea to try and save this colony by installing a new mated queen. Paul installs the queen only to find out on his next inspection that she is dead and he still has laying workers.
Moral of the story: Once Paul realized that he had laying workers, it was too late to save this colony. A laying worker colony cannot be saved. They will consistently kill any queen you throw at them no matter if it is a cell, virgin or mated queen. Your best option is to take the laying worker colony and stack it on top of your strongest colony. The strong colony will take care of the laying worker situation quickly for you.
Because of all these reasons listed above (and many more), I want you to take the time to give me a call or email if you think you need a mated queen. I want to help your bees and save you the headache. Sometimes, it is better to save the money you would have spent on a queen and invest that in a beekeeping class. The knowledge you gain in a class will be better than the struggle of wondering what you should do.