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How to Tell When a Hive Needs to be Requeened*
There can be many signs & reasons to requeen a hive. In general, it’s a good idea to proactively requeen each hive every year before they begin to show signs of needing to be requeened. See How Often Should a Hive Be Requeened? It’s important to note that what may look like a failing queen is often the result of other factors. Below are the conditions when a hive actually needs to be requeened:
1. Your hive is consistently aggressive. If several bees are following you post inspection for several minutes, even as you walk away, and they behave this way consistently, it’s a good idea to requeen for your own comfort's sake.
2. The brood pattern is “spotty” throughout the hive. Many things other than a failing queen can cause a spotty brood pattern, so be sure to rule those out first. By way of quick reminder, other causes of spotty brood can be:
- A mite infestation (make sure your mites are under 2 per 100 bees)
- A brood disease causing some brood to die (does developing brood like pearly white & normal?
- Time of year- brood patterns tend to be more spotty over the summer months
- Only spotty on some frames? as the queen lays around cells of honey and pollen, giving a “spotty” appearance. Keep in mind that a failing queen does typically have a spotty brood pattern. However, it should be on all the frames all throughout the hive. If the above factors are not applicable, and the brood is spotty, especially if it has been a year since you’ve requeened, it is most likely time to requeen.
- Dwindling, or a population that’s not growing when it should be. Between February and July, a hive’s population should be ever increasing. If a hive has been consistently well fed, doesn’t have a mite issue or a brood disease, yet has not been growing or is dwindling for a few months, you should requeen.
- Drone brood is mixed in with the worker brood. A queen running out of sperm will result in unfertilized drone brood being mixed with worker bee brood. This will result in random large bumpy cells of capped brood mixed with the more even & flat worker brood. This will be visible throughout the hive and you should see hundreds of these larger cells mixed with worker cells. Drone brood isolated on certain parts of frames is normal & expected rather than scattered throughout the worker brood.
- There are no eggs, larva or brood. This is a really tricky one! Depending on the stage of queenlessness, the hive may have already begun raising a new queen. Since this is a more complex issue, see “My hive has no eggs, larva, capped brood, or laying queen?”
If your hive matches any one of the above 5 symptoms, it’s a good idea to go ahead and requeen as quickly as possible.