Requeening vs letting bees raise their own
This topic is often debated, and a frequently asked question. As usual with debated topics, this issue has pros and cons on both sides. I want to share my opinion based on my experience, then outline the pros and cons for you to make the final decision. In my opinion, it is rarely best to allow the bees to rear their own queen vs installing one as a beekeeper. To see when I do recommend allowing them to raise their own queen, read “I think my hive is queenless...what should I do?”
Pros for allowing bees to raise their own queen:
- It is free, assuming they actually do it, and you end up with a mated queen.
- The bees will always accept a queen they raise for themselves.
- You don’t have to worry about finding a queen to remove, ordering her, installing her, etc.
Cons for allowing bees to raise their own queen:
- Unknown genetics- if you are in an area with africanized bees, you could end up with a very defensive hive. Even if you are not, 50% of genetics come from feral drones in the area and you have no control over those genetics.
- Time- it takes the bees 12 days to raise a new queen from a 24 hour old larva, an average of 7 days for that newly hatched virgin to mate, then about 7+ days for her to begin to lay. In total, that is at least 26 days before you have a laying queen. If you requeen or split, and put a new queen in within 24 hours, and she is out & laying in 5 days, that’s 20 days faster. That can make a huge difference in the long term strength of a hive.
- The virgin/queen may not mate- If the weather is poor and the virgin does not mate within 2 weeks of hatching, she typically will not mate at all. This will result in a “drone layer”, which is when an unmated queen lays only unfertilized eggs, which turn into drones. Read “How to fix a drone layer” for more info.
- The virgin/queen may not make it back to the hive - It’s not uncommon for virgin queens to get lost or eaten on their mating flight and never make it back to the hive. At this point, your hive won’t have any more eggs or larva to raise a new queen. If you don’t intercede, the hive will eventually die. For more more info on how to save a hive like this, read “My hive has no eggs, larva, capped brood, or laying queen”
- The virgin/queen may be poorly mated- If there are not enough drones present, or the weather prevents a virgin/queen from making enough mating flights, she may be poorly mated and only last a few months, or lay drones mixed with worker bees.