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Why Requeen in the Summer?

By: Blake Shook

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. 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 can cause a spotty brood pattern. 

Such as:

 A failing queen - As queens age, they begin running out of sperm, and begin laying a more “spotty” pattern mixed with drone brood. A spotty pattern as a result of a failing queen will look spotty on every frame of brood, not just 1-2 frames. 
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 throughout the hive. If it has been a year since you’ve requeened, it is most likely time to requeen.
Varroa mite infestation - As a hive becomes increasingly infected with Varroa, the bees will begin pulling infected larva and pupa out of their cells, causing a spotty brood pattern. Treating for Varroa is critical if it gets to this point. You can learn how to treat for Varroa here. 
Chalkbrood - Brood infected by the fungal infection chalkbrood will die, causing a spotty brood pattern. It’s typically found in the spring months, and is best treated with probiotics, and warmer drier weather. You can read more about it here. 
European Foulbrood- This disease affects the larva and causes developing larva to look yellow and melted. It is also commonly found during the spring. Probiotics, warmer weather, requeening, and feeding can help. Check out our article on EFB here. 
Time of year - During the summer months, queens often slow down egg laying as pollen and nectar become scarce. As a result, brood can often look spottier during the heat of the summer. It will often improve once pollen and cooler weather returns.
Poor nutrition - If a hive is starved nutritionally, they will begin to cannibalize the brood, causing it to look spotty. 
Rapid growth & laying around resources - When the queen is laying faster than the bees can move cells of honey or pollen out of her way, she will often lay around them, causing a spotty pattern. However, you typically only see this on a few frames of brood, and the rest of the brood will look normal and compact.
3. Dwindling population or 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.

4. 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 and expected rather than scattered throughout the worker brood.

5. 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, we need to look into it further.

No Eggs, Larva or Brood

 First, make sure you are able to spot eggs and larva. If you are confident there are no eggs, larva, or capped brood, then you almost certainly have a queenless hive. The most important question at this point is how long have they been queenless?

1. If there is still capped brood in the hive, then there is a good chance the hive has a virgin queen that hasn’t started laying yet but should soon. Give the hive a frame of eggs and larva from a stronger hive (see how to here) and check back in 2 days. If they are beginning to raise queen cells all over the frame then they are queenless, and you will need to add a queen.

If they don’t raise queen cells, give them another week, and you will most likely begin to see eggs from a new queen. If you don’t, give them another 2-3 days. If there is still nothing, then proceed with adding a new queen. If you don’t have a frame of brood to give the hive, just wait another week then check back for eggs.

How to find Eggs in your hive

2. If they have no brood, not even capped brood, they have been queenless for at least 21 days. In that span of time, they should have been able to successfully raise a new queen, and she should have begun laying. Assuming your hive is strong enough to survive then give them a frame of brood from a stronger hive (not necessary if you don’t have a second stronger hive) and give them a new queen as quickly as possible.

If your hive matches any one of the above symptoms, it’s a good idea to go ahead and requeen as quickly as possible. For more information on this topic, you can always go to our Bee Help & Questions page on our website.

New Summer Queen

Summer probably isn't your first choice of when to requeen. But check out this video showing the improvement in this hive. The results speak for themselves. Queens are still available, so if your hive has any of these issues, taking corrective steps can make all the difference going into fall.

When to Requeen a Hive

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