Maintaining and managing bee colonies

Selecting and replacing queen bees and managing bee swarms can help you maintain a successful bee colony.

Queen bees

You can best maintain colonies with a docile strain of young queens. Docile strains are valued for their high honey production and are less likely to swarm.

The queen is the only fertile female in a honey bee colony and is responsible for maintaining a strong worker bee population. Bee colonies naturally replace an older queen bee with a daughter queen but this can lead to an aggressive colony that is vulnerable to disease, low levels of honey production and ineffective pollination. Therefore, you should replace queen bees regularly to maintain workable productive colonies and enhance disease resistance.

When you purchase queen bees from reputable and accredited breeders, consider the temperament, docility, colour, productivity and disease resistance of the queen. Introduce new queens into the hive during spring, summer or autumn and ensure access to nectar and pollen flow. Kill old queens a day prior to replacing them.

Queen cells

Queen cells contain pupating (larval) queen bees. The queen bee larva emerge approximately 2 days after the eggs are laid. Using a small foam cooler box containing sawdust or wood to move queen cells will reduce vibration and extreme temperatures. Introduce the queen cell as soon as possible. Place the cell between 2 sealed brood frames that are held in place by gentle squeezing of the frames where the top bars hold the plastic cell cup. You should protect the cell from being squashed and avoid disturbing the hives for at least 3 weeks.

Mated queens

Mated queens are ready to start laying immediately upon introduction. They are sold in a mailing cage, which contains a queen candy plug. Once the worker bees are accustomed to the queen's odour, they chew the candy to release her.

Queens that have been travelling in the mail or in a cage for several days will need 2–3 drops of water on the cage gauze. It is important to avoid exposing any cage to hot vehicles or areas with ants or pesticides.

Place the cage into the centre of the brood nest and wedged between 2 frames with the candy end tilted up slightly to prevent dead escorts from blocking the exit. The gauze may face up or down, but ensure honey does not leak over the cage and drown the queen. Avoid disturbing the hives for at least a week.

Queen bee suppliers

Queen bees may be purchased from the following suppliers as queen cells or as mated queens ready to start laying immediately upon introduction.

Name

Address

Contact details

Brett Dean

63A Quinlan Road
TAMAREE  QLD  4570
(07) 5483 6606
0439 180 405

Dewar Apiaries

Lake Moogerah Road MS 461
KALBAR  QLD  4309
(07) 5463 5633

Howard Kirby

10 Cadiz Street
BRAY PARK  QLD  4500
(07) 3205 5178
0416 283 120

Denmar Apiaries

PO Box 303
MURGON  QLD  4605
(07) 4169 0064

Morayfield Apiaries

27 Oakey Flat Road
MORAYFIELD  QLD  4506
(07) 5498 6676

Ken Olley

84 Logan Road
CLIFTON  QLD  4361
(07) 4697 3222
Fax: (07) 4697 3522

Paul Marsh, Cadena Apiaries

PO Box 502
SARINA  QLD  4737
(07) 4950 4225
cadenaapiaries@hotmail.com

Managing bee swarms

A bee swarm is a round or oval mass of bees seeking a place to start a new nest under the direction of a queen. Swarming bees are usually placid and unlikely to sting when left undisturbed.

Swarms naturally occur in spring to early summer. You can collect swarms to populate spare hives and this will reduce the risk of nuisance bees establishing a hive in nearby buildings and trees. As a beekeeper, you should manage your bee colonies to prevent swarming.You should take responsibility for a swarm that has come from one of your colonies and whenever possible capture it as soon as it has formed into a cluster. Contact our Customer Service Centre for advice about handling swarming bees.