Working the hives

New queen

My sisters and I have been watching a BBC TV series called Lark Rise to Candleford.  One of the characters is “Queenie” the village beekeeper and honey mead maker.   I find skeps a rather fascinating part of beekeeping history. Bees and beekeeping have certainly  changed over the years.

In the apiary, queens rule.   The queen bee determines the whole chemistry, demeanor and health of the hive.   Re-queening is necessary for those city beekeepers who capture feral swarms.  Putting in a friendly, docile queen ensures the “quieter” temperament of the colony which means they easier to work with and manage in an urban environment.   I have found that many feral bees,  after a  few seasons,  tend to get more aggressive. More often than not, they will breed mean queens. They usually make ‘hot’ bees that boil over when anyone opens up the hive and these hives tend to swarm more often.   So, I opt to purchase  a naturally mated queens from reliable sources.  In a few weeks, the beehives are calmer, easier to manage, swarm less, and friendlier.  This means I can work the hives in shorts, sandals and gloveless without being stung.

I’m trying a few new different things this year (obviously, last year didn’t work out – though I suspect no fault of ours), and we’ll see how it goes.  It helps tremendously that I’ve grown up around bees my whole life and to me, beekeeping is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable things I can do.  It’s addicting  and the end results are, well, SWEET!

:: Resources ::

How to Re-Queen a Hive



  1. Jill says:

    Bees are so fascinating. Have you ever read the book “The Keeper of the Bees”?

  2. Quai's Hollar Farm says:

    I equate re-queening a hive to be the same as dufusing a nuke, (no not the bee nuc). If you slip up once, that’s it, your whole hive is gone. From what you said before I hope you do better this year. Good luck with your new queen, I hope she lays lots of brood for you. Happy apiary keeping.

    -Quail’s Hollar Farm

  3. Deborah says:

    I am considering beekeeping as a hobby and have borrowed the book “The B4eekeeper’s Handbook”. Seems a little overwhelming.

  4. A.F. James MacArthur Ph.A.L. says:

    Hey Justin, a bit later to getting around reading this, but as always with you guys, so informative and inspirational. I’ve been toying around with the idea of bee keeping for a while now, and eventually I will do it here in Baltimore City. When I was a kid my older brother and a young uncle both used to raid wild hives.

    Hope you have better fortune with the bees this year.


    • Anais says:

      @A.F. James MacArthur Ph.A.L.: Thanks! 🙂

  5. susan rudnicki says:

    I have 27 colonies of all feral caught bees from swarms and cutouts and trapouts–in Manhattan Beach. They make great honey crops, do NOT swarm any more than EHB (that is one of the conventional myths) and are not plagued with diseases and pests. Good technique and space management helps avoid the issues you describe. I don’t really care if I don’t work in sandles and shorts—I want resilient, self-sufficient bees and don’t want to support industrial bee raising operations selling bees and queens. Re-queening with a breeder queen means you get the breeder weaknesses, too—less resistance to varroa, shorter life span and bigger worker bee cell size, so more exposed to varroa vectored disease. I don’t want to keep a bee hospital, nor have bees that don’t know how to supersede when they need to, and breeder queens (often artificially inseminated) are the ones the media is describing when telling of the “dying of the bees”
    You must’ve got a colony of the relatively rare ferals that turned hot, as all of my 27 are a pleasure to work, and I constantly get calls to pick up more that land in the LA basin. (by the way, most of my colonies are in 3-4 deep boxes as well)
    Susan Rudnicki, urban beek, teaching beekeeping, making presentations, selling honey

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