19 May

Queen supersedures

Any experienced beekeeper knows that queen supersedure is a phenomenon when bees raise a young queen to replace the old one, without swarming and dividing the original colony into daughter colonies. It is generally considered a very valuable feature of some colonies. Other colonies supposedly tend more to swarming and do not carry out queen supersedures. In the course of testing this method, I found that this is not so. When applying the swarm control rearing of drones, I noticed in late summer that the colonies were collectively attempting queen supersedure. The reason was, no doubt, the fact that they could not swarm for two years and thus could not get a young queen. With this method of beekeeping, about 75% of colonies with two-year-old queens perform late-summer queen supersedure or at least attempt it! Another 18% do so spontaneously in the following season. I have observed this phenomenon with a similar intensity regularly since 2005. Based on that I conclude that queen supersedure is an absolutely common phenomenon which enables the colony to get a young mother when it cannot rejuvenate by swarming.

The alleged scarcity of this phenomenon is caused by the fact that thorough beekeepers replace the queens after their second production season, and the less thorough beekeepers have swarming bees. Thus the queen is replaced by different mechanisms. Only few beekeepers let their colonies carry out the queen supersedure in late summer. Queen supersedure is also common in settled swarms with an old queen. It is therefore not a feature limited only to some of the colonies. Almost all colonies are capable of queen supersedure. I believe that the drone rearing and the impossibility of swarming strongly motivates the worker bees for queen supersedure. In the given circumstances it is their only chance to produce a young queen.

In my breeding, queen supersedures are perfectly common with two-year-old queens in late summer (since mid-July). In colonies with younger queens, supersedures are rare. It is a beautiful testament of the fact that bees themselves tend to replace their queen at the end of her second production season, and it complies with the claims of many beekeeping experts. Considering the fact that in supersedure the old queen is killed only after fertilization and egg laying of the young queen, this method is highly reliable. Queens coming from supersedures are biologically the most valuable. Many beekeepers using this method will be glad to confirm that the frequency of queen supersedures increases with this method. It is, of course, still the beekeeper’s responsibility to keep an eye on the age of the queens and replace the old ones.

In conclusion, I must warn queen rearers that it is not possible to combine swarm control drone rearing and queen rearing with the old queen still present. This method of queen rearing requires breeding mood, which is in fact the swarming fever. And the swarming fever is completely eliminated by the drones. The bees do not distinguish between queen cell produced in swarm fever and the one inserted by the beekeeper. If the swarm control drone rearing is established correctly and timely, the bees will destroy all queen cells. Therefore, swarm control drone rearing needs to be done in colonies intended for honey production. It can’t be done in breeding colonies, which are intended for the production of queens.

Nothing remains but to wish you much success with this method, and I will look forward to the valuable response from your practice.

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