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It is often necessary to replace the queen. The older a queen gets the less productive she is likely to be. It could be that she has been injured or is not as fertile as she used to be. It could be that her offspring have more than the usual inclination to sting.

Laying over her own weight in eggs every day, to grow and maintain the number of bees in the colony; the queen is quite obviously the most important bee in the hive. If there are any problems here then the whole colony is in danger. If the workers detect a problem in the hive such as the death of or injury to the queen they will begin to build a small number of queen cells.

Queen cells are brood cells larger than those that contain the worker bee larvae. The cell needs to be bigger because the queen is the biggest bee in the colony. The larvae in these cells are treated differently from the worker larvae and are fed differently also. This diet includes royal jelly and produces a large fertile bee unlike the worker bees. This means that the queen will be replaced by her daughter. If the old queen is still in the colony, her daughter will seek her out and they will fight to the death.

The queen produces a chemical that makes the bees work. If the queen is absent or unwell they do not work as hard and may not work at all. This again means that the colony suffers.

One of the best reasons to replace a queen is because her offspring have begun to sting more than might be expected. This can happen early on if it is a new queen and she just has aggressive offspring. There are different strains and species of honeybee with different temperaments. But, if a queen that is expected to produce had been producing less aggressive bees began to produce more aggressive bees it is time to replace her.

Beekeepers will often find it necessary to replace the queen themselves before the workers do. They do this to maintain the productivity of the hive. After all, if there are problems with the queen the level of work and or number workers may drop and the amount of honey produced would then also drop. The bees do not always see the problems with the queen in time and do not always view the queen in quite the same way as the beekeepers do. Therefore a beekeeper can not take the chance that the workers will take care of all the problems in the colony for him.

All this may seem obvious, but when you are starting out it often helps to have someone state the obvious for you. The experienced beekeeper may be inclined to take certain things for granted when helping the novice. Although I must admit that I have never met a beekeeper who took anything for granted when it came to his bees.

Gerry is webmaster at Beehaviour.Com your source of beekeeping information.