As the summer solstice approaches and the last spring blooms begin to fade, my efforts begin to focus on having strong colonies for next spring. There is still a lot to do with training yard activities, planning for extraction, mite treatment, making sure the hives are as strong as possible, deciding on summer splits and queen replacement to name a few top agenda items.
I met with a beekeeper friend this past week and among other interesting topics (some not bee related if you can believe it) the idea of a split and queen replacement plan was discussed. Because I don’t have a formalized queen replacement strategy, my hives have a mix of last year’s queens, swarm queens, package queens and queens I purchased from a local supplier on a random as needed basis. I’m also sure several of the queens are superseded ones. As a side note, the locally sourced queens came marked but now those queens have no mark. As all have lost the marking, I’m thinking the marking paint was not right and came off. But there are other possibilities that lead me back to my queen replacement strategy.
My plan is to treat for mites as soon as any honey is removed then make splits with new queens, possibly replacing all the existing queens so that winter bees are from young queens. New queens might not be a better queens but all the hives will have queens of a known age and source . Still to be decided is what to do with old queens that are producing solid brood. I always have a hard time killing a productive queen and the replacement may not be as good. For me, beekeeping is a process of hard decisions.
I am considering using three section queen castles to bank old, still productive queens then combine these bees back into the over winter hives. Lots of possibilities for experimentation. That is one of my favorite beekeeping activities – trying different techniques.