Honeybees are eusocial insects, meaning that they live in a highly organized society with a division of labor, overlapping generations in one hive and cooperative brood care. Moreover, not all adult individuals can reproduce and in the case of honeybees there is one queen per colony that lays eggs.
Winter to Spring: Bee colonies should not be left without a queen. If the queen is lost during winter or early spring, the colony has to be turned into a queenright colony as soon as possible. This can be done easily by introducing the queenless colony into a queenright colony. At the beginning the two colonies should be separated by newspaper for example, so that they slowly become accustomed to one another. The newspaper should have a couple slits cut into it to help the bees remove the paper within a few days. Or if you have extra queens in a small nucleus in indoor wintering, you can unite one of them with the queenless colony.
Early Summer: When the hive is managed without queen excluder, the queen lays eggs into a wide area. If there is no nectar flow, the eggs can be found everywhere and there will be no brood in the lowest hive body. The queen should be kept in the lower boxes, as the Nordic brown bee is not suited for “queen in upper box” management where the queen is closed into the uppermost hive body with a queen excluder.
After the number of worker bees increases rapidly in June, the queen will be even harder to find. That's why it’s best to complete the procedures that will help in finding the queen (for instance, marking the queen) in spring, early summer, or late summer.
With A. m. mellifera bees, it can be difficult to establish two-queen bee hives with a separating queen excluder. Usually, the other queen is killed and only one queen is accepted per colony. Then again, this behavior can also be an advantage when the old queens are changed to new ones.
Searching for the queen:
- Work with care and keep in mind that some of the queens can hide outstandingly well.
- The queen usually goes to the empty built frames, which have been recently given to the hive and are also occupied by worker bees.
- The queen can be tempted to go to a brood frame that has been taken from a neighboring bee hive and temporarily placed in the middle of the brood area without bees. Usually, the queen can be found on this visitor frame within five or ten minutes.
- The queen can leave the hive when the hive is being searched.
- When handled, the queen is strong and eager to bend herself in any way she wants.
- When new queens hatch in the incubator, they can easily be marked or tagged.
Mid Summer: New queens can be produced either spontaneously in swarming colonies or in a controlled environment in queen rearing operations. New bee colonies get their queen in one of these ways. Because the queen mates freely in the air several kilometres away from its origin, it is possible for the queen to pair with other subspecies besides A. m. mellifera. This kind of cross-breeding is destructive for conservation activities, which is why queen producers are looking for isolated areas where only A. m. mellifera colonies, queens, and drones exist in the flight area. This can be arranged either in island environments or on the mainland without any other bees around in a ten-kilometer radius from the mating station.