Introducing Queens Part 3: Full-Sized Colonies & Update on Wild Blueberry by Hugh Lyu, Perennia Specialist

Thursday 20 August 2020

As we move into the last few weeks of our summer beekeeping season,  the effects of the hot dry weather are very apparent.  Most areas of the Maritime provinces, as described by the government of Canada's drought monitor, are experiencing conditions from abnormally dry to sever drought.  Only Eastern Nova Scotia, including Cape Breton Island, seem to have escaped these categories!   As beekeepers we are naturally optimistic and are all hoping for some moisture to give us bountiful late season honey.  But without some changes in the precipitation, we may be looking at a below average honey harvest for 2020.  As well, the blueberry crop has been affected by this season's drought conditions.  With the harvest now well underway, we have asked our wild blueberry expert, Hugh Lyu, for a brief report which you will find below.  It would seem that like the region's beekeepers, our blueberry producers are also looking for rain!  

Again, thanks for all the positive feedback on our blog and we are pleased that it is being enjoyed by so many beekeepers and blueberry producers in our region.  We will continue the series on queen management over the next few blogs with part three of 'Introducing Queens' featured this week.

Introducing Queens Part 3: Full-Sized Colonies

As queens age, their fecundity and the production of the hive will decrease. Some beekeepers aim to keep young queens (1-3 years old) especially as their hives are going into winter. To re-queen a large colony, the same care must be taken as with a small colony but because a large colony can have many older bees and abundance of pheromones present extra steps might have to be taken to ensure queen acceptance. It is important to know the condition of the hive to achieve success. Is there an existing laying queen? Is the old queen now a drone layer? If the hive is queen-less, are there laying workers? Are there queen cells present? The following steps can be employed in re-queening a full size hive:

   Make a small split of the original colony - add many nurse bees and less foragers (to do this you can keep the split in the same apiary and the foragers will return to the full sized hive, and the nurse bees will stay in the split. Alternatively the split can be taken to a different location.

   Add the new caged queen to the split - as outlined in previous blog.

   Once the new queen has been accepted into the split and has an established nest (waiting a full brood cycle may increase acceptance), the old queen can be removed from the original colony. Hint: keep the old queen until the new queen has been accepted and is laying in the full size colony. Another hint: if the old queen is still laying but her fecundity is in question, use her to make a nuc to be overwintered because sometimes older queens may pleasantly surprise us!

   After dealing with the old queen, keep the original colony queen-less for 24 hours. Check for any queen cells!

   Add the split back to the colony with newspaper in between the boxes (over the top brood box of the original now queen-less colony). The bees will chew through the newspaper and the new queen pheromone will be distributed throughout the colony.

   Upon inspection after 5-7 days, check to see if they combined successfully and look for signs of queen acceptance - eggs, young larvae, queen!

   Mark the queen so her age can be tracked.

Update on Wild Blueberry by Hugh Lyu, Perennia Specialist

In Nova Scotia, Wild blueberry growers started harvesting around August 10. From July, I visited blueberry fields in in Queens County and other major production areas. I was happy to see a great yield potential in the majority of fields. This year, low monilinia infection levels were seen, and botrytis disease pressure was low as well. Up to late July, we had an excellent bloom and a good crop. However, the recent hot and dry conditions brought some critical issues in insect management and pollination.

The ongoing drought issues are starting to hit a critical point. Under such dry condition, fruit weight is down and the berries are small. Without rain in the next several days, our yield estimations and fruit quality will be significantly reduced. Nova Scotia is not alone in this, as we are seeing very dry conditions across Maine, NB and PEI, leading to lower yields than hoped. Wild blueberries are very resilient and rain over the next several days would translate into millions of dollars for the industry in Nova Scotia.  We will keep our fingers crossed for rain!

For additional information contact:

Hugh Lyu, Wild Blueberry Specialist
Perennia Food and Agriculture 
Email :
Mobile : 902-890-0472

Connecting with ATTTA Specialists
If you’d like to connect with ATTTA specialists or learn more about our program, you can:

Thanks for following along with our blog and keeping up with the ATTTA buzz & don't forget to subscribe!