Honey Bee Biology Series: Comparison of Natural Requeening Scenarios

Thursday 27 April 2023

During the spring and early summer months swarming season is occurring for honey bees. through spring build up, a hive may have overcrowding and minimal cell space for a queen to lay eggs. Therefore, healthy colonies of honey bees develop a strong swarm impulse, and a population change occurs in the hive. Like honey bees, our ATTTA team also has changes occurring this spring, including the addition of a new apiculturist.  This week’s blog will provide an introduction to both the new ATTTA apiculturist and honey bee requeening scenarios.

Exciting ATTTA Announcement

Kayla Gaudet joins the ATTTA team as our newest apiculturist. She will assist with research projects for honey bees and pollination by working collaboratively with beekeepers and blueberry growers throughout the Atlantic region.

Kayla has a background in Biology and Environmental Management. She completed her Bachelor of Science degree in 2020, with an honours and a major in Biology at the University of New Brunswick. She then continued her education at Acadia University, where she graduated in 2022 with a Master of Science in Biology. Her MSc thesis focused on developing a natural-based pesticide for agricultural and residential purposes. She developed and tested this product with an industry partner to be effective against the two-spotted spider mite and a common necrotrophic fungus (Botrytis cinerea). She also assessed the secondary impacts of the pesticide on the common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens).

Kayla will be sharing her interest in entomology by writing a series of blog posts all about basic honey bee biology. To start she will be exploring requeening scenarios in honey bees.

New Apiculturist, Kayla Gaudet (K.Gaudet 2023)

Honey Bee Biology Series: Comparison of Natural Requeening Scenarios


Natural requeening is when a colony of bees rears a new queen without the intervention of a beekeeper. There are three different scenarios that can trigger honey bees to rear a new queen: swarming, supersedure, and emergency response.

Swarming is one scenario where honey bees rear a new queen. Worker bees will build swarm cells at the base of comb. With the presence of swarm cells, one of two things will occur in the hive. Either the existing queen lays eggs in the swarm cells or the workers will move fertilized eggs to the cells. Once the virgin queen has developed in the cell, queen piping occurs between the virgin queen and the original mated queen. Queen piping is the communication (tooting and quacking) between queen bees to indicate each other’s presence. The original queen will then leave the colony with half the population to find a new hive, and the new queen will remain.

If there is an old or problematic queen the colony may decide to rear a new queen, which is known as a supersedure. The workers will form queen cups from existing worker cells on the frame face, and the queen lays eggs in the prepared cups. A new virgin queen will emerge, and she will replace the old queen.

A healthy queen on comb (ATTTA©2021).

A queen may die suddenly due to disease, predation or a beekeeper error. If this happens there is a quick emergency response. Within two days of queen loss, workers will create emergency queen cells scattered around existing young worker larvae. The young larvae will then fed on royal jelly and be raised as queens.

In any scenario, there are several requirements of the hive to raise a new queen, including: a sufficient amount of honey and pollen in the hive; sufficient population size; and the hive must have eggs or very young larvae. The descriptions above are a very brief overview of requeening scenarios.  Each of these has additional complexity which will be explored in the coming weeks. If you want to learn more about each of the requeening scenarios be sure to check out our next few blog posts. 

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