Back to top

Can You Start A Beehive With Just A Queen?

We live in a world where everything costs money, and it can be challenging to grasp the idea of a way that a beekeeper can start a colony where it is free. After the Covid-19 pandemic, loads of new beekeepers have emerged, and there have been many questions. Can you start a beehive with one queen?

When you decide to buy a queen bee, you’re buying that queen for an existing colony. Many new beekeepers think this is a way to start a colony, but that is incorrect. By only buying the singular queen bee will not attract a whole colony of bees. When purchasing bees, you would want to look for a starter colony.

Although you might not start a beehive with just a queen, there are other successful ways that we can look into without breaking the bank!

Why You Can Not Start A Hive With A Queen

You might be wondering why you will not be successful in starting a hive with just a queen. There are a few factors that contribute to certain doom when leaving the queen to fend for herself.

Although the queen bee is the heart and soul of the hive, she is entirely left to the mercy of her attendant bees for food.

The royal attendants are vital because the queen bee is incapable of attending to her own basic needs. She can’t groom or feed herself, nor leave the hive to relieve herself. She is continuously surrounded by worker bees who attend to her every need, feeding her the food she needs and even dispose of her waste!

 The queen is fed only royal jelly, which is a secretion with protein-rich properties. It is made by the bees in the hive from glands on the heads of young worker bees. The queen’s primary function is to serve as the reproducer. A well-fed and well-mated queen can lay up to 1500 eggs daily.

The attendant worker bees are responsible for collecting these eggs. They then distribute queen mandibular pheromone, a pheromone that inhibits the worker bees from starting another queen.

Additional Ways To Start A Hive

The good news is that you can still start a hive easily, which also happens to be cost-free! Every spring is swarming season. Why not make one of these swarms your own and start your beehive without having to purchase any bees?

Catching a swarm is not as difficult as you would think. For centuries, beekeepers have been successfully starting beehives by only catching swarms. A swarm of bees has one primary objective: to find and settle into their perfect home!

When a swarm is on the loose, it can be found in two stages. They can be either settled (usually resting in a branch in a tree) or flying and looking for a home. A beekeeper can capture swarms in both of these stages.

A settled swarm requires the beekeeper to go out, suit up, and retrieve the desired bees from their resting area. You, as a beekeeper, can show up to the swam with a collection box or simply an empty hive body.

It can be pretty challenging to brush the bees into your collection box and should be done with caution. If the swarm is clustered on a branch, you can cut the branch and remove both the bees and branch simultaneously.

You can keep in mind that flying swarms can also be lured, but it requires a more calm and passive approach. Your goal, in this case, is to attract a swarm to your equipment by using chemical lures. These chemical lures are formulated to the identical pheromone that honeybees give off when they call their fellow bees to a specific location.

To catch the flying swarm, you, as a beekeeper, have to use bait hives to swarm traps. A bait hive would be your best bet, as they are standard hive bodies that have already been scented with swarm lures. Swarm traps are containers specifically made to lure and catch flying swarms.

Benefits Of Catching Your Swarm

If you are contemplating whether you should buy your swarm of bees or go the extra mile and catch your swarm, we can help you to effectively make your choice by listing a few benefits when it comes to catching your swarm of bees:

  • The chances are good that your swarm will make a new queen, which means you will not have to introduce a brand new queen to your hive.
  • Having to buy a new queen is much cheaper than buying a swarm for your empty hive.
  • When catching a swarm, the bees will take food with them to their new hive, which will make them settle in and produce honey much faster than a new swarm.
  • You get started with good quality stock bees right from the beginning.
  • As swarming is nature’s way of reproducing, you can use it to your advantage and fight to avoid the loss of bees and honey-producing!
  • Swarming is also a way bees deal with some pests and diseases. This means that they will have a strengthened immune system and will not bring any illnesses to your hive.

Aftercare When You Started A Swarm

The best beekeepers are the ones that have a burning passion and love for honeybees and also love learning about them. It is crucial to beekeeping to understand how the bees live without a beekeeper to get a good enough understanding of their biology and behavior.

Ensure that you know exactly what goes on inside your beehive before you start to focus on beekeeping techniques. Try to grasp the concept of a honey bee’s way of living before starting the aftercare of your hive after catching a wild swarm.

After doing the correct amount of research, you can start with your hive inspections! It is vital to regularly check on your bees to make sure they stay healthy. It can be intimidating to open your hive of newly caught wild bees, but you can’t harvest honey if the colony isn’t doing well.

When going in for your first inspection on your wild colony, the first thing your should check is the comb inside your hive. You need to look for a healthy brood pattern. If you are a beginner and unsure how a healthy brood pattern looks, there is an easy way to check.

An easy way for you as a beginner beekeeper to check if you have a healthy brooding pattern is if the larva becomes cast over with a beeswax capping. If your colony is healthy, you will see a big patch of larva bound tightly together.

If your colony of bees is unhealthy or is struggling in its new hive, you will see empty cells. This is called a shotgun pattern, and you do not want this pattern in your newly started hive. Seeing the brood nest’s uneven pattern will not tell you precisely what is wrong with your colony or what to do about it, but t will tell you that something is up.

It is important to stay educated because many newly caught swarms do well during the spring and make honey whether you check on them or not, but they die of diseases in the fall.

Conclusion

Although you would fail in starting your hive with just one queen, catching your swarm would be just as beneficial. Swarms are easy to handle, and as long as a swarm isn’t established or comfortable in its new hive, they will behave gently.

Once you have collected your swarm, you must replace the queen that came with the swarm. You can then think about purchasing your replacement queen. You will be sure about her genetics and quality with a new queen, and she will already be mated.

With your new queen, you will be obtaining healthy and high-quality genetic stock that is well suited for your new colony. It is reassuring to know that you can start your beekeeping journey cheaply and effectively!

Jaco Stander

My name is Jaco Stander. I’m from Cape Town, South Africa. I’m a registered beekeeper with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development in South Africa. Registration number WC808. I live on a small holding where I keep my 16 beehives. Taking care of bees is a very rewarding feeling, contributing to keep our bee colonies growing and thriving, and as a bonus, enjoying that sweet pure raw honey!

Recent Posts