Do All Beekeepers Clip The Queen’s Wings?

The practice of clipping the queen bee’s wings in a hive is something beekeepers have done for many years. I often hear this question, and although it doesn’t appeal to me, I have decided to answer some of your questions on this highly controversial subject! Do all beekeepers clip the queen’s wings?

Not all beekeepers clip their queen’s wings, as queen clipping is often seen as cruel and painful for the queen. Many beekeepers clip their queen’s wings to mark them, especially if the queen is highly valuable. Many beekeepers strongly believe that clipping a queen’s wings could prevent swarming.

The fun thing about beekeeping is that discoveries are made every year, and there are always new methods to the madness! Stay with me as we explore queen clipping, why some beekeepers clip their queen’s wings, and if this could be the solution to your beekeeping problems!

What Does It Mean To Clip Your Queen’s Wings?

All bees have four wings attached to their tiny bodies. Their forewings are larger, providing them with the power to fly. Each wing has a thin membrane that is supported by a complete vein system.

These veins, especially larger ones, have a nerve and trachea running along them. The remaining space between these veins is filled with hemolymph as the veins are connected to the hematocele.

Now, queen clipping usually involves beekeepers taking a small and sharp pair of scissors to remove on third and up to half of just one of the queen’s forewings.

If queen clipping is done properly, which would mean only cutting enough from one wing while not amputating a leg or two, it will prevent the queen bee from flying entirely.

However, the queen may still attempt to take flight, but she will have little to no directional stability and cannot fly a distance.

Why Do Beekeepers Clip Their Queen’s Wings?

Beekeepers may clip their queen’s wings for several reasons. When we look at these reasons, it may seem like a perfectly humane and practical thing to do.

Let’s look at these reasons more closely:

Queen Clipping To Prevent Swarming

Some beekeepers will clip their queen’s wings to prevent the hive from swarming. The idea behind this particular swarming prevention method would be that once the queen bee’s wings are clipped, she won’t be able to fly.

When the swarm starts to leave the hive and realizes that its queen is not with them, it will return to its hive. If anything, this will only buy you a small amount of time until you must try another swarm prevention method.

It would be best if you kept in mind that the colony will still retain the natural impulse to swarm, even if their queen is not there to accompany them in their adventure.

Eventually, the swarm will continue to leave their hive, often taking a virgin queen with them. However, when a swarm takes a virgin queen with them, they will have to do anything they can to build their population and survive.

The queen needs to get mated; if this doesn’t work, the entire swarm will die unless the beekeeper rescues them.

Queen Clipping To Keep Track Of A Queen’s Age

Some beekeepers choose to keep constant track of the age of their queen. This could be to keep track of a queen’s productivity as the years pass or for experimental purposes.

These beekeepers may clip their queen’s right wings on even years and their left wings on odd years.

Although many beekeepers reason that they can simply mark their queen using dots, these dots may become faded or washed off, and with this, all the crucial information will be lost.

Queen Clipping To Make The Queen Easily Identifiable

Some beginner beekeepers have trouble identifying their queen. This is completely understandable, as bees are tiny creatures, and the queen needs to be examined.

Moreover, identifying a queen and knowing when she is not present in the hive could prevent havoc from happening inside the hive, which could cause a beekeeper to lsoe their entire hive and the honey inside of them.

Therefore, many beekeepers will clip their queen’s wings to make them easily identifiable from the rest. Again, the argument could be made here that a dot of paint could have the same outcome, but the paint could wash away or fade.

Why Many Beekeepers Do Not Believe In Queen Clipping

Many beekeepers do not believe in clipping their queen’s wings, as they see the whole practice as brutal and, at times, ineffective. There are two main reasons why some beekeepers don’t believe in queen clipping.

Let’s explore these:

Queen Clipping Does Not Prevent Swarming

In addition to queen clipping not preventing a hive from swarming, as mentioned above, queen clipping could also result in the death of a queen bee.

Some beekeepers have seen their swarms leave and return, only to find their queen not being in her hive any longer.

It, therefore, becomes obvious that the queen bee could not keep up with her swarm but tried to leave the hive anyways. In this case, when you have other hives nearby, the colony of these hives will find the queen outside of her hive, attack her, and kill her.

It is not natural for a queen bee not to be able to leave her hive to swarm with the rest, and when unfamiliar bees find her, they will sting her to death.

Queen Clipping Is Painful To The Queen Bee

As mentioned above, all bees have veins running through their wings. Some of these veins also have vital nerves running through them. Just like humans, our nerves have feelings, making us capable of feeling pain when these nerves become damaged.

When a queen bee’s wings are clipped, hemolymph can ooze out of the cut veins. Even if this doesn’t continue for long, this cannot be good for your queen bee’s health.

Additionally, accidents may happen when beekeepers clip their queen’s wings. In some cases, beekeepers have not only damaged their queen’s legs but have cut them off entirely. It then becomes obvious that clipping a queen’s wings can be a painful process and could cause her fatality if not done correctly.

Conclusion

Now that you are aware of what queen clipping is and why some beekeepers do it, it may become apparent that we have better ways of doing things in our modern and advanced world of beekeeping. Clipping a queen’s wings could not only cause her death but also be a painful process, discouraging any beekeeper from this practice.

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!

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