To maximize a queen’s productivity, she should be replaced in the spring of the second year. If a colony is not thriving then replacing the queen will often improve the condition of the colony.
Some beekeepers will replace an aggressive, more defensive queen with a queen that has a gentler disposition.
Changing the queen will not remove disease agents such as; parasitic mites, Nosema, or viruses.
If you believe that your hive is diseased, it should be treated before replacing the queen.Queens have a very unique and complicated biology. After mating, queens begin laying eggs; slowly at first then eventually reaching a normal rate; she can lay up to 1,500 eggs per day.
As the queen ages, the production of queen pheromone is reduced and her egg laying can become insufficient. This will result in the colony having less brood and fewer bees. When looking at a frame of brood, it can be described as having a more “shotgun” brood pattern. These symptoms indicate that the queen needs to be replaced.
Another reason for beekeepers to re-queen is when a queen is lost during the spring because of swarming. If this is the case, there will be no eggs or brood when the colony is inspected. This situation is especially difficult to analyze because a virgin queen may have been left in the colony after the original queen swarms. If there is sufficient quantity of capped brood left in the hive, then a new queen can be added.
(Photos by permission from Michael Palmer ©2012 Michael Palmer, All rights reserved)