Queen bees are always in high demand. After all, without a queen bee, you wouldn’t have a healthy, productive hive – but how much does a queen bee cost exactly?
Given the necessity of having a queen, purchasing one can be pricey. However, the price depends on the species, health, and where you purchase your queen – although usually, a mated queen will cost between $20-$50.
While generally costing between $20-$50 for a mated queen, queens who are artificially inseminated with selected drones can cost hundreds of dollars. These queens are artificially inseminated with specially selected drone semen for specific characteristics and high genetic quality.
Open mated queens are allowed to fly free and mate with drones in the local area. Breeders will release many strong drones in the area, to give the queen plenty of genetic material and choice.
Mated vs. Virgin vs. Queen Cell
When purchasing a queen, you have three options. The first, and usually the best option, is to buy a mated queen. Again, an open mated queen will only cost between $20-$50. It’s well worth the price for a reliable queen.
If you buy a virgin queen, it has the advantage of mating with local drones. This can help with acclimatization. However, there’s also a downside. The queen must go out on a maiden flight, which is fraught with danger. Some queens are eaten or injured during the flight and do not return.
Queen cells are more cost-effective. They typically cost about 1/4 of the price of a mated queen. Of course, if you choose a queen cell, the queen will need time to hatch, mature, and mate.
Both virgin queens and queen cells have another risk. If they don’t mate during the proper time period, they will only be able to produce drones. This isn’t a concern with a mated queen.
It’s fairly rare that the queen will not mate. However, bad weather or a lack of available drones can cause the issue.
When to Get a New Queen
Knowing when to get a new queen can help you keep your hive happy and productive. There are several reasons why you might need a new queen.
An ageing queen will not lay eggs consistently. Her pheromones will also begin to diminish, which will signal the workers to prepare for supersedure or replacing the queen themselves.
This takes some time. If you don’t want to wait for the bees to take care of it themselves, you may choose to replace the queen. A queen can live for up to 7 years, but replacing the queen every 1 to 2 years is common.
Injured or Dead Queen
If your queen becomes sick, injured, or dead, you’ll obviously need a new queen. This can occur due to clumsy handling within the hive or disease.
Queenless hives won’t survive long, so if you encounter this problem you will need to address it as soon as possible.
Should You Replace the Queen?
It’s easy to assume you should replace the queen anytime there’s a problem with the current queen. However, bees can usually manage this process on their own. After all, they replace their queen themselves in the wild.
When a queen’s health begins to decline due to age, the bees will begin the supersedure process. They will use young larvae to raise new queens. They will typically create several supersedure cells.
The queen that emerges first will kill any other queen larvae, becoming the new queen. If two queens hatch at the same time, they will fight to the death. This ensures the strongest genetic material for the hive.
Before purchasing a new queen, consider waiting and allowing your bees to produce a new queen themselves.
This is certainly more cost-effective. It also removes the work and stress of replacing a queen from your shoulders.
The Making of a Queen
Worker and queen bees have the same genetics. In fact, the only difference between them is their diet. Worker bees are fed royal jelly for the first two days of their larvae stage.
Queens, on the other hand, are fed royal jelly throughout the development process.
Nurse bees are responsible for feeding the larvae. They produce royal jelly from the top of their heads. When fed a diet of royal jelly, the queen’s reproductive organs are switched on. It also causes her to become larger than the workers.
Process of Requeening
Bees are very orderly creatures, so the process of requeening follows a specific procedure and timeline. If the old queen has died, the process will begin on the next day.
If the queen was old or ill, the bees have likely already started the supersedure process. The bees will create a queen cell. You can consider this day 1 of requeening.
The new queen will emerge 16 days after she was laid. The colony will start the process using young larvae, so it will take about 14 days for her to emerge from the queen cell.
She needs about a week after her emergence to prepare for her maiden flight. You can expect her to fly at about day 20-22 days after the beginning of the process. However, it can take as long as 2 weeks for her to make her flight, depending on the weather and temperature conditions.
When she returns, she will begin laying eggs. She will begin with a small batch, but quickly become prolific and successful.
So, you have two options when it comes to requeening. You can either let the bees create the new queen, or purchase a new queen for your hive. Allowing the bees to create a new queen can take some time.
You’ll also need to consider the time of year. A queen has a limited mating window. If the weather is poor when she’s a virgin queen, she will not be able to mate. So, if your queen has a winter mishap, it can be better to purchase a new queen.
Introducing a New Queen to the Hive
You probably know that it’s not wise to immediately release a new queen into the hive. You’ll need to give the bees a chance to acclimate to her first.
If you raise your own queen, you can simply place the queen box between the frames in the brood box. This allows newly emerging bees to become familiar with their new queen.
If you purchase your new queen, the process is a bit different. The queen box will go into the hive. Most have a cork that protects a candy plug. The bees eat the candy plug, which takes about two days. This gives them time to become familiar with the new queen before they have access to her.
Final Thoughts on Queen Bees
The price of queen bees will vary based on the genetics of the bee and your location. A healthy queen can be purchased for $20-$50, but shipping costs can also add up.
If you happen to have other local beekeepers, you may be able to purchase a new queen or even trade for her. If you have no options locally, it’s best to order a new queen online.
Unless your bees produce their own new queen. In that case, you may want to let the process happen naturally.