How late in the year can I requeen?
Elias of Alberta, Canada, asks:
How late in the year can I requeen? And when does a queen stop laying eggs in the fall?
Rusty Burlew answers:
You can requeen a colony at nearly any time of year. I’ve requeened in the dead of winter after finding a dead queen on the landing board. The key is to move quickly so you don’t have the hive open for long. During winter, only small amounts of brood, if any, is in the hive so a little cold air won’t hurt anything. Adults are not as sensitive to cold as brood, but quicker is better.
There is no cut-off date when a queen stops laying for the winter. It’s climate-dependent. In the American south, the queen may lay all year. Up where you live, the queen will slow her laying sometime after the summer solstice and continue to decrease the rate of laying until perhaps October or November. At that time she may stop completely, or she may maintain a very small brood nest. There is some variability with genetics, so you can’t say for certain.
Most queens begin increasing the rate of lay soon after the winter solstice, timed so the colony will be large and active when the first nectar appears. Again, it is very dependent on local conditions.
Just remember that the brood-rearing year is divided into two parts. A colony increases in size from the winter solstice (about December 21) to the summer solstice (about June 21) as the length of daylight increases. Brood rearing and colony size decrease from the summer solstice to the winter solstice as daylight decreases.