Synopsis : What occurs when your queenright cell raiser swarms? Are cells being reared underneath the supersedure response doomed? This and different musings on miscellaneous elements of queen rearing, along with some feedback on clearing supers on queenless hives.
I described queen rearing final week as Essentially the most enjoyable you’ll be able to have in a beesuit ™. That’s my opinion. You might desire making candles, or beeswax wraps or extracting and jarring honey and I wouldn’t argue, although none of them come near the satisfaction I get from queen rearing.
The time period ‘queen rearing’ someday conjures up photos of booming, chest-high queenless cell starters, dozens of grafted larvae on every cell bar body, incubators and serried rows of mini-nucs ready for virgins … and even medical instrumental insemination equipment.
That is the commercial scale manufacturing of queens, and it’s uncommon that enthusiastic however nonetheless small-scale novice beekeepers want that variety of queens.
Or have the assets to provide them.
For comfort I consider queen rearing as an exercise that may happen at three completely different scales:
- One or two queens at a time – e.g. including a body of chosen (i.e. good high quality) eggs/larvae to a terminally queenless hive. Surplus cells may be lower out and distributed elsewhere.
- 5 to 10 at a time – usually utilizing chosen larvae transferred to a cell starter colony by grafting, a Cupkit-type system, cell punching or (fewer manipulations nonetheless) the Miller or Hopkins strategies.
- Dozens of queens at a time – virtually at all times utilizing grafting and a powerful queenless cell starter colony.
I’ve run 10-20 colonies for a decade or extra and infrequently want greater than 20 queens a season (a quantity which incorporates some spares to make up nucs).
As well as, I reside in an space with variable (i.e. usually poor) climate the place queen mating may be ’hit or miss’.
Little and sometimes
For these causes I desire to provide a couple of queens at a time so I don’t need to dedicate important assets to an exercise that is perhaps thwarted by a month of awful climate.
I’d quite try to produce half a dozen queens three or 4 occasions a season, than dozens directly.
The latter requires a significant dedication of assets (colonies and gear). Relying upon the climate I would find yourself with a glut of queens.
Or an apiary-full of laying staff 🙁
In distinction, the strategies I exploit enable me to provide a handful of queens each few weeks. If the climate is form, all will get mated. If not, it’s not a complete catastrophe.
Over the past month we’ve solely had 2-3 days with circumstances usually related to profitable queen mating i.e. mild winds, sunshine and temperatures of 20°C.
Predicting this sort of ‘climate window’ 2-3 weeks upfront is nearly unattainable.
It’s higher to be ready to repeat issues once more.
And once more 😉
Apiary neighborhood mating
In actual fact, queens don’t want ‘excellent’ circumstances for mating. In the event that they did, sustainable beekeeping can be unattainable – or not less than very tough – in lots of northern latitudes. Queens may be efficiently mated in sub-optimal circumstances .
A part of my curiosity in monitoring the native climate at my apiary is to try to decide simply how poor the circumstances may be while nonetheless getting queens mated.
Native Apis mellifera mellifera (black bees) are reported to make use of apiary neighborhood mating (AVM) and so could not want optimum circumstances to fly to distant drone congregation areas. Jon Getty has written extra about AVM on his web site.
Nonetheless, wherever or each time they get mated, I desire to provide repeated batches of queens utilizing queenright cell raisers. By doing this I’m not placing all my ‘eggs in a single basket’. Basically these cell raisers are normal (honey) manufacturing hives manipulated in easy methods to supply the circumstances wanted to rear suitably-presented larvae as queens.
And inevitably, as a result of they’re queenright, issues can typically go unsuitable 🙁
Queenright queen rearing
The 2 strategies I’ve used are the Ben Harden strategy and a Morris board. Each use a single colony to begin and end the queen cells, and the queen stays current – albeit separated from the growing cells – all through the 10-12 days from grafting till the cells are used.
The Morris board
A Morris board is basically the identical as a Cloake board. These are boards that separate the queenright decrease brood field from an higher brood field by which the queen cells are produced. The board has an built-in queen excluder and the supply to separate the higher and decrease field with a steel or plastic divider.
With the divider inserted queen cells are began within the prime field underneath the emergency response. Nonetheless, as soon as began, the divider is eliminated and the cells are completed underneath the supersedure response.
The Morris board is extra sophisticated than a Cloake board; it’s used with a divided higher brood field – permitting separate batches of cells to be began each week or so – and has a collection of doorways for bleeding off and redirecting returning foragers to the proper compartment.
It’s a intelligent thought and one which reveals appreciable promise for my queen rearing.
I’ll write extra about my use of a Morris board in the end, or you might observe down the article Michael Badger wrote in Bee Craft.
The Ben Harden strategy
I’ve mentioned the Ben harden strategy extensively already – attempt right here for starters. The tactic, though maybe popularised by the eponymous Irish beekeeper (and glorious instructors just like the late Terry Clare) was additionally described properly by the Nationwide Bee Unit’s Mike Brown and David Wilkinson twenty years in the past within the American Bee Journal .
Till the final couple of years that is the strategy I’ve used for many of my queen rearing.
The queen is confined under a queen excluder to the decrease brood field. Grafted larvae are added to the higher field, house inside which is commonly restricted by means of ‘fats dummies’.
The queen cells are due to this fact began and completed underneath the supersedure response.
Supersedure vs. swarming responses and colony swarming
In preparation for swarming a colony naturally produces a number of charged queen cells . Assuming the climate is appropriate, the colony often swarms on the day that the first cells are sealed.
If the climate is poor then swarming is delayed, however they usually then go on the first alternative … a lot in order that even a borderline day after a interval of poor climate throughout the regular swarming season is commonly characterised by a lot of swarms.
In distinction, newly sealed supersedure cells – and these are often only a few in quantity (usually only one) – are incubated for an extra 8 days till emergence of the virgin queen.
The superseding colony doesn’t swarm.
The brand new queen goes on a few mating flights and begins laying.
In some unspecified time in the future after that the outdated queen merely disappears.
At some point you’re shocked to seek out two laying queens within the hive however on the subsequent inspection (or the one after that) solely the shiny new one stays.
The queen is useless, lengthy reside the queen.
Benefits (and downsides) of queenright queen rearing strategies
For the small scale beekeeper – maybe 2-20 colonies – queenright strategies provide an a variety of benefits (with a couple of disadvantages) for queen rearing:
- the standard of the cell starter/finisher is immaterial so long as the colony is robust. You merely present it with larvae from good high quality inventory.
- no interruption to nectar assortment. In a very good nectar stream you merely preserve piling on supers as wanted and the bees elevate the cells and fill the supers.
- if there’s no nectar stream you’ll have to feed the colony, so it’s essential to take away any supers to keep away from tainting any saved nectar with syrup.
- should you do concurrently use the colony for honey manufacturing and cell elevating the hive can get tall and heavy. Thoughts your again.
- you should utilize a single hive for the total course of if wanted; cell starter, sourcing larvae, cell finisher and populating mini-nucs. You would possibly even get some honey as nicely 😉
The queenright strategies outlined above exploit the supersedure response for cell elevating. Which means the colony is not going to swarm in response to capping of the cells within the higher field.
That’s not the identical as saying that the colony is not going to swarm 🙁
Don’t overlook, there’s a laying queen within the backside field. She is going to proceed to put whereas the brand new cells are being began, fed, nurtured and sealed.
And if she runs out of house the colony can nonetheless make swarm cells within the backside field and so could swarm.
Listed here are a few examples the place this has occurred … and the results for my queen rearing.
A swarming Ben Harden cell raiser
After I lived within the Midlands I routinely began queen rearing throughout April. Queens produced in April might be mated as early as the primary week of Could in a very good 12 months, and sometimes, even earlier.
Colonies received an enormous enhance throughout this a part of the season from the oil seed rape. The picture under is from the nineteenth of April 2014.
When rearing queens utilizing the Ben Harden strategy throughout a powerful nectar stream you’ll be able to safely relocate the higher brood field above the highest tremendous. In a busy hive the growing cells nonetheless get greater than sufficient consideration.
As well as, this will help enhance ‘take’ by decreasing the focus of queen pheromones as a result of separation of the underside brood field (containing the unique queen) and the field containing the grafted larvae.
When utilizing this methodology you will need to test the higher field for queen cells on the day the grafts are added. This field, being separated from the queen-containing brood field, has lowered queen mandibular, and no queen footprint, pheromones.
Consequently, it’s common for the bees to begin drawing queen cells. These have to be destroyed or – being extra superior than the grafted larvae – they’ll emerge first and destroy all of your laborious work.
I had executed this and added the grafts which, on checking 24 hours later, had all been accepted.
Chipmunks are Go!
Out of sight is out of thoughts
Nonetheless, I had failed to test the underside field for queen cells on the times earlier than I added the grafted larvae.
The colony promptly swarmed, in all probability earlier than the newly growing queen cells have been capped.
This was both earlier than I routinely clipped my queens, or I’d missed this explicit queen. No matter, she and a big proportion of the bees disappeared to pastures new.
I can’t bear in mind how (or when) I realised the colony had swarmed. It may need been lowered entrance exercise throughout the robust OSR nectar stream, or I may need simply (lastly!) carried out a daily inspection.
The underside field contained sealed queen cells, no queen and no eggs 🙁
However, all was not misplaced.
The cells containing grafted larvae have been capped and appeared good. They’d clearly acquired adequate consideration and I used to be due to this fact hopeful they’d emerge, mate and produce usable queens.
They usually did.
I knocked again all of the sealed queen cells within the backside field after which – on the day I used the cells from the grafted larvae – added one of many latter to the decrease brood field.
I eliminated the queen cells within the decrease field for 2 causes:
- it prevented a brand new queen rising there whereas I had cells above the queen excluder, and
- it allowed me to make use of a cell raised from larvae sourced from a greater high quality colony.
So, a swarming cell raiser isn’t essentially a catastrophe.
A newer, however much less profitable, try
My first try at queen rearing this season concerned utilizing a Morris board.
I added the Morris board and higher brood field on the 18th of Could. I then did the entire essential Morris board manipulations – closing the slide, opening entrances, closing others – to pack the higher field with bees.
On the twenty fifth I did the grafting and – on the similar time I added the grafts on the cell bar body – I destroyed a small variety of queen cells within the higher field .
On the next day 7-8 of the larvae had been accepted and the cells have been capped on or across the thirtieth.
I used to be off beekeeping elsewhere so didn’t test the hive once more till the first of June … and was dismayed to seek out the entire cells had been torn down.
There was no queen within the higher field and the queen excluder was intact. The cells seem to have been torn down by staff. I’ve had this occur earlier than when there’s been a dearth of nectar, however this field was getting 300 ml of skinny syrup each 48 hours.
After all, I ultimately checked the underside field and located:
- one vacated queen cell. This cell was located on the decrease fringe of one of many central frames.
- a virgin queen working about and no signal of the unique clipped and marked queen 🙁
The only queen cell would possibly counsel supersedure. Nonetheless, its place (although removed from a dependable indicator) was extra like that of a swarm cell.
As well as, the absence of eggs or any signal of the unique queen, strongly advised that the colony had swarmed. This in all probability occurred – coincidentally – on the day the cells containing the grafts have been sealed.
I say ‘coincidentally’ as a result of I believe the swarming was triggered by emergence of the brand new queen within the decrease field and had nothing to do with my grafted larvae. That will match with two issues – the timing of the earlier inspection (18th) and the truth that swarming is delayed when the incumbent queen is clipped.
Nonetheless, as a result of she was clipped, the colony was not depleted of staff. The unique queen was misplaced, however that was all.
An alternate interpretation can be that the brand new queen merely did away with the unique queen.
However why have been the cells containing grafted larvae torn down?
One risk was that the brand new queen pheromones have been sufficiently robust that the employees realised they didn’t want further queens. Alternatively – although she wasn’t by the point I noticed her – I suppose there’s a risk that the virgin queen was sufficiently small to squeeze by way of the queen excluder, slaughter the growing queens, and squeeze again right down to the decrease field.
Studying from my errors
Each examples above have been as a consequence of my not sustaining a correct inspection schedule on the decrease, queenright, brood field.
Regardless of the benefits outlined above, cell rearing colonies ought to nonetheless be handled in the identical manner – vis-à-vis common inspections – as every other manufacturing hive.
Apart from forgetfulness, sloth and stupidity there’s no purpose not to examine the decrease brood field correctly on a 7 day cycle.
As soon as the larvae are accepted you’ll be able to take away the higher field (and all of the bees it accommodates), gently set it apart and go although the underside field. The employees with the growing queen cells will take care of them for the ten minutes or so this takes.
Conversely, there’s no purpose to intrude with the higher field apart from to test acceptance and ensure, in the end, that the cells are sealed. If you happen to assemble the queenright cell rearing colony and wait every week earlier than including grafts to the higher field (as described above) they can’t begin new queens from something different than the larvae you add.
What else would you be searching for?
Only one other thing
There have been a number of feedback final week about honey manufacturing in queenless colonies.
I collected extra supers on Monday containing spring honey. This included recovering supers from a number of queenless (or presently requeening – some could have contained virgins) colonies.
I’ve beforehand observed that supers are cleared much less nicely – utilizing my normal clearer boards in a single day – from queenless colonies.
You at all times get a couple of bees remaining within the tremendous, however there have been persistently tons extra in queenless colonies.
I didn’t depend them … few is lower than some, which is sort of a bit lower than tons, which – in flip – is appreciably lower than ‘did I put the clearer on inverted?’
This was the second batch of supers I’d collected, every week after the primary. I’d left the supers on longer as a result of:
- there have been too many to move
- some nonetheless had unripe nectar which failed the ‘shake take a look at’ over a hive roof (see picture under), indicating that the water content material was too excessive to extract with out risking the honey fermenting
Luring the bees down from the supers
In an try to hurry up clearing bees from the supers of queenless colonies I added the clearer beneath the complete supers, however on prime of a moist tremendous from which I’d already extracted honey.
This labored nicely.
The heady odor of honey within the moist tremendous resulted in considerably fewer bees within the cleared supers.
I’ve to move these cleared supers ~200 miles again residence for extraction. If I had a trailer or a truck a couple of stragglers wouldn’t usually be a problem.
However I don’t … these supers are in the automobile with me.
Truly … stragglers would nonetheless be a problem, even with a trailer/truck.
My Fife bees have Varroa (low ranges, nevertheless it’s undoubtedly current) however my west coast bees don’t. I take biosecurity critically and don’t like discovering any bees within the automobile after the journey.
I additionally actually don’t like discovering bees within the automobile at 65 mph on the A9 … and, if I do, I cease and allow them to out.
The mix of the better-cleared supers and a pointy thwack on any frames with adhering bees lowered the stowaways to zero.
And the 5 hour return journey was notable for stellar views of an osprey, a shocking male hen harrier and the solar setting over Creag Meagaidh 🙂