August 2018 Queen Rearing Class Notes

by Robert Jones

Cell builder choice – choose right and build it right.

  1. Picking a hive with too few bees will not accomplish the cell building task.
  2. Picking a small nest hive with a small amount of nursery bees will result in bees not building good or very many cells.
  3. If there are no festooning bees, you will not be successful. WAX BUILDING IS KEY.
  4. To be queenless is better according to most experts in the field, but many do operate with double-screened queen-right hives with good success.
    1. You will need a hive to build the cells. This hive is called a “cell builder hive.” Again, many individual methods exist for raising queens in cell builders.
    2. Some prefer what is called a “queen-right” colony.
    3. Others prefer queenless hives.
    4. You many even run into the term “cell-finishing colony.”
    5. Your method will vary according to the number of queens you want to raise.
  5. We will teach in this class a queenless type method.
  6. Requirements for raising good queen cells
    1. Fertilized eggs or larvae.
    2. A cell builder hive supplied with a large population of well-fed nurse bees.
    3. Hive well supplied with syrup and pollen.
    4. Conditions created to cause the bees to build queen cells.
    5. Close attention to calendar dates.
    6. Each queen to be raised must have a separate compartment or hive of her own.
  7. Let’s look at all of these points! Getting the right HIVE larvae
    1. If you are going to raise queens, why not try to raise the best you can!
    2. Select for characteristics that are important to you.
    3. Avoid any stock that is aggressive, prone to swarm, etc.
    4. Size matters; know the size of the earliest day one larva.
    5. Picking wrong will throw off your harvest time and see torn-down cells in your cell builder, besides the loss of the cell builder. A start-over do-over will be in order.
  8. A cell builder hive supplied with a large population of well-fed nurse bees.
    1. Our cell builder was used to start and finish queen cells. Thus, the cell bars (or, in the Alley, Miller methods, the frame with young eggs or larvae) is placed into the center of this hive and it remains there until the queen cells are ready for harvest.
    2. Ours will be the Doolittle grafting method.
    3. When queen cells are harvested, you can use the bees and frames to build nucs.
  9. The hive must be supplied with plenty of pollen and syrup to imitate a big nectar flow.
    1. It is important that the cell builder hive is supplied with syrup before queen cells are started and after they are placed into the hive.
    2. It is important to provide frames of pollen to the hive. (Note – some individuals use pollen patties.)
  10. Conditions created to cause the bees to build queen cells.
    1. “To produce good queen cells, the conditions that exist in nature when a strong colony produces cells under the swarming impulse should be approximated.”
    2. From Queen Rearing and Bee Breeding by Harry H. Laidlaw Jr and Robert Page Jr. Page 44
  11. Thus, the following need to be observed...
    1. Crowded condition of the brood nest
    2. An over-abundance of nurse bees – to create the production of royal jelly
    3. Comb builders stimulated by feeding syrup (lots of festooning nurse bees)
    4. Good supply of pollen – used producing royal jelly
    5. Good ventilation
    6. Lack of queen substance (pheromones). If present, it suppresses queen rearing. (In other words, a queen-less hive)
    7. Presence of selected young larvae
  12. How I build my builder
    1. I start with a bottom board, an empty deep box, and a pail-type top feeder.
    2. I fill the pail feeder with syrup and keep it full.
    3. I shake 6 or 8 pounds of bees to put into my cell builder. The number of worker bees determines the number of queens to be raised.
    4. I collect 5 frames of capped brood. I try to avoid any with eggs, but sometimes it cannot be avoided. I get 2 good frames of honey and pollen. I also insert one frame of new foundation, which is removed when the cell bars are placed into the hive. This is a great way to get new foundation started.
    5. I check for emergency queen cells two days later and place my grafted cell bars into the hive.
    6. I add a shallow super with new foundation above the deep hive body. It provides cluster space above the cell bars. I use no queen excluder. This is an excellent way to get new foundation drawn.
    7. A hive like this one will produce over 100 queen cells.
    8. The bees are used to stock new nucs several days before the queen cells are harvested. There are a lot of bees on the outside of this hive because I shake all bees off frames checking for unwanted emergency queen cells.
  13. Close attention to calendar dates
    1. Queens are produced from an egg in approximately 16 days.
    2. Thus, if we graft a young larva (4 days old - 3 days as an egg and 1 day as a new small larva), the new virgin queen produced from that larva will emerge from her queen cell in 12 days +/– a few hours.
    3. Queens must be harvested before they emerge. This is usually 10 to 11 days after the graft.
    4. Otherwise, the first to emerge will kill the other queens by cutting down queen cells.
  14. Each queen to be raised must have a separate compartment or hive of her own.
    1. My nucs are five-frame deep boxes. I can move standard deep frames into them and use the frames at the end of the year to build additional hives with the bees and queens still remaining.
    2. They are easy to build and often from scrap lumber.
  15. Virgin queens
    1. Emerge from cell. They don’t hatch!
    2. Mate in good weather, usually after the temperatures have warmed a bit.
    3. Must mate within 20 days or they become drone-laying queens.
    4. Will begin laying within several weeks after mating.
    5. Young queens may lay several eggs per cell at first.
    6. However, a brood pattern can be detected within several days. The term “untested” usually refers to a queen who has not been a proven productive queen. “Tested” indicates that the queen has produced brood which has been examined and certified by the breeder that she is producing good brood.