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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Kerikeri, New Zealand
    Posts
    69

    Default queen rearing success percentage

    Working in a commercial apiary and have just ventured into queen rearing on a small scale (70 nucs/week) to meet our needs for pollination and honey hives. We have 210 nucs split into a 3 week rotation and we generally run between 65-80 percent success on a weekly basis. The majority of failures(~70%) have no queen, most of the rest have virgins and we get the odd laying worker. This seems like an awful lot of queens getting lost, eaten, etc. on mating flights, could hive identity/drift be an issue? The failures are not randomly distributed through the yard which is puzzling-- This Week I started with 12 successes in a row, then 3/15, then 21/23, then 1/8, then 12/12 as I moved across the yard. Similar patchiness of success in other yards. Any ideas? The weather seems to be the biggest source of variation on a week to week basis, but the clustering of failures in the yards has me stumped. As its a new part of our operation there is heaps to learn-- so I guess I'm asking what sort of success rates can be expected from queen rearing-- and more importantly how do you get there.

    dw

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,889

    Default

    I've had years where I got 90% of what I started with mated and laying. Then there are years where the weather is unusual and it can cost a lot of queens. I find if there is a short dearth the queens won't fly to mate unless you feed the mating nucs. Also a short dearth seems to cause them to tear down queen cells like crazy. I get them all started and they tear them back down before they are even capped. Feeding seems to help in these situations but still the numbers are as good. Drifting to the wrong mating nuc could also be contributing, but if you haven't had that problem before it seems unlikely that it just started now. Of course you can paint patterns around the entrances and arrange them differently (like not all in a straight line). Good luck. Just when you start thinking you know what you're doing the weather will be completely different and your outcomes change.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    College Station, Texas
    Posts
    6,973

    Default

    danwyns writes:
    could hive identity/drift be an issue?

    tecumseh replies:
    perhaps... how do you set out your mating nucs and do you recheck queen cell for hatching (percentage). and who is doing the grafting (male/female... fulltime/part time)? may I assume based upon your volume that you do graft?

    like mr bush suggested I attribute mating success/non success (relative to your numbers I am very much small scale) to fluctuating weather conditions typically assoicated with cold, wet weather where flow and flying time can flunctuate. I suspect (don't really know so yep this is highly speculative) that small nucs don't fare so well when the nectar flow is interrupted (feeding even in a minor way seems to help).

    last question... what time frame do you use for determining success (ie how long do you wait from cell insertion to the time when you check to see if the queen is laying)?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Kerikeri, New Zealand
    Posts
    69

    Default

    Our nucs are designed with 2 in one box with entrances at opposing ends the box is 3/4 depth (~6 in.) and half width of a standard box(~6 in.) so each nuc is roughly a cube of 6 inches. Each nuc has 5 frames and an internal feeder as well as a steel mesh robbing screen with side entry so the bees only have to defend an opening apx 1/2 in * 1/2 in. The boxes are placed in pairs in a semicircle --with enough space in the middle to back a ute in and cage on the deck. Our nuc yards are in small skid sites within a large pine plantation-- sites selected for minimal wind and mature (40-60 ft) surrounding trees, so as to provide best shelter for mating flights.


    Our basic timeline is this:

    Day 0 -- Graft into starter hives
    Day7/8 -- capped queen cells into incubator
    Day 10 -- Cells into nucs and fed (.5-1.0 L depending on flow and stores)
    Day 12-- queen cells due to hatch
    Day 31 -- caging of queens
    Day 32-- new queen cells in and fed (day 10 of next cycle)

    So basically the virgins have 3 weeks to get mated. we do not check hatching success prior to caging so as not to disturb the nucs-- but upon caging we see virtually 100% hatching-- leading me to believe that grafting is not an issue ( we get 90+ % success rate for our grafted larvae becoming capped queen cells while in the starters). We bolster any nuc that is short on bees/brood/feed as needed from mother hives in the yard as we cage generally trying to leave a nuc with 2 brood frames, 2 feed frames and 1 frame of empty cells.

    Any nuc that fails to produce a mated queen gets a "protected cell" -- which s housed in plastic pipe to prevent chewing down prior to hatching should a virgin/laying worker remain in the unsuccesful nuc. Quite often we see that a protected cell will hatch and the virgin has killed/suppressed the laying worker, but then failed to get mated herself. This is common enough to lead me to believe that hatching and then having to dispatch something significantly slows the timeframe of orienting and mating flights.

    We currently only have 2 colors of nucs-- we plan to and more colors as we expand for better differentiation, but are also considering coloring entrance screens and or adding lid designs for more contrast within the yard.

    An additional question re: queen rearing -- What about drone management in the yard-- Are drones from other nearby yards (~500m) be available for mating. 3-4 3x mother hives in the nuc yard ensure that there are some drones-- but posiibly not enough? Anyone with experience on this?

    Appreciate the input

    dw

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Boone County, West Virginia, USA
    Posts
    908

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    watch this, click on the english version on the right under the picture of the queen cells. it might help to see another operation. i believe they said one drone colony for every 15 - 20 hives, but they do give a number and other useful info.
    http://www.iwf.de/iwf/do/mkat/detail...4C866C00000000

    here's some more videos with a variety of subjects in regards to bees and queens
    http://www.iwf.de/iwf/do/mkat/listin...r=honey%20bees

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Seattle, Washington State
    Posts
    4,398

    Default

    Tec: Just curious... what does it matter if it is a male of female grafting?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    College Station, Texas
    Posts
    6,973

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    at this point I would 'suspect' either weather or drone hive numbers (or drone maturity) might be your problem. may I assume you monitor your drone mother hives for numbers before beginning queen rearing operation and lag these two portion of the operations somewhat?

    sounds like you use mating boxes much like those somewhat famous folks that live down the road from me... they just seem to spread 'em out down long rows in the brush and simple orient every other one on a differet axis (north, south, east and west).

    then the chef ask:
    Tec: Just curious... what does it matter if it is a male of female grafting?

    tecumseh replies:
    not certain why it might matter chef but long ago I did notice that just about every successful queen rearing (cell raising) operation that I knew had women almost exclusively doing the task of grafting. of course it could be simply coincidence... but for some reason I suspect not. the other portion of the question part time vs full time might be a bit more important since danwyns problems seems to suggest patchyness. so I really was curious to know the level of experience associated with grafting. he seems to indicate that this is not where he is experiencing a problem.

    and finally to danwyn... of course we really have not discussed you weather this season (rain, temperature and humidity) and the only other issue I would suggest is oftentime I find checking the nuc three days later (about 24 days vs 20) most of the time leads to an improved success rate. I can ususally check my mating nucs on day 20 or 21 and read the signs that suggest a queen is onboard and ready to lay (ie she is close to laying, but has not started). I think??? this variation is reasonable attributed to differences in the age of the larvae when grafted.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Boone County, West Virginia, USA
    Posts
    908

    Default

    > not certain why it might matter chef but long ago I did notice that just about every successful queen rearing (cell raising) operation that I knew had women almost exclusively doing the task of grafting.

    makes sense seeing how women are more nurturing and caring than men. not to mention that they are typically more skilled at tedious tasks which require great detail due to increased dexterity with their smaller hands and fingers.

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