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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    Mt. Hope, Ks, USA
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    35

    Default Starter/Finishers

    This will be my first season raising queens. For now I plan on raising only 30 to 40 queens in three or four batches. I haven't decided yet if I should use a seperate starter and finisher or if I should use a single colony as a starter/finisher. And if i should use a five frame Nuc or a full size colony. I'm kind of leaning toward the queenrite starter/finisher because at this point I only have 16 colonies that i will have to make a queen mother colony, starter/finisher, at least two drone mother colonies and multiple increase splits (which I will use as mating nucs) from. I would like to hear everyone's opinions on this and also the pros and cons of the different things that you use.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Ojai, California
    Posts
    740

    Default Re: Starter/Finishers

    You want to read Contemporary Queen Rearing by Harry Laidlaw or Scientific Queen Rearing by G.M. Doolittle and make up your equipment before you start grafting queens. I'd use a 5-frame nuc box with regular frames for a small operation, and make up my full size and medium boxes if you intend on doing splits. That way you won't be stuck for equipment and behind schedule. Read, work backwards and write up a calendar, and try to know the process well enough before starting to keep on schedule. Separating queens a day too late leaves you with only one of them.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Warrior, Alabama
    Posts
    1,057

    Default Re: Starter/Finishers

    check out some of the queen info on www.bushfarms.com

    good reading for someone who wants to start small without buying lots of toys.
    Last edited by jrbbees; 01-05-2011 at 11:13 PM. Reason: corrresct spelling
    Old Guy in Alabama

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    43,492

    Default Re: Starter/Finishers

    For a few queens:
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesafewgoodqueens.htm

    For an overview of queenrearing:
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesqueenrearing.htm

    There are several books/method presented in the words of the originators including the Hopkins, Miller, Smith, Better Queens, Doolittle and Alley methods. Only the Smith and Doolittle methods require grafting.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,126

    Default Re: Starter/Finishers

    I think you're asking an awful lot from 16 colonies. Starter/finishers, drone mother colonies, mating nucs...with the intention of selling queens. You haven't got enough resources, or enough experience to grow a viable queen rearing business. First thing to drop is the drone mother thing. You don't have enough colonies to overcome the neighborhood drone population, and even if you did, it takes years to make a difference.

    I would also raise my queens with a starter/finisher using one colony. You mention raising 30 or 40 queens using 3 or 4 cell builders. You mean only 10 cells per cell builder. That's a huge waste of your bee resources. A good cell builder will easily grow 30-40 quality cells.

    If your trying to make money with a queen rearing project, you should make nucleus colonies with your queens, winter them as nucleus colonies, and sell them in the spring. The demand for locally raised and wintered nucs is huge right now, ie...I sold out of 100 in a week and a half and my email and phone are lighting up like a Christmas tree.

    As far as setting up a cell builder goes, read Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey. Brother Adam's method of combining the swarming impulse and queenless impulse to raise queens is, in my opinion, the best way. While Bro Adam adds brood from other colonies to boost the cell builder to swarming strength, it isn't necessary. You just have to use a colony that is very strong. A quick explanation....

    Use a colony that has built up to ten frames of brood...and on a good flow. The kind of colony that is in danger of swarming if you don't manage it.

    Day 1 rearrange the colony. Place sealed brood and queen in bottom brood box with excluder on top. Above excluder place second brood box with unsealed brood and extra honey/pollen frames. Whatever supers there are go on top.

    Day 10, inspect entire colony for queen cells and remove them...very, very, very important. Did I say important?

    Next day, is graft day. In the morning, rearrange colony. Remove entire colony from stand...place it on the ground behind original location..facing the other way. Place new bottom on stand, and one of the partially filled supers on the bottom. Place top brood box on super...this box has only sealed brood and pollen/honey, right? It is now the cell builder. Remove 2 outside combs with pollen/honey...leave the brood. Spread combs in middle, and add super good, fresh pollen comb.

    Shake bees from 5-7 combs of open brood from the queenright box through an excluder shaker box and into cell builder. Excluder insures you don't shake a queen into cell builder. Replace any left over supers on top, or place them on other colonies...you need to feed thin syrup to cell builder and don't want it in supers. Continue to feed until cells are sealed.

    Cover box with old queen, reduce entrance...you left enough bees there to care for brood.

    In the afternoon, add your graft to the space left next to the pollen comb...remember you removed two combs. This cell builder can easily handle a cell bar frame with 3 bars of 15 grafts each.

    Five days after graft, the cells are sealed. Remove cell builder from stand...handle carefully. Place queenright section back on stand. Uncover and add excluder on queenright section. Place cell builder on excluder and supers back on top. Stop feeding. Cells are ready 10 days after grafting.

    The day before the cells are ready, count them. If you have 40 nice looking cells, set up 40 nucleus colonies. Give them their cells the next day.

    With this method, you are using only one colony to raise the cells you need. That colony is potentially one of the best honey producers in in your apiary. Using it as a cell builder is taking it off line in your honey production for only about 20 days. After you harvest the cells, it can go back to production.

    I hope this makes sense.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Mt. Hope, Ks, USA
    Posts
    35

    Default Re: Starter/Finishers

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    I think you're asking an awful lot from 16 colonies. Starter/finishers, drone mother colonies, mating nucs...with the intention of selling queens. You haven't got enough resources, or enough experience to grow a viable queen rearing business. First thing to drop is the drone mother thing. You don't have enough colonies to overcome the neighborhood drone population, and even if you did, it takes years to make a difference.
    At this point in my beekeeping career i have no intention of selling queens. Right now i just want to see if I'm savy enough to do it and in the process increase my number without having to buy queens.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    I would also raise my queens with a starter/finisher using one colony. You mention raising 30 or 40 queens using 3 or 4 cell builders. You mean only 10 cells per cell builder. That's a huge waste of your bee resources. A good cell builder will easily grow 30-40 quality cells.
    Maybe I didn't make it clear enough. What I plan to do is use one cell builder or starter/finisher for three or four cycles.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    If your trying to make money with a queen rearing project, you should make nucleus colonies with your queens, winter them as nucleus colonies, and sell them in the spring. The demand for locally raised and wintered nucs is huge right now, ie...I sold out of 100 in a week and a half and my email and phone are lighting up like a Christmas tree.
    I do like this idea though, I have never been one for packages and I never tell anyone thinking of getting into beekeeping to buy packages. In my experience they are just to undependable. And it seems now that the prices are so close to nuc prices that it doesn't make much sense to use them.


    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    Use a colony that has built up to ten frames of brood...and on a good flow. The kind of colony that is in danger of swarming if you don't manage it.
    Thanks for this info I will probably give this a try.
    Last edited by Barry; 01-06-2011 at 10:33 AM. Reason: excessive quoting

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Philadelphia, MS, USA
    Posts
    613

    Default Re: Starter/Finishers

    Use a Cloake board and one queen rite double deep colony. Will easily produce 50 queens at a time and easy to use and doesn't take a lot of resources. Can even keep supers on top so you don't loose honey.

    Make splits into 5 frame nucs and use for your mating nucs. You can easily turn these 16 hives into 50 by years end but you won't make any honey and you will have to feed at times.

    Remember, you can raise bees or honey, hard to do both from small start.

    Johnny
    "Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself." - Mark Twain

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Mt. Hope, Ks, USA
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    35

    Default Re: Starter/Finishers

    Quote Originally Posted by Broke-T View Post
    Remember, you can raise bees or honey, hard to do both from small start.
    The way my honey crop has been going I figure its time to try something else.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Cookeville, TN, USA
    Posts
    3,595

    Default Re: Starter/Finishers

    I dabbled in queen rearing a little bit last year. This year I'm planning to try to make it into a process where I produce a few queens every 10 days or so all season long. I don't really intend to try to sell any, but I'll say this - the few that I successfully produced last year were very handy. None went to waste.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    Mt. Hope, Ks, USA
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    Default Re: Starter/Finishers

    That is exactly what I'm hoping for this year in my yard. If I do make more than I can use I know others who will.
    Last edited by Barry; 01-06-2011 at 10:32 AM. Reason: excessive quoting

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Greensboro, North Carolina
    Posts
    2,716

    Default Re: Starter/Finishers

    Just keep in mind that anyone can make queens. Not everyone can make quality queens.

    Personally, I fall into the first section. But at least I know it. If I pushed my hives to produce queens and expanded my hives accordingly, I'd go from 8 decent hives to 32 fairly poor hives.

    A few queens each season to learn from, and get what you need is a good idea. A fresh batch of queens every 10 days when you have 16 colonies may be pushing it. You may end up with poor quality queens, and if you give them away your friends may end up losing colonies as a result. Just a warning. Good luck.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Brandon, MS USA
    Posts
    1,589

    Re: Starter/Finishers

    It takes at least 12-15 days after emerging to get a new queen laying well enough to judge her... and that is for a very experienced breeder... start with a good time frame for mating and laying first, then schedule your cell production from that... every ten days will leave you with cells that do not have a nuc and an over lapping schedule...

    Say you use mini nucs and decide to give 15 days to mate... after the first graft has been planted, wait 5 days before the next graft... this will set you on schedule to plant on the day that you catch the first... if you want to leave them queenless for a day... then wait 6 days to graft... the most important thing is queen quality... give yourself enough time to judge them properly and the next most important thing is having queenless nucs for your cells as they come ready to plant... and of course having somewhere to use the ones that you catch...

    Good luck!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Mt. Hope, Ks, USA
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    35

    Default Re: Starter/Finishers

    Thank you for your comments Mr. Russell. I wish I could spend 10 years working for you. I have so much to learn and you have so much to teach.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    3,595

    Default Re: Starter/Finishers

    Quote Originally Posted by rrussell6870 View Post
    It takes at least 12-15 days after emerging to get a new queen laying well enough to judge her... and that is for a very experienced breeder... start with a good time frame for mating and laying first, then schedule your cell production from that... every ten days will leave you with cells that do not have a nuc
    I'm using two alternating groups of mating nucs - so there will be 20 days between plant and catch. I'm using a queenless cell starter/finisher like the one that Joseph Clemens describes here to produce cells on a 10 day cycle. At this time I'm just trying to learn a method to produce well grown healthy queens. I figure until you get that worked out you don't have a chance at producing "high quality" queens.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Brandon, MS USA
    Posts
    1,589

    Re: Starter/Finishers

    Write down everything you do, and the effects... when you make changes (no matter how slight), make a note of it and how the outcomes were different... like I always say, every environment, type of bee, and weather condition will yield a different result... the best way to learn is exactly what you are doing. I'm always encouraged to see people ready to close the books and open the hives... trial and error are the only way to truly understand your bees. I post to try to help our industry to pull out of the "slump" that it seems to have found its way into. Queen quality has been dwindling and honey producers seem to be happy with half of what once was the average... I will gladly help anyone with questions. I know that this business can seem discouraging at times and a lot of the things that you read seem much more difficult in black and white than they will in the bee yard. Keep at it and you will be successful.

    Hope this helps.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    5,433

    Default Re: Starter/Finishers

    Quote Originally Posted by rrussell6870 View Post
    I'm always encouraged to see people ready to close the books and open the hives....
    Ha! I like that one!
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  17. #17
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Brandon, MS USA
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    1,589

    Re: Starter/Finishers

    I swear I am not just saying that because I'm the only one on the block that hasn't spent my career writing books!

    It's sad but its true... how often do we see people quoting authors instead of personal experience? I think that the best way for people to truly learn what works in their situation is to try, try, and try again.

    Ps... when I do finally give up working bees and pick up writing, I will take back these statements in the hopes that I may actually sell a few copies!

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    5,433

    Default Re: Starter/Finishers

    ....
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Greensboro, North Carolina
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    2,716

    Default Re: Starter/Finishers

    Even with those comments, I'd still be interested in a copy Russell

  20. #20
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Brandon, MS USA
    Posts
    1,589

    Re: Starter/Finishers

    Thanks! . Well that's one copy! Only two more to go, and I will have exceeded my own expectations! Lol.

    Next winter I am obligated for traveling to speak to clubs, associations, and universities so I probably won't have time then either... and the next winter I hope to go to NZ and Australia to meet a few colleagues and enjoy a year without winter.

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