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Thread: Mating flights

  1. #1
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    Question Mating flights

    Very strange March here in the Bay Area. Until this week, I think we only had a couple days of sun total and the temperature never reached 65.

    On the other hand, my hives have had many drones since early March (probably triggered by a few days of 80+ degree weather we had in February). I have grafted twice in early March (using the Nicot system) and have been nervously watching the weather forecast and the calander as we got day after day of rain and cold and the en of the mating window was approaching

    My first graft emerged March 9th and our first day of sunny 65 degree weather was this Tuesday March 28th (19 days after emergence). Wednesday and Thursday were both 75 degree clear blue days, so there should have been a good chance of mating just before the window closed.

    A first question for those with experience mating queens near the end of the mating window. In this situation it's probably especially necessary to see how the cells get capped: 3-4 days for egg-laying to start plus 8 days for worker brood to get capped should mean I need to wait 11-12 days from the first prime mating day (Wednesday) to check for capped worker brood, right?

    My second graft emerged a week later (March 16th) so they should have mated safely within the window. Probably just seeing eggs or open brood is enough for these later queens, but I have a different question for this sitation: it is dangerous to move a mating nuc or change its surroundngs while there is any possibility that vigin queens are out on mating flights. You read that queens can go on mating flights for 1-4 consecutive days. Does this mean that it is safe to change the orientation of a mating nuc on the 4th day following the first prime mating day (no more queen flight on the 4th day after first mating day)?

    thanks,

    -fafrd

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Mating flights

    anyone?

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Mating flights

    Mating flights generally occur around a week after emergence, I would not move a mating nuc anytime around that time. Keep in mind anytime you move any hive a short distance you will lose many of your field bees that are oriented to their location. It is not at all unusual for a virgin to reenter the wrong hive if there are not good visual landmarks to distinguish it from neighboring nucs
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Mating flights

    Thanks for the input Jim.

    I'm already 2 weeks past emergence and due to the cold rainy weather, am pretty sure there was no mating until the first warm, sunny day we had last week.

    My question was how many consecutive days a virgin queen may continue to go on mating flights? Is it safe to assume that on the 4th consecutive sunny day the queen will be done mating and no longer take flight? (Of course, only in the case that the warm weather began more than week following emergence).

    My mating nucs are stacked on top of larger hives, so it is not so much that I want to completely change the position and lose the field force, as much as it is that I need to temporarily move the mating nuc while I inspect the large hive below, and then the mating nuc will be returned to it's original position. I am not concerned about the field bees - they always seem to find their way back - but I would not want to temporarily reposition a mating nuc while there is any chance of a virgin queen being out on a mating flight.

    The other question is for anyone with experience mating close to the end of the window (due to bad weather) - any faster way than waiting for capped brood to be sure the new queen is not a drone layer?

    thanks again for your input,

    -fafrd

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Mating flights

    I would not put my mating nucs anywhere close to another hive. You want them someplace else, at least 20 feet and hopefully further away from regular hives, and scattered out from each other by at least a few feet angled in different directions with different colors or marks.

    I would give them 2 weeks to mate once the weather warms up. As a practical matter, just wait until you are ready to harvest your queens and if they aren't laying then you have a miss.

    If you move your hives after dark, which you should always do, you won't lose the queen, she will return after her flights.
    But you will lose your foragers unless you move it more than 2 miles.
    2 feet or 2 miles, same rule as for regular hives.
    And move them at night.

    If you don't have a queen in your mating nucs I would guess you may have requeened the hive that the nuc was sitting on.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Mating flights

    Hate to sound negative, but I would go ahead and smash the entire first graft... Just did it a few weeks ago in a little over 2,000 nucs due to a snap freeze and a week of cold rain... It had pushed them out to 12 days, and thats far outside of my comfort zone...

    It will save you valuable time and frustration to just go ahead NOW and make another graft... on day 8 smash the queens, then when the cells are ready, plant them in your nucs...

    But you do need to move those nucs down from the hives... guess you have found one of the problems with doing that... the other is exactly as BerkeyDavid said... you are mostlikely requeening your hives with the queens from your nucs... just carry them to the other side of the yard and face them "sideways" in relation to the hives..

    Sorry, I know its a bummer, but hang in there, you will get it!

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Mating flights

    Just did it a few weeks ago in a little over 2,000 nucs due to a snap freeze and a week of cold rain
    Wow, sorry to hear that

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Mating flights

    Quote Originally Posted by BerkeyDavid View Post

    I would not put my mating nucs anywhere close to another hive. You want them someplace else, at least 20 feet and hopefully further away from regular hives, and scattered out from each other by at least a few feet angled in different directions with different colors or marks.
    Have mated more than 50 queens over 6 rounds of breeding using mating nucs stacked on hives and never lost a queen. The key in my experience is not having the entrances stacked (either entrances on opposite sides or entrances 'around-the-corner'). Queen castles work great and it is for exactly this reason. If I lived in the country and had the land, I would absolutely organize my mating nucs in the classic way. Since I live in a very urban area, my total beekeeping surface is limited to less than 50 sq ft, and stacking mating nucs on my big hives is my only option.

    Quote Originally Posted by BerkeyDavid View Post

    If you move your hives after dark, which you should always do, you won't lose the queen, she will return after her flights.
    But you will lose your foragers unless you move it more than 2 miles.
    2 feet or 2 miles, same rule as for regular hives.
    And move them at night.
    I am not moving my hives as much as temporatily setting them to the side so that I can inspect the hive below. Really no different that what you do when the upper box of a double deep is set aside while you inspect the bottom deep. Foragers from the mating nuc will fly around where the entrance used to be and as soon as the inspection is complete and the mating nuc is replaced in its original location, foragers return. You are right about 'moving' only at night, but this doesn't work for inspections, so temporary shifting postion has to be done during the day.


    Quote Originally Posted by BerkeyDavid View Post

    If you don't have a queen in your mating nucs I would guess you may have requeened the hive that the nuc was sitting on.
    From my marking sytem, I know that has never happened (don't mark my queens until they are proven with capped brood). My 'system' prevents me from making inspections of the big hives until mating flights are complete, which is why I have asked this question - mating flights for 3-4-consecutive warm days, or will a virgin queen sometimes continue to go on mating flights beyond that?

    -fafrd

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Mating flights

    Quote Originally Posted by rrussell6870 View Post

    Hate to sound negative, but I would go ahead and smash the entire first graft... Just did it a few weeks ago in a little over 2,000 nucs due to a snap freeze and a week of cold rain... It had pushed them out to 12 days, and thats far outside of my comfort zone...
    Sorry to hear about your loss. I take it to mean that in your experience queens mated in the second half of the mating window are inferior - can you elaborate? Is it a question of the risk that after all of that effort, they may end up being drone layers or that they do not lay down a good brood pattern, or what?

    I am still in learning mode and in fact I've been rearing queens 4 times this spring to discover when mating starts to be successful in this climate, so I will probably let these queens prove out and see if they are laying down a nice pattern of worker brood or not...

    Quote Originally Posted by rrussell6870 View Post

    It will save you valuable time and frustration to just go ahead NOW and make another graft... on day 8 smash the queens, then when the cells are ready, plant them in your nucs...
    New graft already sarted. Wouldn't it be better to remove the queens on day 13 rather than day 8?

    Quote Originally Posted by rrussell6870 View Post

    But you do need to move those nucs down from the hives... guess you have found one of the problems with doing that... the other is exactly as BerkeyDavid said... you are mostlikely requeening your hives with the queens from your nucs... just carry them to the other side of the yard and face them "sideways" in relation to the hives..
    As I just posted in response to Davids post, I've never had this problem and I have no choice but to stack mating nucs on my hives.

    The only 'problem' I really have is not being able to inspect my big hives while I am waiting for mating flights to be complete. My failsafe solution is to close the mating nucs up at night, then I can set them aside the next day, make an inspection of the big hive below, move them back to their original position and open them up.

    Requeening of the big hives has never been a problem. If anything, I believe a returning virgin entering a big hive would be balled and lost...

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