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  1. #1
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    Default What is the really critical mating period?

    If you keep track of the weather during the mating period where do you draw the line between good enough weather and not good enough?

    In a perfect situation there would be perfect weather every day between planting a cell and finding brood - giving virgin queens every opportunity to mate at their leisure. Those are the queens I want going into winter.

    I'm starting to see that when you buy commercial queens it is probably best not to go for early delivery.

    I'm also starting to picture the crappy side of being a queen producer - customers crying for early delivery, and then it rains most of the time for a week.

    Do you ship queens that might be poorly mated and make the customers happy for now - or do you pinch a weeks pay, make those people mad, and set your schedule back?

    You guys who can manage all that and keep your reputations intact sure have my respect.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    >If you keep track of the weather during the mating period where do you draw the line between good enough weather and not good enough?

    I don't, the queens do.

    >In a perfect situation there would be perfect weather every day between planting a cell and finding brood - giving virgin queens every opportunity to mate at their leisure. Those are the queens I want going into winter.

    As long as they get that break and get mated well, they will do fine.

    >I'm starting to see that when you buy commercial queens it is probably best not to go for early delivery.

    Agreed.

    >I'm also starting to picture the crappy side of being a queen producer - customers crying for early delivery, and then it rains most of the time for a week.

    Yes.

    >Do you ship queens that might be poorly mated and make the customers happy for now - or do you pinch a weeks pay, make those people mad, and set your schedule back?

    You leave those queens another week or so until you can assess them. If they aren't good, you scrap them. You won't make them happy shipping them a poor queen...

    >You guys who can manage all that and keep your reputations intact sure have my respect.

    It helps to have customers who accept reality. And don't make any promises until you have the queens in hand. But of course everyone wants to get on the list a year in advance for something you may or may not have...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  3. #3
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    Can you really assess if they are mated well or not? I'm asking because I don't know for sure, but I thought that even a poorly mated queen could lay a good pattern for a while, but might run out of sperm sooner - like in the middle of winter for example.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    Though I don't claim to have a great deal of expertise in this, it stands to reason that the answer to your question is that the only evidence that you can use to assess a newly mated queen is her laying pattern. It also stands to reason that variability in mating conditions (primarily weather and drone supply) mean that all matings are not equal and may result in queens that may have a shorter useful life.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  5. #5
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    That is exactly the reason of the question - If you find eggs on day 25 (after the queen mother layed the eggs) but you know that the weather was bad every day on 18-23 is it really likely to be a well mated queen? For example.

    With luck I'm going to find brood from my first batch of queens (this year) today or tomorrow, but the weather has been poor for a lot of the time - Although almost every day has had at least an hour or two of decent.

    In my limited experience they very well might lay great at first.

    And I'll use those queens if I need them, but I'm thinking I should plan to replace them before September. And if I was selling queens (I'm not) I'm wondering if it would be best to make swarm lure out of them.

    Fortunately, the weather usually gets better in May.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    If anyone knew the answers to your questions then nobody would ever get a poorly mated queen, would they? Raise all of them you can and mash the bad ones. Keep some good replacement queens available in nucs so you can immediately replace a bad one. Trying to guess the quality of mated queens based on weather is probably an exercise in futility. You could have perfect bluebird weather and still have a few queens that didn't get it right.

  7. #7
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    May 2010
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    Breil, France
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    If you are raising and mating our own queens, make sure you aren't in an area that has lots of dragon flies. We were surprised at how many of our young queens were going missing on their mating flights until I read that dragon flies love to take queens on their flights. We live right next to a river, a pond, and a lake, and have numerous dragon and damsel flies, so I guess that is the problem.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    MB answered most really well... we take a slightly different approach to verifying quality, but its the expensive way out ;-)... if there are more than four days of less than ideal weather between day 7 and day 12, we cull anything that is not laying well and mark the ones that are to keep them running for an extra 10 days to judge them again before catching... if there are any that are not laying well on day 15, they are smashed and replaced... if there are any that are not laying at least a small, well patterned group by day 12 we smash and replace... it makes for one heck of a lot to keep up with and can make a mating yard drop quickly from 500 queens, to 150 that meet your standards... we flood our yards with drone colonies to keep plenty of heavily populated dcas and that helps out a lot. The best advice that I could give anyone wanting to raise queens for sale is to get as many organizational aids as possible and keep grafts going at all times so you always have something to work with... we HAVE to try to start early to provide for the early queens needed for pollenaters, but I certainly recommend that people looking for quality, wait as late as you can for your queens, use swarm prevention techniques while waiting instead of trying to use new queens and splits as your only means of prevention, and make walk-away splits if all else fails... the e-queens can always be replaced by the queens that you have ordered later on and the e-queens can even be used for other things that can offset your expenses such as nucs for overwintering, swarm lures, etc... remember, what you do this year, is ultimately for next spring... getting the higher quality queens later in the year will produce explosive hives next spring as opposed to early supercedures and winter dieouts... one thing that most do not know is that most of those super early queens that are bought by the pollenaters are only used to create two strong singles out of each wintered double for the early pollenation, then they are caught, the singles married back to doubles and the doubles are used for a honey crop while the extra queens are used in nucs and packages that are sold to retailers... so even the people that create the demand for those super early queens, know that they don't want to hold onto them for too long.

    Yes, its VERY hard to keep customers happy when you are determined to produce a quality product... I personally order queens from nearly every producer each year to keep testing for good stocks, and thus far, have only received a hand full and have no idea when to expect the rest, but after being in this business for so long, I have learned that patience is a virtue that can make all the difference... I never pressure a producer because only he knows what works for him, and I keep myself flexible enough to reap the rewards of waiting.

    Hope this helps...

  9. #9
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    Quote Originally Posted by rrussell6870 View Post
    if there are more than four days of less than ideal weather between day 7 and day 12, we cull anything that is not laying well and mark the ones that are to keep them running for an extra 10 days to judge them again before catching... if there are any that are not laying well on day 15, they are smashed and replaced...

    Hope this helps...
    Sure does. Thank you very much. Those are some simple rules of thumb that even I can understand as I try to progress from splits and e-queens to more technical queen rearing.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    >Can you really assess if they are mated well or not?

    You can wait until you have a good pattern of eggs, not just some eggs.

    > I'm asking because I don't know for sure, but I thought that even a poorly mated queen could lay a good pattern for a while, but might run out of sperm sooner - like in the middle of winter for example.

    Of course that is hard to predict. But usually they manage to mate well if they get a window of nice weather for a day or two.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  11. #11
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    Thanks for your help. I appreciate it. I guess the main thing is to give the queen enough time to really see if she is performing.

    I'm using 3 rotations of 4 frame medium mating nucs, so I can graft about every 10 days and not catch the queens until 30 days later. I know that isn't practical for a real queen producer, but it's working pretty good so far for me, because the comb and brood that the queenright nucs produce help support the queenless cell builder that I'm using. You gotta keep an eye on them though - 4 medium frames get crowded real quick.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    The other reason to let them lay for at least 21 days is that the queen will develop better ovarioles than if you pull them out at 14 days. I think some of the "not mated well" issues may be that the queen gets pulled before she fully develops.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  13. #13
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    The other reason to let them lay for at least 21 days is that the queen will develop better ovarioles than if you pull them out at 14 days. I think some of the "not mated well" issues may be that the queen gets pulled before she fully develops.
    I have long suspected this, it's part of the reason we went away from the little baby nuc boxes and just make up a larger nuc. Do you know of any documentation or studies done on this subject?
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  14. #14
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    I can verify it. We run simple studies each season by pulling queens at different intervals from 12-25 days, keeping them caged for 6 days (plenty long enough to simulate what happens when our queens get shipped and a customer has bad weather or issues after getting them, thus not being able to use them for a few days)... we use these queens in splits and nucs in different yards alongside one another and compare the performance and longevity... the results are somewhat mixed, but in all somewhere around 7% of the 12-18 day queens will be superceded within the next two seasons and only 1% of the 18-25 day queens will...

    That shows that there is certainly some level of difference in quality... so to me, the longer laying period for development is beneficial... but can pit your promise of quality and your ability to meet the demands of needy customers against one another... thats why we run multiple sized nucs for multiple laying periods... the mini nucs generally provide queens to the "gotta have it NOW" guys, and the medium and deep threeways are for all others...

  15. #15
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    I don't have links nor do I remember the exact studies but I have read some and heard a couple quoted by some of the PHDs at some of the bee conferences. Try a search online and I'll be you can find some.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  16. #16
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    Quote Originally Posted by rrussell6870 View Post
    ... thats why we run multiple sized nucs for multiple laying periods... the mini nucs generally provide queens to the "gotta have it NOW" guys, and the medium and deep threeways are for all others...
    You should have a checkbox on the order form:

    () I want my queens NOW!
    () I want my queens to be GOOD.

    Makes me glad I noted to just send mine whenever you could.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    Lol. All are good, but in my opinion, the best are the ones that get more room and more time. Anytime I have to rely on a medical doctor, I always ask him/her what time of the day are they at their best? What day of the week is the least hectic? Which hospital do they feel most comfortable working in? Etc... professionals that have the opportunity to do what they love doing, the way they feel is best, always do a better job... like I said, I personally never force a producers hand... breeders love rearing queens, if you want the best level of product, let them work their magic... it makes the difference between "perfection" and "production"...(mass produced vs hand crafted) if that makes sense. Lol.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    I'm sure they are all very good, maybe the choice should be "good" or "Real dang good".

    Seriously though when end consumers are given a choice between regular or premium they often go for the higher quality even if they have to make some kind of sacrifice like longer delivery times. I bet you would be surprised how many people would pay a few dollars more and wait a little longer for a "Select" queen. I did that for some "Select Quality" fruit trees a few weeks ago.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    In my operation I use the most queens during the spring of the year, while away from home, in SC. There are many years, in the past 15, that I couldn't afford to buy queens. So, more often than not, my splits and nucs made their own queens. When I did have some money to spend on queens I never had alot, so I bought as many as I could at as low a price as I could possibly find. What was most important to me was having as many live colonies as I could. And, if they were headed by good queens, that was less important than if they were headed by live queens.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  20. #20
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    Default Re: What is the really critical mating period?

    I agree. We are planning on making some serious changes for next season, and that will likely be one of them... I wanted to be able to help the new guys and small producers this season, but instead we just got "swarmed" by demand... guess it was just bad timing when Hawaii and Australia were both shut out and our base breeds are actually cheaper than retail prices... not to mention having the worst weather in 20 years... in the blink of an eye, I went from being able to post on 20+ threads and answer 60 or so pm's and emails daily, to receiving 1,400 emails daily, and while trying to answer those, the people that are waiting to be answered started feeling like they were being ignored... thus causing even more emails and confusion... then to top it all off, we had to stop completely several times to go clean up tornado damages, collect swarms of storm evicted bees from overturned cars on the interstate, power transformers, signs, buildings, houses, etc.... all before we could continue even our most basic functions...

    It has been a terrible season so far... and honestly, I really miss the days of just receiving blank checks from retailers, filling whatever we could, then going on vacation when we finished. Lol. But I really feel that the industry is hurting by the dwindling of quality in queens and the lack understanding that is caused by the separation and unwillingness of groups to work together... so this year we will work out the "bugs", and stay excited about what we hope to accomplish next season.

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