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Thread: Mystery Queens

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
    Posts
    5,347

    Default Mystery Queens

    Well, my first few batches of Cordovan Italian queen cells, raised from SunKist Cordovan mothers, were ripening, so I began to carefully harvest all the earlier crop of marked, mated and laying queens and place them in cages to be cared for by a nuc of nurse bees until I further decide their fate.

    As I harvested these resident queens I replaced them with nice ripe queen cells (within a few days of emergence). It is now about five days later, most of those cells have emerged and the new virgin queens are looking quite gorgeous. Today, as I checked a few nucs that had been given slightly younger cells, to see how they'd fared, I observed that three of them had their cultured cells torn down (uh oh). After very careful further investigation, I found that two of the three had tiny little virgin queens and the third one had the largest mated/laying queen I've seen yet this season. Perhaps some of these are AHB usurpation queens or queens that I'd somehow missed when I removed the resident queens a few days earlier. Fortunately I had another batch of queen cells ready to plant. After removing these other queens I replanted new cells, and in five more days I'll check them to be sure they emerged and are doing well.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Watauga, North Carolina, USA
    Posts
    366

    Default Re: Mystery Queens

    Yikes! Raising queen with AHB genetics about sounds difficult, but your posts on queen-rearing make it sound so fun that I might try my hand at it next year.
    4.5 hives of Italians. 2 seasons of experience. And you-- yes, you! You're my mentor!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Tipton, TN, USA
    Posts
    784

    Default Re: Mystery Queens

    I don't know a lot about the assassin techniques of the AHB bee, but I would expect that you bees from your other mating nucs fly to the wrong home.

    How many other mating nucs are in the area? Are they placed close to each other? How many of them are missing queens?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
    Posts
    5,347

    Default Re: Mystery Queens

    I have a careful marking system using differently colored thumbtacks to track the status of each nuc or hive. For instance, I use a unique color for each source mother queen, with a white thumbtack behind the colored one to indicate "queen cell" and I move the white thumbtack to the front of the colored one to indicate "virgin queen", and remove the white thumbtack completely, once the queen begins laying, and I mark the queen once her pattern is verified to be good. There are presently about thirty nucs in my only nuc and queen mating yard. The problem is, I didn't leave any other queen cells, virgins or mated queens in any of them, they all were cleared out to receive the new batch of queen cells. There are fifteen full-size hives about thirty yards away, but they are all queenright and doing well. There may be other beekeepers, but I am not aware of any near my location, though they may be there. There may also be feral colonies just about anywhere, that I am not aware of.

    Since it has happened before, and will probably happen again, the usurpation of some of my queens by potentially AHB feral queens. I appreciate the Cordovan trait in my queens, because it can alert me to potential AHB usurpation. A few years ago (even before I routinely marked all my queens), in Autumn I had about a dozen, or so, nucs all headed by new Cordovan Italian queens, which I had just finished checking on to confirm. Then, about a week after that all the queens in those nucs were suddenly no longer Cordovan Italian, they had obviously been usurped. It soon became a typically cool Winter and drones were no longer available, so I couldn't continue breeding queens to replace the missing ones. Curiously, after a few frosty mornings, these nucs died suddenly, with stores still on them. They were still the same EHB's, but now, possibly with AHB queens (though they appear to have starved, that is still a mystery to me).

    So, I developed my colored thumbtack, careful marking/tracking system and mark all my verified daughter queens. If a Cordovan and/or marked queen suddenly is either non-Cordovan, or non-marked I will immediately know that she is not a queen that I produced.

    Since apparently AHB drones are typically responsible for bringing AHB defensiveness into a hive through mating with EHB queens and EHB queens cannot produce AHB drones, even if they mate exclusively with AHB drones - at least that is a relief. My saturating the area with my EHB drones has reduced and almost eliminated the occurrence of "hot" hives. And, yes, I can confirm that even daughters of Cordovan Italian queens, who are themselves homozygous for the Cordovan trait, can produce overly defensive colonies (possibly created by their mating with AHB drones). Presently I have been fortunate that hot hives are rare, and becoming rarer. When one of my full-size hives shows itself to be "hot", it soon becomes the source of resources to populate many mating nucs. As I inspect hives/nucs I keep an eye out for any non-Cordovan drones and destroy them immediately. This way I can help keep my hives from being sources of non-Cordovan genes.

    Recently, I have been giving serious thought to potentially developing an isolated mating yard, possibly on a nearby mountain where undesirable drones would be most rare or absent.

    ---
    That one "very large" queen, I think I'll plant her in one of my full-size colonies and see how she does. I wonder if she's of AHB origins, I sure hope not. If she's one of mine, she's at least half Cordovan and will likely produce some drones and some workers that demonstrate the Cordovan trait (having likely mated with at least a few of my Cordovan drones). If she produces no Cordovan offspring, especially if she has no Cordovan drones, or produces an overly defensive hive, then she's likely not one of my queens and I'll then need to dispose of her.

    Oh, another thing I haven't mentioned recently:
    -- I noticed that once an AHB "usurpation" queen has been accepted by a colony, it then becomes very difficult to get them to accept a non-AHB queen. They behave as if they are now addicted to AHB queen pheromones and that EHB queen pheromones aren't good enough - they strongly resist switching back. The bees in my nuc yard seem to respond to caged Russell Apiaries SunKist Cordovan queens similarly to how they respond to caged "possibly" AHB queens - being strongly drawn to the caged queens. Perhaps the pheromones of SunKist Cordovan queens will reduce the problems that AHB queens pose.
    Last edited by Joseph Clemens; 07-10-2011 at 04:31 AM.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
    Posts
    5,347

    Default Re: Mystery Queens

    I forgot to mention that my mother queens are housed in nuc boxes with queen excluders on their entrances. Trying to reduce the chance that they may be the targets of AHB usurpation.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

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