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  1. #1
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    Default Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    This is a very simple question, that I already know has no simple answer.

    I've tried my hand at raising queens this season. My success rate isn't as high as I would like them to be, and my queens arn't as big and productive as I would like, but they are queens none the less.

    But in raising queens, what do you do differently to make those monsters? Those large, fertile, productive queens?

    In a sense, what do I need to work on, what do I need to improve on to make better queens next year?

    I'm obviously in a direction forward, but I'm afraid I'm a little lost on what I should be doing to improve. Any thoughts? Books, articles, techniques, strategies?

    Like I said, I know there is no easy and simple answer, just looking for thoughts.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    Quote Originally Posted by Specialkayme View Post
    But in raising queens, what do you do differently to make those monsters? Those large, fertile, productive queens?
    The very best possible nutrition and copious feeding by a very strong hive from the earliest possible age.

    Simple enough answer?

    .... followed of course by very good matings with a genetically strong and diverse range of drones.

    Seriously though, are you grafting (assuming you are) as young as possible? Is your hive as strong as possible and wealthy with young nurse bees? Is there a good variety of pollen in the hive and plenty of honey? Plenty of foragers?

    Tell us what system you're currently using and we'll be better able to suggest upgrades.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    I bleive to make big queens you should start with a large queen to graft from . Then your cell starter should be packed with bees and they should be well fed.Then place them in a strong queen right hive above the excluder so the bees can finish the cells .
    This is just my two cents Johns Bees

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    Sorry my first post was very basic. I've found that if I start a thread with a monster post, most people don't read it, lol.

    I have been grafting (not priming), using the youngest larvae that I could find. I've used a swarm box, packed with as many nurse bees as I could fit in there, to draw the cells out. The swarm box would consist of 1 or 2 frames of honey, with the cells cut open (about a dozen hive tool gashes) and one frame of pollen (no brood). I let the swarm box sit for about two hours (or so) before I introduce the grafts. I left the grafts (using JZBZ wide base cells) in the swarm box/cell starter for approximately 24 hours. After that I transfer the grafts to a cell finisher (I use the largest hive I have going, placing the grafts on top of an excluder with the queen in the bottom box, of course).

    I've been using this calendar to co-ordinate my days: http://www.thebeeyard.org/queencalen...y=22&year=2010

    On day 13 I move each cell that has been drawn out into a two frame, medium mating nuc. I've been using a 10 frame box divided into four sections as mating nucs.

    Up until this point, I've been letting the queens open mate with whatever drones are available. I've only been doing this while I learn the basics. For next year I plan on flooding the area with drones, using drone frames, of the specific genetics I would like to use.

    So that's what I've been doing. As far as moving forward, I guess I can explain a little bit more about what I know, and why I'm having a hard time moving forward. The way I see it, a monster queen is brought about through a grafting system with four main puzzle pieces: 1) a young larvae [as young as possible] that is grafted into the cup, 2) an over abundance of nurse bees, 3) healthy bees [the nurse bees that is], and 4) plenty of drones to mate with. Obviously genetics would play an even larger role than any of the above pieces, but for the sake of "technique" I can't really include genetics. We work with the best that we have.

    So moving forward, obviously I should get the youngest larvae. They should be attended by the most nurse bees I can get, that are overly healthy. The area should also be flooded with plenty of drones. All of that I realize. But what I don't know is what I need to improve, or how. Do I need more nurse bees? How to I put more in a box than I had before? (sounds like a dumb question, I know) Do I need "healthier" bees? How do I make them healthier, and better fed? Both on a flow, and off? How do I know if I need healthier bees, or more nurse bees?

    Hopefully that gives this thread a little bit more direction.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    I'm sure there are as many different ways to accomplish this as there are beekeepers. But, this is how I grow about 80%+ nice, big, fecund, queens.

    I'm lazy, so I have eliminated any steps in the process that I consider unnecessary. Basically I use one queenless nuc box to start and finish my cultured queen cells.

    I use a deep, 5-frame nuc as my queen cell starter/finisher. I stock it with two frames of honey/nectar/pollen and two frames of sealed/emerging brood, leaving space for one two-level cell-bar frame, or two single cell bars (one between each honey/brood frame pair). If there's a honey flow on I don't feed syrup, otherwise I feed syrup. Even if there is plenty of pollen coming in, I still like to feed pollen substitute patties of my own recipe. I raise each patty, on a rack of 1/2" square hardware cloth, so the bees can access the patties on all sides (two patties without a quart syrup jar and one with a syrup jar). I place an empty medium nuc super on top of the lower nuc and to cover the feed. I also shake in a few extra pounds of nurse bees I've harvested from several large colonies. Once I've finished putting everything together, including a bar or two of grafts, where I prime and graft, picking larvae I can barely see, even using a bright LED headlight and magnifying glasses.

    I keep them stocked with frames of emerging brood, feed, check regularly for rogue queen cells and remove them.
    Last edited by Joseph Clemens; 08-15-2011 at 08:25 AM. Reason: Correct dimension of hardware cloth pollen substitute rack
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    specialkayme ; I think more bees in the starter. Here is how I do it. First i shake about four pounds of bees into a net box then I pour all the bees into a three frame deep nuc box. I like to use medium frames for this as it creates a cluster area for the bees in the bottom of the box. When all the bees are in the box it looks like the cell bar frame won't fit but it does. the two frames in the nuc are honey and pollen and I also put a wet sponge in the bottom of the nuc box they need moisture to make RJ. Also two days prior to shaking the bees I feed Honey-B-Healthy with 1:1 sugar water
    when there is no flow going on I feed 1;1 sw with HBH AND POLLEN sub about four days befor I put together my starter

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    That's a good calendar, I'll be recommending it to people that ask me about how to time queen raising, thanks for sharing.

    As to the rest of your post, sounds like you are pretty much doing most things right. One thing that makes a difference, if the cell finisher is on a flow, and has been for a while, and has that really "pumping" kind of activity and morale level when you open it, they will raise bigger cells and queens than the exact same hive if it is not on a flow. So when there is no flow the finisher should be drip fed constantly, without a break. Some kind of feeder can be used that only let's them take the syrup slowly, so it will last for a while.

    In the starter, it's best to use combs of freshly gathered, unsealed honey, as this has a higher moisture level than capped honey, capped honey is too concentrated if they do not have access to water. Some pollen is important also.

    Another thing, you might think your queens are not monsters. But they will not become monsters in a 2 frame nuc. Run them in a good healthy full sized hive during the spring build up, and then have a look at them, you might be surprised how much bigger they are than when you introduced them.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    Just stick in like Six feeders... Put in all the good stuff. Raise some fat drones first...Poor drones will have a bad effect on queen pheromones....

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    Consider setting up your drone hives 2 miles from your queen breeder hives at the 4 compass points from your breeders. There are some studies that indicate that qrones only stay near their own hive. But Queens fly beyond their owns hives area so that that they don't in-breed.
    Old Guy in Alabama

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    Call, me a dissenter, but just because a queen is big and fat doesn't make her a great queen. I have had queens that were absolute monsters, with shotty brood patterns, bad tenperment, and wouldn't produce surplus. I have had small queens head hives for multiple seasons and produce good brood patterns, docile bees, and honey at the end of the season. Not saying that's the norm, but it does happen. I really don't look for great size in my grafting mothers, but it doesn't hurt. A bigger cell that is better fed produces bigger queens,so I like to throw feeders on my starter and finisher hives, regardless of flow, and put in hbh to help them along.
    Allegany Mtn. Bee Farm
    Quality Queens and Honey from Western New York

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    I noticed that you said you don't prime your cells,
    . Consider trying it for a few batches, as the larve is immediately in food from graft on. That may help, but I don't think it could hurt.
    Allegany Mtn. Bee Farm
    Quality Queens and Honey from Western New York

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    Hey Joe is there a link to your recipe(pollen Patties)?
    Rmns 1:16/Prv.3:5,6/ Beegan BK May 09/ Zone 5b
    I have NOT failed. I have only found many many ways that do not work!

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    How many queens do you want to raise?That will help to give good info.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    The nice thing about the wide base cell cups is that you can see how much food.is available for the developing queens. You know the queens are.well fed if there is jelly left in the cells after emergence.
    Deknow

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    Thanks to everyone who has given such insightful responses. It's good to know there are several individuals on here that are so interested in helping.


    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Clemens View Post
    I use one queenless nuc box to start and finish my cultured queen cells. . . Even if there is plenty of pollen coming in, I still like to feed pollen substitute patties of my own recipe.
    I have been reading about the advantages and disadvantages of using a queen-less cell builder with a queen-right cell finisher over using a queen-less starter and finisher. Generally, from what I have read, the queen-right finisher has the ability to provide better nutrition to the grafts. I may end up trying a queen-less finisher, but the jury is still out on that one.

    Like others on here, I would be interested in knowing your patty recipe. If you are willing to share it, that is. I've tried feeding patty supplements in the past, but I've found the bees will only take them if it's too cold to fly (late fall and early spring [or winter]). Right now they can get pollen off of weeds, which still tastes better than any substitute I can give them. If I knew of a better mixture, however, that may be different.

    Quote Originally Posted by johns bees View Post
    specialkayme ; I think more bees in the starter. . . I also put a wet sponge in the bottom of the nuc box they need moisture to make RJ. Also two days prior to shaking the bees I feed Honey-B-Healthy with 1:1 sugar water
    when there is no flow going on I feed 1;1 sw with HBH AND POLLEN sub about four days befor I put together my starter
    I have been putting as many nurse bees in the starter as could fit. I don't know if I would say it was FOUR POUNDS worth (as I was going with Dr. Connor's estimate of one pound of nurse bees for every 10 grafts, so if I was doing about 20 grafts I would put in about 2.5 lbs of bees, to be on the safe side). I guess I could always ramp that up a little more.

    I havn't been putting a wet sponge in the bottom of the nuc box . . . and I don't know why I hadn't. I'll have to start doing that.

    I'm assuming that with shaking 4 lbs of bees in the swarm box you are taking from multiple colonies, correct? So when you start feeding with HBH two days prior to the shake, do you feed all your colonies? Or just the ones you know you will shake from? Obviously, same issue goes when there is no flow on, do you feed all your colonies pollen substitute and HBH, or just ones that you suspect you will shake from? Even with no flow on, do they still take the pollen substitute? Try as I might, they just won't touch the stuff if they can get ANY pollen from the outside.

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    So when there is no flow the finisher should be drip fed constantly, without a break.
    I have noticed queen rearing in the spring (with the really only flow we have - tulip poplar) is much easier than the rest of the season. The challenge for me is since after May, we don't really have any flow. That's a long time to try to simulate a flow.

    It sounds like several of you feed for multiple days BEFORE you graft. I hadn't heard of that before, and that may make the world of a difference.

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    In the starter, it's best to use combs of freshly gathered, unsealed honey, as this has a higher moisture level than capped honey
    I don't know why, but for some reason I thought capped honey was better. Kinda like the difference between a cake and cake batter, lol. Very good to know from now on though, and when I can use uncapped honey, I will. Do you know of any suggestions to help the bees break down the capped honey though? For times when you don't have any uncapped available? Or would a wet sponge in the nuc box be sufficient?

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    But they will not become monsters in a 2 frame nuc.
    My desire is not only to get large queens, but large cells as well. My cells thus far have been small to average. My swarm cells are larger, which does tell me I'm not doing something right. But I'm aware that the queen in a 2 frame box will not be as fully developed as a queen in a full colony. However, for evaluation purposes I'm not able to put EVERY queen that I raise into a full colony before I cull the small and undesirable ones.

    Quote Originally Posted by jrbbees View Post
    Consider setting up your drone hives 2 miles from your queen breeder hives
    I wish I could JRB, lol. I don't really have access to that kind of land though. I'm working on keeping hives at surrounding farmer's lands, as a type of mutually beneficial agreement. But that takes time, and I don't know I'll be able to do it two miles in EVERY direction. It would be nice though.

    Quote Originally Posted by NY_BLUES View Post
    just because a queen is big and fat doesn't make her a great queen.
    I'm not in disagreement that there are a number of outliners, in both directions, but studies particularly done by Dr. Tarpy at NC State University have shown that larger queens on average have more ovarioles, can produce more eggs per day, and can produce more pheromones. Again, while this isn't always true, the trend appears to be that the larger, the more potential.

    Quote Originally Posted by NY_BLUES View Post
    I noticed that you said you don't prime your cells. Consider trying it for a few batches.
    I have considered it, but again the jury is out. I don't have an inexpensive and reliable source of RJ to prime with. I will start collecting it from my own swarm cells and culled grafts next season, but that still puts me one session behind, if you know what I mean. So, for the time being, since I don't have RJ available, I can't really prime with it. I've also heard of using a yogurt mixture, but I've heard just as many bad things about it's use as good things.

    I've also heard that RJ doesn't keep it's nutritional content for very long, so once you capture it and freeze it or refrigerate it, it isn't as good any more. Probably better than nothing, but half nutritional content RJ isn't as good as full nutritional content RJ (which the nurse bees hopefully should be able to develop themselves).

    I think if I knew of a not so expensive and reliable source of RJ, I would try it next season. Good thing I have all winter to find it, lol.

    Quote Originally Posted by olddrown View Post
    How many queens do you want to raise?
    Right now I'm interested in learning. I want to make enough queens to supply my growth and get the foundation laid for making good queens. Once I can make great queens and I'm satisfied with the output, I intend to sell them. Eventually I would like to make about 10 queens every two weeks. Once demand catches up with supply, I'll probably double that, and see where it goes from there.

    Not a simple answer, I know, and I'm sorry. But if I were to break it down, I think about 20 queens a season for this year, 20-30 queens for next season, and 10 a week for the following season. Do you think that is a good, yet slow and reasonable progression?

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    I don't really have a firm recipe for pollen substitute, cause I make them a little different each time. Basically I make very small batches and start by adding about two-three pounds of dry sugar to a mixing bowl, then I stir in enough canola oil to wet the sugar (so to speak), next I mix in one pound of dry Bee Pro and one pound of dry brewers yeast, I sometimes also mix in a 1000mg crushed vitamin C tablet and about 1/4 lb of hemp protein powder. After all the dry ingredients are thoroughly blended, I then moisten the entire mass by pouring in a little 1:1 sugar syrup and mixing until the batch is like a thick cookie dough. I spoon it onto one end of a strip of waxed paper as I use it, then I fold the waxed paper over onto the lump of pollen substitute, push it into a flattened patty, between layers of waxed paper, then I cut several slits in the top of the formed patty and place the slit side down as I give it to the receiving colonies.

    For patties I feed to my queen cell builder/finisher I substitute a pound of trehalose sugar for one of the three pounds used in the first stage, the mix with canola oil. I also make sure to use 1/2" mesh hardware cloth racks to place the patties on in the cell builder/finishers, the bees completely cover the patties on all sides, and they are usually consumed in a few days.

    About every other batch of cells (I usually graft about fifteen cells per batch - one cell bar), I add another frame of nurse bees. If the cell builder looks too over-stuffed I sometimes remove a frame or two of bees and replace them with more fresh nurse bees from donor colonies, this is on top of the practice of keeping two frames of capped/emerging brood in the cell builder until about 2/3 of them have emerged, then replacing them with fresh frames of capped/emerging brood, but shaking the bees off (leaving them in the cell builder). I sometimes relocate cell builders, placing a weaker nuc in its place, in order to reduce the amount of older, field bees in the hive (to get a better idea how many nurse/house bees are actually there). If the population is greatly reduced by this, I simply shake in more nurse bees, again.
    Last edited by Joseph Clemens; 08-15-2011 at 08:42 AM.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    I've never heard of anyone using trehalose sugar before. As a matter of fact, I didn't even know it existed, lol. A quick google search brought me up to date on it. Do you mind expanding a little on why you use it?

    I've also had better success with Mega-bee than I have with Bee-Pro, but that's just personally. Then again, I havn't found an overall formula that works 100% of the time.

    How do you guys deal with feeding pollen substitute during the summer and spring months, when they are already foraging, especially when you are just adding SHB lures. Do you just provide a little bit, at all times that you raise queens? Or only for a few days beforehand?

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    Can't comment on pollen substitutres. In the areas I've worked in there is always pollen coming in, I have never used a pollen substitute so have no experience. But as to feeding syrup, yes, if there is no flow, the finisher should be fed before the cells go in, probably at least 2 weeks before, to get them in the mood. It is not as complicated, or expensive, as it sounds. When I was doing large scale queen raising, we had a cell raising yard with a row of cell raisers, just a few sacks of sugar was all that was needed to be able to keep slow feeding them a pretty weak sugar mix over quite a long time period, just to make them think a flow was happening.
    If you are using capped honey in the starters, a wet sponge is all that's needed to give them some water. Even without the wet sponge, the bees will dilute the mix using their own bodily reserves. But that is when they may start feeling the need to hold something back, and can be one of the things that starts tipping things towards smaller cells.
    Quote Originally Posted by Specialkayme View Post
    My desire is not only to get large queens, but large cells as well. My cells thus far have been small to average. My swarm cells are larger, which does tell me I'm not doing something right.
    It is VERY hard to consistantly raise cells that are as good as swarm cells. Swarm cells are raised in ideal conditions by bees who plan to do the best that can be done.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    But occasionally, from time to time, a few of your grafted cells are as large and robust as swarm cells, correct?

    With all the feeding you did, was robbing ever a problem?

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Moving from ok queens . . . to great queens.

    The most important thing for getting great queens is that they are fed well. Raising queens where there is abundant food and in a hive with a high density of bees is the best way to insure this.

    The second is that they are mated well. Again raising bees when there is abundant food usually insures there are abundant drones.

    Next is letting them lay for three weeks before you cage or bank them. Preferable DON'T cage or bank them, introduce them as cells to the hive they will live in or combine your mating nuc with the hive they will live in.

    Last is genetics. Breed from your best stock. Don't over complicate it. You know the bees you like. The ones that are thriving and making honey. Breed from those.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

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