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  1. #1
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    Default Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    Recently I mentioned on another thread that one should look at the open brood to judge how a queen is laying. I thought a few photos might show what I mean.

    Notice in the first photo that the comb is well filled and that larvae in adjacent cells are of similar age...or nearly so. They are oldest in the center circle and progress from oldest larvae to youngest larvae to eggs evenly.



    That open brood pattern leads to this...



    And the sealed brood begins emerging in the center of the comb where the oldest larvae were...



    And that queen...


  2. #2
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    Nice series of photos and captions Michael.
    Mark Berninghausen "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board." Zora Neale Hurston

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    What you don't want to see is a larval pattern scattered across the comb...old larvae, young larvae, empty cells, sealed brood, eggs...in random order. Like this...



    Leading to a sealed brood pattern like this...



    The sealed brood pattern is effected by things other than the queen. Hygienic bees cleaning up chalk or pms will also cause a shotgun brood pattern.

  4. #4
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    nice pics mp! beautiful pattern, healthy bees.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    what would you do if you found the shotgun pattern in one of your hives?

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    Depends on the time of year. In the spring I would requeen with an overwintered nuc or a queen from an overwintered mating nuc. In June I would requeen with a queen recently mated in my mating yard. In July I might nuc the hive and make nucleus colonies for wintering. After July I would either requeen, or if I had no more queens to catch...requeen it with an emergency nuc.

    An emergency nuc is one of a group started at the end of the summer nuc making season to be used for requeening earlier made nucs that for whatever reason aren't making it.

  7. #7
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    so bottom line is that queen has to go, right?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    Right. No use keeping deficite bees and queens.

  9. #9
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    May 2011
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    Algoma dr. Ontario, Canada
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    Michael, once the erratic pattern develops is it self perpetuating until something breaks the brood cycle so the queen can start with a clean slate instead of hither and yon? We had at least one hive doing something similar along with getting a bit nectar bound. We swapped in some undrawn wax foundation frames plus took off excluders and things straightened out. Can it be sometimes a bad pattern is circumstance and not a ditsy queen?

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    I would say you're correct. Other things do effect the queens ability to lay. If brood on a comb is emerging randomly across the comb...where else can the queen lay but in the vacated cells...which are located randomly across the comb. Good point.

  11. #11
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    Feb 2011
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    dadeville, alabama, USA
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    Michael, you could not ask for a better brood pattern or queen that laid it. I also notice that the queen laid in a nice, tight, clockwise, concentric pattern. Not hardly any misses at all. That is the sign of a well mated queen. TED
    ALABAMA BEE COMPANY-A member of the Sioux Honey association -*Sweetening a golden tommorrow*

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    Thanks Ted. I of course picked a perfect one to photograph, but I wanted to show what perfect was so folks could use the photos for comparison.

  13. #13
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    Feb 2006
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    Herrick, SD USA
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    Great presentation MP, and an excellent example of a picture being worth a thousand words. Point of emphasis though is that a very "spotty" brood pattern to a newbie not quite sure what he or she is looking for could be a sign of varroa or a brood disease such as chalk brood, or AFB. Remember AFB will not be cured by requeening. The most important lesson here, though, is to replace a failing queen.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    Lincolnton, NC
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    So, how do you tell if the poor laying pattern is caused by a poor queen or hygenic behavior of the workers?

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    If the open brood pattern is solid and the sealed brood pattern is shotgun, there's something going on.

  16. #16
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    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    Throughout July-August I was plagued with drought/dearth/chronic robbing - and some very spotty brood patterns. Feeding was problematical, and small/nuc hives were especially at risk.

    Also, in some mating nucs where queens started laying when there was still emerging, brood patterns initially looked quite bad. Then I started feeding every hive in my yard, those young queens got in a groove, and now I am seeing this in most (almost all) of them that I was worried about:

    brood-excellent-pattern.jpg

    I agree that you are correct, but would warn people not to jump to conclusions until you eliminate the other factors that can cause spotty patterns.

    However, now that I've been feeding and there has been a bit of a fall flow for a few weeks, any queens that aren't looking good at this point are getting the axe, and their hives shall be assimilated. Time to stop coddling the slackers.

  17. #17
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    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    That's certainly an outstanding brood pattern, and as noted it tends to perpetuate itself. The queen, with abdomen longer than the wings, looks like a dandy. Well done, Mike. But..

    Locally, the perpetuity breaks down during the spring season with the increased brood volume of checkerboarding. By main flow the brood age on any comb is a patchwork of brood of different ages. It's not the consistant scattershot shown, but is sometimes a palm-sized patch of eggs, larvae, or capped scattered at random across the comb face. It's still a solid brood pattern, but there is an age differential between the patches. We feel that the increased brood volume causes the laying of eggs to be on a time-available basis, as the brood volume increases.
    Walt

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    Locally, bees do it every way. There is wide variation in performance of queens and honeybee colonies. While some queens may fill brood combs by laying here and there and everywhere, some maintain a good pattern over a large number of combs through the season.

  19. #19
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    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    I went through about 20 hives today to assess where they are to get ready for winter. One of my late summer queens has one of the best patterns I've ever seen on several frames, and on others it was quite spotty with a mixture of capped brood, eggs and larva at all stages of development - same queen, same hive, same day. It is a very young queen though, so the mixed brood may be on the first frames that she layed. It's just not all that cut and dried is it?

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Boston, MA
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    Default Re: Judging a Queen's Laying Ability

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Kretschmann View Post
    I also notice that the queen laid in a nice, tight, clockwise, concentric pattern... TED
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    Locally, bees do it every way. There is wide variation in performance of queens and honeybee colonies.
    Perhaps a silly question, but do bees in the Southern Hemisphere lay in a counter-clockwise pattern... due to the Coriolis effect (Seen in water draining in the sink, tub, etc.)? Or do queens lay in whatever direction they want?

    Tony P.
    There must be a harder way to do that... let me find it for you.

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