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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Olmsted County, MN USA

    Default Mating Range - queens and drones

    Newbee here - made it through my first winter with two hives. Besides growing numbers of worker bees, both have lots of drone brood and I have even seen drones in the hives.

    I'd like to do a walkaway split and let them grow their new queen. Even though it seems VERY early to do splits, I figure they have plenty of eggs and young brood to raise as queens. And there are plenty of drones to service the queen.


    I'm getting conflicting advice from experiences beeks in the area. One tells me that my queens will fly out further on their mating flights than will my drones. So even though I have drones, they won't be able to mate with the queen because she'll be 'out of their range'. I would be relying on drones from other bee yards in the area, and I have no way of knowing if those are producing drones yet.

    A second equally experienced beek does not believe this to be true, and instead tells me that my queen will indeed mate with drones from my yard - some of which of course would be her 'half-siblings' (if from the same colony).

    Not that I'm expecting a consensus answer but what is your experience?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    VENTURA, California, USA

    Default Re: Mating Range - queens and drones

    You might get lucky and have a DCA, drone congregation area nearby.
    My website

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Hudson, WI USA

    Default Re: Mating Range - queens and drones

    Silverback welcome. There are many divergent beliefs about this subject, the long and the short of it is that no one knows for sure. I have a book from Scotland in which the researcher stocked his mini mating nucs with drones and reported that she mated with them as evidenced by the appearance of the workers that came from those queens; He also pointed out,through observations by students of a group of observation hives, that neighboring hives seemed unaware of the flight of a new queen yet drones in the parent hive were very apt to fly.
    I have made the mistake of trying to get a queen made and mated too soon, and it didn't work. The best time to get a queen mated is when the bees decide it is time, an easy way to do it and get the best quality queen cells is to use natural swarm cells, the bees will make far better cells than we can. There are many ways to do this. If you haven't checked it out already have a look at Michael Bush's website "Bush bees". He has a great website, and plenty of info. I'm not too far away from you and I have noticed that the first week in June is prime swarming time in my area. Queens need warm weather, 70 degrees or so, to mate and we cannot guarantee that yet. Good luck in this fascinating interest, making splits and watching them develop is incredible fun.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Calhoun Co, Texas, USA

    Default Re: Mating Range - queens and drones

    I was reading a queen rearing book by Jay Smith, in it he said that several of his contemporaries, along with himself, had seen queens mating with drones "within several feet" of the virgin queen's mating nuc. Considering that information, I think your own drones being ready is ample guarantee of available mating drones; however, there's definitely no guarantee I'm aware of that drones from nearby hives might not mix into your genetics, assuming they're mature in time.
    Seeing as you're in Minnesota, I'm not sure what your weather will be like for mating flights in a few weeks; so I'll have to defer to someone closer to your latitude on that one.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Warrior, Alabama

    Default Re: Mating Range - queens and drones

    web site is

    Do some bee math and ask yourself some questions, use a calendar.
    You spilt now your queens does not mate now.
    The hive must make a Queen cell and raise a queen - How many days?
    Queens wait about 5 days after emerigence before they fly to mate - Add those days.
    So when would your queen be making her mating flight?
    You have drones now. What are the odds of other hives having drones when she goes out to mate?
    Old Guy in Alabama

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Brown County, IN

    Default Re: Mating Range - queens and drones

    If you have drones, it's safe to assume neighboring colonies will have drones also.

    Virgin queens typically fly farther than drones from the same apiary, and rarely mate with drones from the same colony or from colonies within the same apiary (Bee Sex Essentials by Larry Conner).

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Winhall, VT

    Default Re: Mating Range - queens and drones

    Looks like you are in for an extended period of colder, damp weather. How does this affect your decision to split. . .
    Raising Vermont Bees one mistake at a time.
    USDA Zone 5A

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Tucson, Arizona, USA

    Default Re: Mating Range - queens and drones

    I find it interesting how Larry Conner used, "typically" and "rarely". Restrictive, yet inclusionary terms. I too, quickly learned, when dealing with living things, it is best to describe them and their behaviors in similar terms. Almost every time restrictive and exclusionary language is used, the said organism will turn your description into a lie.

    "Virgin queens typically fly farther than drones from the same apiary, and rarely mate with drones from the same colony or from colonies within the same apiary."(Bee Sex Essentials by Larry Conner).
    I believe that virgin queens will fly and mate however, whenever, or wherever they wish to - despite what I may understand or believe of their intentions, similarly to young human females.

    I often have many that are mated and laying just a few days after emerging. I wish they were all that precocious.

    Even if virgin queens could read, I don't think they'd feel any obligation to constrain their behaviors to the text in question.
    Last edited by Joseph Clemens; 04-05-2012 at 07:29 AM.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Mtn. View, Arkansas, USA

    Default Re: Mating Range - queens and drones

    There was a study reported in the ABJ that said a colony would have drones in all DCAs within flying distance of that colony. If there were 10 DCAs within flying distance of a mating nuc all ten would have drones from all colonies within flying distance. This was determined by trapping drones in the DCAs and doing dna test on them.

    Why would a virgin on her mating flight fly past a DCA with drones enough to satisify mating requirements? I don't think she would since mating flights are very dangerous. I also read that queens have the choice of opening the valve fold to allow a drone to mate, however I have not been able to find that study again and I have given away all my ABJ and Bee Culture magazines and can't search the studies listed in them. Bees can recognize related bees and larvae so queens should be able to recognize related drones and refuse to mate.

    I think mating problems arise from poor quality drones and insufficient colonies to saturate all DCAs in a given area.


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