1. Join Date
Dec 2007
Location
Hughson, CA
Posts
157

## Queenless Starter Colony

Been using shaker boxes for starters and want to switch to a queenless starter. Do most people use a single or a double for their queenless starter? I want to continue to be able to introduce two frames of 60 cells each for a total of 120 into the starter at a time. Thanks

2. Join Date
Sep 2010
Location
Stafford, Virginia
Posts
318

## Re: Queenless Starter Colony

I use five frame Nuc boxes, single.

3. Join Date
Dec 2008
Location
syracuse n.y.
Posts
3,809

## Re: Queenless Starter Colony

Originally Posted by Matt Beekman
I want to continue to be able to introduce two frames of 60 cells each for a total of 120 into the starter at a time. Thanks
from a bee culture article, you need 400 nurse bees per queen cell, to get the bees to start 20 queen cells, using 4000 bees per lb, that comes to 20x400=8000/4000 about 2lbs of nurse bees to start that many cells. plus they say you need 25% extra just in case so figure 2 1/2 lbs of nurse bees.. that's nurse bees not all the bees in a starter are nurse bees.
the more nurse bees the better fed the queens the longer the queens will last. so for 120 cells you need around 15 lbs of nurse bees, so whatever size box you can fit them in will work.

gee I just did the math, 15 lbs of bees is 60,000 nurse bees, you don't get that many nurse bees in my three deep hives.
Last edited by wildbranch2007; 01-05-2013 at 05:03 AM. Reason: added gee

4. Join Date
Sep 2011
Location
Reno, NV
Posts
3,636

## Re: Queenless Starter Colony

What I have seen is a 10 frames deep packed with nurse bees. And this is considered only large enough to start 40 cells at a time. When it comes to finishing the cells they need to be split into two frames of 20 and given to separate finishers.

5. Join Date
Feb 2006
Location
Herrick, SD USA
Posts
6,080

## Re: Queenless Starter Colony

I look at it from a slightly different perspective. We use queen right doubles with a cloake board and expect to be able to net 10 cells per day per builder over an extended period of time and that is assuming a quality hive. I would expect a queenless starter to be able to do a bit better than that but 120 in a shot is a pretty lofty goal though probably doable from a double teeming with young bees and little to no open larvae to feed. I probably wouldn't try to stretch them that thin though. But you can't BS a builder/starter they will tell you pretty quickly when they are being over taxed.

6. ## Re: Queenless Starter Colony

In my experience it's the density of the bees that matters, not the number of boxes or even the number of bees. Of course a high density of more bees will get more cells made, but the quality and the enthusiasm is related to how crowded they are. A starter works best when it's overflowing with bees.

7. Join Date
Sep 2011
Location
Reno, NV
Posts
3,636

## Re: Queenless Starter Colony

Michael, I noticed this concerning mating nucs and comments of them being over wintered. Made me think again of my 5 frame nucs that may be shy on population.

8. ## Re: Queenless Starter Colony

Matt,

I use a single box. Michael is correct. It is the density that matters and young nurse bees from the brood nest.
I will setup the starter in the morning by shaking bees into a box with frames of nectar, pollen, and I like a few frames of open brood. Leave space for your grafting frames and put some syrup and supplement on them if there is no flow. A light syrup is best. In the afternoon I put the graft in. Come back 24-48 hours to remove started cells and place in them in the queen right finishers. I divide the cells up and only let each finisher complete a bar of cells.
You can then graft right back into the starter a second time. You may be able to get a third round out of the starter, but in my experience, the bees are “spent” in terms of starting cells. F. Ruttner did some nice work years ago looking at how bees handled starting successive batches of cells. With each successive batch of cells, the number and quality declined.

Joe

9. Join Date
Dec 2007
Location
Hughson, CA
Posts
157

## Re: Queenless Starter Colony

Thanks Joe. Are you introducing two frames at a time (90-120 cells) in your single?

10. ## Re: Queenless Starter Colony

Matt,

Yes, I used to start 90-108 cells in a single deep. It worked well. The deep needed to be filled with well fed nurse bees, filled to the point that bees filled the two open spaces for the grafting frames. I like to slowly lower the grafting frames into position and let the bees move onto the grafts.

I say used to, because I now use the same setup but with a 5 frame nuc as the queenless starter, used for two rounds. To make the nuc, I put in two frames on the outside of open nectar/pollen, and two frames of open brood in the center, leaving the center open for the grafts. All frames have bees on them. Then I shake another 3-5 frames of bees in. Again, I want the bees to fill the box and the empty slot for the grafting frame.

Using the deep just gave me too many cells at a time. By using a nuc, I start 45-54 cells at a time and then come back and transfer the started cells to the finishers. I raise queens on a relatively small scale, so putting out 100 virgin queens every 4-5 days means I have to inseminate and handle 100 queens every 4-5 days during the busy part of the season.

I like the system and it can be easily scaled up to produce more queens. Keep in mind it does not take much food for a young cell, but the peak volume of royal jelly occurs around day 3. Getting the cells started is the hard part, but once they are started queen right finishers will do a nice job with them. They really only have be started for 24 hours or so before being moved out of the starter.

Joe

11. Join Date
Dec 2006
Location
St. Albans, Vermont
Posts
6,867

## Re: Queenless Starter Colony

I don't know what you would call my cell builder colonies. I guess queenless starter and finisher? I use Bro Adam's cell building method. Build a powerful colony by adding additional emerging brood to a strong colony. Separate on grafting day. Create an overflowing deep/medium queenless colony on old stand...overflowing out of the hive and onto the ground with bees strong. Graft into this in the afternoon...hopelessly queenless condition, no open brood in cell builder. 5 days later when cells are sealed, re-unite with queen-right section. 48 cells per cell builder. harvest cells 10 days later and set up cell builder for second round by adding more brood.

I get a round of cells every 20 days from each cell builder, and don't sacrifice honey crop from any colonies. The brood comes from overwintered nucleus colonies. The 30 colonies in the cell building apiary produced 4400 lbs of honey and 2300 queen cells.

12. Join Date
Mar 2011
Location
Princeton, Kentucky, USA
Posts
171

## Re: Queenless Starter Colony

Michael,
How do you keep these colonies from swarming before you graft, and do you search for queen cells before you put the grafts in?

13. Join Date
Dec 2006
Location
St. Albans, Vermont
Posts
6,867

## Re: Queenless Starter Colony

Originally Posted by Jon11
Michael,
How do you keep these colonies from swarming before you graft, and do you search for queen cells before you put the grafts in?
Yes, that's job #1. The cell builders get checked every 10 days.

14. Join Date
Feb 2006
Location
Herrick, SD USA
Posts
6,080

## Re: Queenless Starter Colony

Originally Posted by Michael Palmer
Yes, that's job #1. The cell builders get checked every 10 days.
Amen to that. Is there anything in beekeeping more unforgiving than a poorly managed cell builder?

15. Join Date
Dec 2008
Location
Solano, California, USA
Posts
2,094

## Re: Queenless Starter Colony

Originally Posted by Matt Beekman
Been using shaker boxes for starters and want to switch to a queenless starter. Do most people use a single or a double for their queenless starter? I want to continue to be able to introduce two frames of 60 cells each for a total of 120 into the starter at a time. Thanks

Matt. When we graft I usually try to do about 1000 cells in a day. We use 4 "stacks." Each one is a Queenless starter and finisher. In the morning we go out and shake 100 pounds of bees in the almonds. While someone is shaking part of the crew spends some time picking through some "boomers" pulling out frames that are loaded with fresh pollen. Basically the more pollen the better.

By lunch or one pm we pour the bees in the "stacks" with about 25 pounds per stack. I put an empty shallow on a bottom board. We pour about 5 pounds in the shell and "spray" them to reduce drifting. On the shell we put an excluder. Above the excluder we put a deep shell with one frame of brood and 3 or 4 drawn dry combs. About 10 pounds of bees go in this second box. Top it off with another excluder. Next goes on another deep with 6 or 7 frames of pollen. Balance of the bees get tossed on the pollen frames. When we graft the next 2.5 hours we put in 5-6 frames (temperature dependent)with 3 bars containing 15 cells each stack Each grafting frame gets jammed in between two frames of pollen. This works out to 225-270 cells per stack. Nurse bees have great access to all the pollen they need by turning their heads left or right. Gets the hypopharyngeal glands cranking.

After the grafting is done each builder gets another box on top containing feeders for syrup and medicine as well as about 4 brand new frames. The new frames give the bees a place to expend their energy drawing comb. This reduces burr comb between the cells. Feed syrup each day till cells are long,fat, and ready to be closed.

Get about 85-95% take depending on the weather.

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