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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
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    Southern Virginia
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    276

    Default How do you "keep" queens?

    I'm going into my second year beekeeping and I'd like to try my hand at queen rearing/grafting.

    I often hear beeks mention "keeping" queens in their apiary in the event of random queenlessness/rolled queen/etc.

    How are you going about keeping them? In just a queen castle? A nuc, and if so, one queen per nuc?

    My local bee supply store has queen castles available that divide a 10 frame deep into 4 compartments, but will the queens and bees in those small compartments swarm quicker since they consider their hive to be quickly at capacity? Is a queen castle meant to be a long term (ex. 1 or 2 years) storage bank of queens or just while needing to make queens?

    In summary... I'd like to have a couple of queens on hand in case of emergency, but not occupy lots of equipment to do so.
    Zone 7a

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Clinton, Iowa
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    3,756

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    At a really small size it's tough to do, I think. Hard to justify a bunch of special woodenware. This year I started nucs in July to have a few queens in reserve for my full size colonies and also to try to overwinter some. Queen needs came up 'too late' to mess with... a couple really late swarms who never got queens mated (virgins running around three weeks later). Anyway, the nucs grew faster than I would have imagined and ended up being 5-over-5-over-5 deep combs. For a smaller scale I think nucs make sense, because you can also harvest brood from them as needed. Queen castles might be similar, but truthfully I do now know anything about them. If it's standard deep sized combs I don't see why it wouldn't work?

    My nucs are in plywood D Coates style boxes if that matters.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
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    Southern Virginia
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    276

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    I'm trying to come up with a cost vs. success ratio...

    The local queen castle is ~$50 and as mentioned will hold 4 separate "colonies". A nuc is ~$30 and will hold one....I know there are vertical dividers but IDK how good they are...

    My other limitation is that i have NO woodworking tools available to me...
    Zone 7a

  4. #4

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    Take a deep and put a divider in the middle make opens on opposites sides. Make two intercover and use a normal lid. You will have two 4 frame Nucs. With frames you can do for less than $50.00 I do 4 and 5 frame Nucs. The fours are in double deep boxs and end up being 4 over 4. I have a few half frames. That I use to.
    Last edited by My-smokepole; 12-16-2015 at 12:20 PM. Reason: Add

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Clinton, Iowa
    Posts
    3,756

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    The other option, Phyber, is to use a local queen producer as your "bank" at least until you get things sorted out. How many queens do you want to keep in reserve? We have a place locally that I can buy queens from, they ship them once a week and I pick them up at the post office roughly 12 hours from when they were shipped.

    That, of course, goes out the window if you need a queen in early March and you have none in reserve in your apiary. But by then you may be able to source one from elsewhere.

    Do the queen castles have regular full size frames? Or are they those half frames that *might* be tough to get drawn?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    50,030

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    Take a frame of brood from each of two hives. Take a frame of pollen and a frame of open brood. Put these four frames in a five frame nuc box (or an eight frame box) with no queen. After 12 hours or so put all of the queens (in cages) in that you wish to bank. These can be in a frame like this:
    http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/shop/banking-frame

    Or some other homemade contraption. You can also make a 3/4" shim and lay them flat on the top bars and fill in the rest of the space with burlap where the cages are not. Don't ever add new queens until it is queenless. Usually they seem to raise a queen, but so far I haven't lost the queens in the hive when they have. I just catch her and use/sell her and let them raise another. In my experience, if you add fresh queens while the old ones are still there they kill all the old ones...

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesqueenrearing.htm#queenbank
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 41y 200h 38yTF

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Isle of Wight, VA
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    1,308

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    A 5 frame deep is what you want to look at. Like someone else already said, you can divide it even further if you want for 2 small colonies. I use them without a bottom board. I screen the bottom and drill a hole in the side as an entrance.

    For a hobby beekeeper, I always tell them they should have 1 1/2 hives. That's a full size hive and a nuc to use for "spare parts" should the need arise. If/when the nuc gets to strong, you take some comb over to the full size hive so it doesn't swarm. If you are trying to raise queens to sell, that's a little bit different game, but I still use the 5 frame nucs vs. the queen castle.

    I have a small Styrofoam mini mating nuc, but even once I got the bees to draw the frames out in the full size hive, I still struggled to get a population in there with a queen to get her mated. Too much hassle to try and refill the feeder, etc.

    Not sure what part of VA you are in, but I am overwintering some very small colonies in the 5 frame nucs. (only about 1 frame woth of bees) for early spring splits.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Southern Virginia
    Posts
    276

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    Thanks all for the info!

    I'd like to keep 4 or 5 queens on hand for emergency, as well as a learning experience. I currently have six hives that I made from splitting two packages this year.

    I want to have the queens on hand for quicker splits next season as well as insurance against queenlessness.
    Zone 7a

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Southern Virginia
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    276

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    Take a frame of brood from each of two hives. Take a frame of pollen and a frame of open brood. Put these four frames in a five frame nuc box (or an eight frame box) with no queen. After 12 hours or so put all of the queens (in cages) in that you wish to bank. These can be in a frame like this:
    http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/shop/banking-frame

    Or some other homemade contraption. You can also make a 3/4" shim and lay them flat on the top bars and fill in the rest of the space with burlap where the cages are not. Don't ever add new queens until it is queenless. Usually they seem to raise a queen, but so far I haven't lost the queens in the hive when they have. I just catch her and use/sell her and let them raise another. In my experience, if you add fresh queens while the old ones are still there they kill all the old ones...

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesqueenrearing.htm#queenbank
    with that frame contraption...is that a long term storage means as in months/years? Or am I just not understanding it's purpose?
    Zone 7a

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Southern Virginia
    Posts
    276

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    Quote Originally Posted by ruthiesbees View Post
    A 5 frame deep is what you want to look at. Like someone else already said, you can divide it even further if you want for 2 small colonies. I use them without a bottom board. I screen the bottom and drill a hole in the side as an entrance.

    For a hobby beekeeper, I always tell them they should have 1 1/2 hives. That's a full size hive and a nuc to use for "spare parts" should the need arise. If/when the nuc gets to strong, you take some comb over to the full size hive so it doesn't swarm. If you are trying to raise queens to sell, that's a little bit different game, but I still use the 5 frame nucs vs. the queen castle.

    I have a small Styrofoam mini mating nuc, but even once I got the bees to draw the frames out in the full size hive, I still struggled to get a population in there with a queen to get her mated. Too much hassle to try and refill the feeder, etc.

    Not sure what part of VA you are in, but I am overwintering some very small colonies in the 5 frame nucs. (only about 1 frame woth of bees) for early spring splits.
    I would like to do nucs, and I have found a vertical divider, but am just worried about how good it actually separates everything.

    I'm near Danville, VA...my nuc and 5 double deeps have queens that are still laying, and with the weather we're having, why shouldn't they?
    Zone 7a

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Madison, WI
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    79

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    Quote Originally Posted by phyber View Post
    with that frame contraption...is that a long term storage means as in months/years? Or am I just not understanding it's purpose?
    We make and use queen banking frames for the California mini cages. The setup is as follows. At the start of the season we take a strong colony, two deeps, lots of bees, and pull its queen out. We then wait about 1 to 2 days and place the banking frame loaded with mated queens in cages in that queenless hive in the top center. As the season goes along we keep adding frames with capped brood to that hive to keep a good population of young bees in there and we watch to make sure that the queen bank is got adequate food/reserves throughout. We also check to make sure the queens are being cared for, so we are in that hive more than a normal hive. I myself don't like banking queens more than a couple weeks but I don;t have a good sense of how long is too long. There are large queen producers who bank up to 20,000 queens and I'm told are able to do hold them for 3 months (I'm sure there are people on here that can provide some clarity on the how they do that since I'm not sure if that is in cages or through some other methods or if I misunderstood the for how long part...it seems to be an extraordinary long time if that is really true).
    Rich
    Capital Bee Supply
    www.capitalbeesupply.com
    Manufacturers and Purveyors of Fine Beekeeping Equipment

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Southern Virginia
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    276

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    that's good info capitalbee!

    having them caged like that for any period would, in my thinking, cause stress on them from not just being in captivity but not answering nature's call and mating. I know that they can't all be together uncaged or else you'd have one queen and a bunch of corpses!

    I'd like to have the smallest possible equipment housing the most possible queens for at least one bee year. come winter I can combine or cull.
    Zone 7a

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Derry, New Hampshire
    Posts
    540

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    phyber I realize you have no tools but you don't need any besides a hammer, nails and glue to assemble hives. I can make a 5 frame nuc box for about 20 bucks out of plywood. that's how I'd go. you never know if you put 4 queens in 4 nucs you might have 4 double deeps in a month. I am interested in the holding of queens but unless I was selling them I think I'd let them do their thing.

  14. #14
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    Apr 2015
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    Southern Virginia
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    276

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    Quote Originally Posted by kaizen View Post
    phyber I realize you have no tools but you don't need any besides a hammer, nails and glue to assemble hives. I can make a 5 frame nuc box for about 20 bucks out of plywood. that's how I'd go. you never know if you put 4 queens in 4 nucs you might have 4 double deeps in a month. I am interested in the holding of queens but unless I was selling them I think I'd let them do their thing.
    the assembling isn't the problem, it's the cutting

    Am i right in thinking that if I perma-kept four queens in one divided deep (with their supporting bees) as four small colonies...would that increase their odds of swarming? I'd imaging they'd feel really good about themselves filling up their home...so good that they'd want to spread those genes...
    Zone 7a

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
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    Isle of Wight, VA
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    1,308

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    Quote Originally Posted by phyber View Post
    having them caged like that for any period would, in my thinking, cause stress on them from not just being in captivity but not answering nature's call and mating.
    Banked queens need to already be mated. A virgin queen has a short 14 day window before she becomes a drone laying queen if she doesn't get all her mating flights in. I have caged hatching virgins for a day or two, but not any longer. The longest I have caged a mated queen was 3 weeks, and now she's in an overwintering nuc still laying brood. I'd love for someone to comment on the 3 month window of a banked queen. I'd love to overwinter some like that.

    I run only TBH's so I created a special frame to hold my caged queens in their roller cages.
    holder_rollercage.jpg

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Derry, New Hampshire
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    540

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    Quote Originally Posted by phyber View Post
    the assembling isn't the problem, it's the cutting

    Am i right in thinking that if I perma-kept four queens in one divided deep (with their supporting bees) as four small colonies...would that increase their odds of swarming? I'd imaging they'd feel really good about themselves filling up their home...so good that they'd want to spread those genes...
    You can take a deep and cut four strips to glue on the sides and make the groove for a divider. You might want to start learning to use woodworking tools as it makes this hobby far more cost affective. A laying queen with only two frames won't stick around long. With four frames you will have more time and can just expand if needed.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Cullman, Alabama, USA
    Posts
    476

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    I thought I got this idea from M. Bush, but I noted his earlier reply ....
    I would suggest adding vertical dividers in a medium or shallow super, what ever you normally use in your apiary, to make four sections. For vertical dividers, political sign board is fine. ( I don't recommend the plastic as horizintals, such as individual inner covers, due to condensation problems)
    Drill entrance holes so each compartment entrance is on a different side.Block the "normal " entrance. Using standard frames, bottom board, telescope cover , make this your queen castle, You can then move the frames back to regular service as every thing is "standard". ( or you can modify the bottom board to provide entrances, & your shallow/medium super box remains "standard")
    I highly recommend reading on the use of cloake boards & Snelgrove boards.
    Good Luck! ... CE
    PS, make friends with the old guy that makes bird houses in his spare time, or the high school shop teacher
    Last edited by tech.35058; 12-16-2015 at 07:43 PM. Reason: added clarifying details, fixed typos, etc
    Started summer of 2013, just another new guy, tinkering with bees.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Landing, NJ, USA
    Posts
    412

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    Look at D Coats nuc in Build it yourself on the home page of this site. All the cutting can be done with a hand held circular saw (more slowly with a hand held jig saw if circular saws scare you). A cheap circular saw is only about 40 bucks in the big orange store. It will be good enough, you're not framing houses. For that matter, if you want to go total Woodwright's Shop, a handsaw would do. Woodworking is a nice hobby, I think you need yet another hobby.
    Bill

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Yuba County, California, USA
    Posts
    4,686

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    I store queens in 4 frame nucs. I wish I had 5 framers as that would be so much easier. A 4x2 queen castle is useless other than using to mate virgin queens in, two frames is not enough to store queens in unless you want to have to manage it twice a week or more, and even then, it's just so problematic. I don't even like the idea of using two frames as mating nucs, it's just not enough, in my opinion. I say mating nucs need 3 frames as a minimum. I advise to avoid the 4x2 queen castles.
    20+ years, raise my own queens, feed when needed, I treat but have not perfected varroa management yet.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Location
    Wheatland, WY, USA
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    15

    Default Re: How do you "keep" queens?

    bernhardheuvel had posted this link in a different thread, thought it might be useful here. Mass storage of honeybee queens during the winter (1977) M. H. Wyborn

    http://summit.sfu.ca/system/files/ir.../b14477099.pdf

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