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  1. #1

    Default Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    Is it true that in order rear high quality queens your cell starter/builder has to be be chock full of young bees (5-15 days old)? What is your experience with this? Have you experienced field bees producing high quality queens?

    I've have read two conflicting sides to this (one from a very successful Queen producer and another from a well known scientist):

    For one, in the book Better Queens, Jay Smith says that old bees do make good nurse bees and that young bees (<10 days old) make poor nurses. Furthermore, he believes that field bees can be retrained to be good nurses and that their milk glands drying up is erroneous.

    For two, in an article by Susan Cobey I read that "A high population of young nurse bees, 5-10 days old with well developed hypopharyngeal glands, is required to rear high quality queens. As the bees age these glands atrophy. The quality of the cells will diminish if this age group is not maintained regardless of colony strength."

    I suppose it would take a few years to find this out for oneself. I ask because I am curious, and too green to have an opinion, if one really has to expend the effort to obtain young bees to rear high quality queens.
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    In my experince the young ones are the cell builders. I take 3 frames of new brood and bees for the cell starter. No older bees if I can help it.

    One thing you might note is were may be talking about 2 aspects, one is drawing queens, the other is feeding queens... It may very well be that older bees are better feeders, but lousey wax/cell builders...

    Either way I use 1 frame honey/ pollen 3 frames of brood and nurse bees and 48 queen cells at a time, and they do great....

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    I agree with Cobey

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    I agree with M.P.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    >Is it true that in order rear high quality queens your cell starter/builder has to be be chock full of young bees (5-15 days old)? What is your experience with this? Have you experienced field bees producing high quality queens?

    If you stock your starter with bees shaken off of brood combs they will be mostly nurse bees. Whatever their age, you want nurse bees. Any age bee can be recruited to nurse, but you want bees that are already nursing as they are already producing royal jelly. No need to worry about what age they are, just shake them from the brood combs. Now as far as age, yes they are between 5 and 15 days old. The newly emerged bees are just wondering around eating and "hardening". By the time they are 5 days old they are probably nursing.

    >I've have read two conflicting sides to this (one from a very successful Queen producer and another from a well known scientist):

    For one, in the book Better Queens, Jay Smith says that old bees do make good nurse bees and that young bees (<10 days old) make poor nurses.

    The scientists of Jay Smith's days insisted that newly emerged bees were the best nurse bees. Jay's observations were that they were not and they didn't really start doing anything useful until they were older. This observation has now been confirmed by the scientists. A newly emerged bee is not doing anything yet. This is in agreement with the current scientific view and in opposition to the view in Smith's time.

    > Furthermore, he believes that field bees can be retrained to be good nurses and that their milk glands drying up is erroneous.

    Well, they obviously do dry up, the question is can they make royal jelly again, and they answer is yes, but as Smith points out, this takes some time to get going again and you want bees that are already making royal jelly for your starter, not bees that are not currently making it.

    >For two, in an article by Susan Cobey I read that "A high population of young nurse bees, 5-10 days old with well developed hypopharyngeal glands, is required to rear high quality queens. As the bees age these glands atrophy. The quality of the cells will diminish if this age group is not maintained regardless of colony strength."

    I think scientists get carried away with details that are irrelevant. You can't know the age of all the bees you put in the starter. You can know that you shook them off of brood combs and so they are probably already nurse bees.

    I totally agree that the "secret" (although everyone who writes queen rearing books mentions it, it's easy to miss) is the starter should be overflowing with these bees.

    >I suppose it would take a few years to find this out for oneself. I ask because I am curious, and too green to have an opinion, if one really has to expend the effort to obtain young bees to rear high quality queens.

    If you shake them off of brood combs they will be the bees you need. If you shake them in until the colony is overflowing, it will be the quantity you need.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  6. #6

    Default Re: Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    If you shake them off of brood combs they will be the bees you need. If you shake them in until the colony is overflowing, it will be the quantity you need.
    Yes, makes a lot of sense. Not always easy cutting through the all the chaff.
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    >Yes, makes a lot of sense. Not always easy cutting through the all the chaff.

    Especially when a lot of queen rearing books have you doing opposite things for the same reasons... but sometimes you learn that opposite things can actually have similar results... In this case, though, I think it's really the same thing. You want nurse bees.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

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    Default Re: Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    Rob - Three more points are that you wont do any harm if there are a WHOLE LOT OF THEM (nurse bees) and that they are WELL-FED, but most of all that there are NO OTHER QUEEN CELLS ALREADY PRESENT. A fourth point is to separate the queen cells before any of them hatch (= make up a queen calendar - see Michael Bush's website).

    Sorry for stating the obvious...unless it really helps

  9. #9

    Default Re: Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    Some subtle details have been clarified for me.

    1) Primarily, what age bee makes a good nurse? Well, bees greater that 5 days old do, Smith was not wrong. Those fury little beggars make poor nurses "in the moment". But on the following graft, in the same starter, 4-5 days later they will be hardening and are starting to become viable nurses.

    2) Older bees can become good nurses, but what you want are bees that are already nurses and you need to maintain your starter (for multiple grafts) in the mode that the majority of bees are in the nursing state. This is a hard requirement.

    3) Jay Smith was a very skilled beekeeper, beyond his time, often went against the norm, and based his lifelong practice on his own observations.
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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    4) Sue Cobey is also a very skilled beekeeper and scientist, way ahead of most of us. I notice how Michael Bush basically agrees with Michael Palmer, two guys who aren't too bad at the game themselves.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    Isn't the point kind of moot? If you keep putting a frame of brood every 4 days when you put grafts in, these bees will end up emerging and aging... It's not as if you'll have nothing but 1-day old workers all of the time. And as was said already, one can't really pick the age of the bees you transfer.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    There is another point to keep in mind - queen rearing is almost entirely a timing act. The main trick is to get as much Royal Jelly into the baby queen larvae developing in the cells as the bees will give them. Cycle time is significant, number of starter and/or finisher colonies vs. how many experienced hands are involved (daily capacity) is significant, total number of queens you're trying to produce (or as many as the nectar flow on the season will allow) is also significant.

    Michael Palmer has posted a fantastic sequence for getting the situation primed for making queens at least twice in the last 2 or 3 years, and it is worth looking up. I'll try to find it, quote it and post it again here soon, unless MP himself jumps in and does it again.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    Quote Originally Posted by kilocharlie View Post
    Cycle time is significant, number of starter and/or finisher colonies vs. how many experienced hands are involved (daily capacity) is significant, total number of queens you're trying to produce (or as many as the nectar flow on the season will allow) is also significant.

    Michael Palmer has posted a fantastic sequence for getting the situation primed for making queens at least twice in the last 2 or 3 years, and it is worth looking up. I'll try to find it, quote it and post it again here soon, unless MP himself jumps in and does it again.
    Ok, that is juicy stuff. I would love to see the details. Thanks
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    I guess one other point is that it would not take several years to determine which age group of bees is making all the royal jelly - just mark newly emerged bees in several hives with a different color code or numbered disc each day in a number of observer hives set up as starter/finishers with your grafts set so you can see in them while they are still not-yet-capped.

    You'll get a good idea pretty quick if you are observant. The experiment should take about 7 weeks during the spring, just longer than their expected life cycle. This would require quite a lot of man-hours, and a reliable team of marker/observers supported for the 7 weeks.

    (BTW, I just PM'ed Michael, and will search my old files tomorrow, as my session time is almost elapsed. Worst case, I'll type it up from scratch as soon as I get another charger/power wire for my laptop.)

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    OK here's the old thread to one of Michael Palmer's postings. The step-by-step is Kirk Webster's method, very similar to Brother Adam's method as described in Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey. Read through to the end and note his comments as he has changed over to adding brood from over-wintered nucleus colonies to his cell builders.

    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...t=cell+builder

    Those new at queen rearing take note, as this one comes from some of the Jedi Masters of queen rearing (Bro. Adam, Kirk Webster, Michael Palmer). Be sure to print it out, and to make your queen rearing calendar to fit the instructions herein.

    Michael and I discussed the differences between this and the Cloake Board Method that Dr. Susan W. Cobey has on her website. He likes having more control over the nurse bees than the Cloake Board would seem to allow. Hybridizing the method (starting with a Cloake Board, then adding brood from O.W.N.'s) could have nurse bees boiling out of the box...worth looking into.
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 10-11-2013 at 12:32 PM.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    Thank you for posting the link kilocharlie. What a great resource to learn from and try out.
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  17. #17
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    Default Re: Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    Quote Originally Posted by kilocharlie View Post
    OK here's the old thread to one of Michael Palmer's postings. The step-by-step is Kirk Webster's method, very similar to Brother Adam's method as described in Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey. Read through to the end and note his comments as he has changed over to adding brood from over-wintered nucleus colonies to his cell builders.

    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...t=cell+builder
    I gave up on Webster's cell building method, which is a form of Bro Adam's approach, as it uses up the resources of the colony and leaves that colony in a weakened state. Many have a hard time re-building for winter. Brother Adam added brood to a colony, building it up instead of using it up. Adam harvests brood from production colonies which uses up the resources of those colonies. I harvest emerging brood from overwintered nuclei and leave my production colonies to produce honey. In fact, the cell builders get so strong that they produce honey, too. 4400 lb. from the cell building apiary in 2012.

    I see photos of swarm box starters and other cell building schemes and I have to wonder if the problem with mass produced queens is the lack of quality, properly stocked cell builders.

    Got Nurse Bees.....



  18. #18
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    Default Re: Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    Rob - I just LOVE Beesource!

    Michael - Thank you for the photo! Now THAT CB will have some RJ in those QC's!

  19. #19

    Default Re: Good Nurse Bees (Young our Old)?

    Quote Originally Posted by kilocharlie View Post
    Rob - I just LOVE Beesource!

    Michael - Thank you for the photo! Now THAT CB will have some RJ in those QC's!
    I agree with that!

    Thank you Michael Palmer, that is a certainly a very telling photo of what to aim for. Plus, thanks for providing your means of how you obtain it!
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