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Thread: Mating nucs

  1. #1
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    Default Mating nucs

    We grafted or removed 288 queen cells in the past three weeks.
    After getting these cells emerged in an incubator we have had nearly total losses after introducing them to mating compartments.

    We are using queen castles that are very closely spaced. My first suspicion is that virgins taking mating flights are returning to the wrong compartments. That was until yesterday when we introduced 3 virgins and no more than 30 minutes later I decided to go look for them. I only found one in 3. Now I may have missed them but I don't see how. there where not so many bees I would not have seen them. are they crossing over to kill each other? And I mean leaving through there exit and entering the next compartment. I did not even find dead bodies and I emptied these compartments of bees.

    Anyway what sort of compartments do you use. how do you have the entrances on them if they are multiple queen boxes. how far apart do you place the individual boxes etc.

    I have introduced over 100 virgins, have done final inspections on 16 of them and in total have gotten 3 mated queens from it.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    The obvious solution is to place the cells in the nucs the day before they emerge and forget introducing virgins. Have you tried placing the nucs in circles?. That was the configuration I liked best, 16 nucs to a circle.
    37 years - 25 colonies - IPM disciple - naturally skeptic

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    I posted a similar problem about not getting mated queens back and the opinion of the forum was birds. We have a colony of cliff swallows on almost every bridge crossing the canals. I suspect that is my problem. Do you have swallows nesting in your area?
    Dave

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    I would think its the workers killing them if it is occurring in 30mins. I don't see a queen leaving for a mating flight before she has a chance to walk around the entire hive. How are you introducing the queen or making up the nuc. Maybe you could just use one chamber of the castle for the next 25 virgins. Could they be weak from the incubator and just dieing once introduced? Have you been successful with this before? What is different?

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    Sorry for the loss, but why are you introducing virgins? As other have suggested, I too suspect that the virgins are not being accepted - not that uncommon. Seems like you simply need to put the cells in on day 14. In my experience, much higher success rates, and perhaps better for the queens too. I believe that entering the wrong compartment is pretty rare, certainly much less likely than the bees killing the newly introduced virgin. Go with cells, your success rate will improve dramatically. Leave the virgins for times when weather or other timing issues force the situation. Just my 2 cents.
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    I have considered placing cells in the nucs prior to emergence but have not done so yet. I want to see a higher rate of emergence first. A seperate problem that I have solutions for.

    Castrles right now are on shelves. 5 castpels to an 8 foot long shelf. three shelves per rack.

    Methods of introductin.
    Placing vergins in cages in compartment for 24 hours. result high rate of queens being abandoned and left to cold.
    Direct introduction to bees that have been queenless for several days up to a couple of weeks. In some cases bees have been in the compartemnt for a couple of days in others they where jsut recenty moved to the compartments. same results regardless.

    We have considered and I am concerend about predators. The only reason I reject that is that we get a high success rate from hives that have requeened themselves. For this reason I consider the high failure rate specific to these castles, how they are placed, how the entracnes are arranged or something like that. If it where predator losses they would remain consistant across any method of mating a queen. We have a total of 24 castles. we ahve made some changes to some of them to see if anything causes an improvement.

    It is looking like this year will be about finding a mating compartment that works for us. My main problem is I threw a ton of our resources at this method Building back up to have any stock to make further attampts may be a challenge. I am far from done going through everthing and seeing what we have left. Our last introduction where last night so we are at alest thre weeks from seeing the final reuslts as of now.

    I am prety much prepaired to write this one off as a total loss but am looking for thigns to try and change for the next attempt. Maybe I will jsut shot gun it. that is throw every change I can at it one castle at a time. Then figure out what seems to make a difference.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    Astro, I have already made the decison that grafted cells are all we will work with in the future. far to many losses with natural cells. we have been working with natural cells in large so knowing the date of emergence does not work. that will change. It looks like we will switch to grafting and cell introduction though and see if that helps.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Y View Post
    I have considered placing cells in the nucs prior to emergence but have not done so yet. I want to see a higher rate of emergence first.
    Why??????????? Queen cells should be introduced by day 14. Why would you not take advice from those who know better? You are never going to see a "higher rate of emergence" by introducing virgins. Get introduction right, take AR Beekeepers advice on spacing and setup and get 100 queens next time. Follow Michael Bushes advice. I believe it is Michael Palmer who created 1500 queens from 30 colonies in one season. He AINT doing it like you!
    It takes a family to raise a family, it takes a village to really screw that up... Djei5

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    Daniel Y, I made a bunch of D Coats boxes with a divider, entrance on each end. 9 days after graft put a frame of brood and a frame of honey, plus a shake of bees off another brood frame,next day put cell in middle of brood frame. They seem to always love her when she emerges. After she mates and is laying move both frames to a 5 frame nuc and add 1 more brood frame. That nuc will take off. For just mating Queens though I make 1/2 size frames and DCoats boxes to fit them . The frames are all drawn out and full of brood, and do the same thing with the cells. If one fails I have little supers to combine to another till I graft again Like little ATM machines. I space them out about 8 ft with the holes in different directions,,,,,Pete

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    Like you I am still experimenting on my version of queen grafting. I still not know what I am doing to help increase the chance of a mated queen coming back. For sure, your virgins got balled within minutes of introduction. If not sure then do an experiment to see. Five minutes is all you need to see this process in play. I did! No, they did not cross compartment and got kill either.

    So far the success is with spacing the mating nuc farther apart like 5 feet or so in a row facing south. I use individual mating nucs. Four out of four came back so far. But my number is small to compare. Surely the virgins are confused coming back when all the hives looked the same. When she entered a wrong hive then the workers will kill her. Introducing virgin into existing established nuc will not work as they got balled most of the time from my experience. I had lost so many mated and virgins this way. So the only solution I can think of is to cage the qc at almost hatching time to put inside the nuc. They will chewed out the qc if not protected. With 200 qcs you will need many qc cages for that. This is another investment I am sure you will consider.
    Also, caging a virgin inside nuc hive will not work as I had tried that already. I believe a virgin should be able to crawl all over the hive to feed herself and develop her presense in the hive before taking her mating flight after the 7th day. The bees are more acceptale to her this way. If I take a virgin into another nuc she is dead by balling. Same thing with a virgin coming back from her mating flight into a nearby nuc instead of hers.
    So try to space out the nucs farther apart and caged the qc before emerging. I had tried masking her scent but that did not work either on introduction. Look like you have a problem that the virgins got confused on their way back to the nuc hive after their mating flight. Don't try the shot gun approach that waste your time and energy. You need to figure out a sure way timing it down improvement process.
    I luv bee source!

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    An update after 10 days. Through the first 5 days or so we continued to see nearly complete loses of virgin queens. Finding only 3 mated queens out of 19 compartments. Then about 4 or 5 days ago we suddenly started getting near 50% 0f the queens remaining after 14 days. 50% is what we saw last year from the same method.

    Of an additional 45 compartments we have checked in that time we have found 10 confirmed and mated queens at their first check. 6 that we either saw the queen but no eggs or saw eggs but no queen. and 6 that show no sign either way but have not been determined to be lost virgins. This does not include virgins that have successfully mated using other methods.

    I still have no clear explanation for this complete disappearance of virgins at the start. What I do know is it now has me delayed in producing 5 frame nucs that customers are waiting on. We finally have all but one of those with confirmed mated queens. the final one has a virgin she just has not started laying enough for us to confirm if she is mated yet.

    at one point we introduced a small number of virgins directly to 5 frame nucs to see if we got a better survival rate. I have not really crunched the numbers just yet because frankly I lost track of what was what. But my impression is that we got a far better return on 5 frame nucs than we have ever gotten with queen castles.

    Next problem has been weak population to start these newly mated queens on. we still had the remains of our cell builder. so we have broken down the cell builder and used the bees to combine with the nucs. We now have 18 5 frame nucs 15 of them with confirmed queens and fairly well populated. Plus we have relieved the pressure on our bees that have been queenless for quite a while.
    Last edited by Daniel Y; 05-22-2014 at 06:05 AM.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    My mating nucs are four ways (an entrance in each of four direction) but they are stacked up as high as I can easily reach, so there are many entrances on each side. I have no real issues with them returning to the wrong nuc...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Y View Post
    I have considered placing cells in the nucs prior to emergence but have not done so yet. I want to see a higher rate of emergence first.
    What will a higher rate of emergence show you? That you're doing a good job building cells. I would think you can tell the same thing by opening a few cells before they emerge, or candling them if you're able.

    And so what if not every cell emerges? There are almost always a few, but nothing like the losses you're seeing. Place the cells in the mating nucs on day 10 after graft. I bet things will improve greatly.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    A higher rate of emergence is one indicator of methods that work and those that do not. Allowing the bees to build wild cells for example is not working nearly as well as grafted cells. Both handled on the same days by the same people from the same cell builder and kept in the same incubator. I do not want to tie up mating compartments with cells that only have a 75% emergence rate. So until I can reliably and repeatedly see 85% or better I will continue to monitor it.

    It is most likely true that cell introduction is better and more reliable. so if I can get consistent 85% emergence with incubating cells. I can then only be assured that or better with introduced cells. Of course where I not incubating cells I would not be able to clearly see other variables that effect successful emergence. For me it is not just about finding something that works. it is about understand what works and why. what does not and why. Consider it the cost of an education.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    Emergence should be nearly 100%. We typically see a mating rate of around 85% when installing 10 day cells (240 hours post graft). The 15% loss being some combination of wayward mating flights, poor matings, virgins killed upon emergence and lastly cells that simply didn't hatch for whatever reason, possibly chilled or poorly handled. Well tended 10 day old cells should be as close to a sure thing as you could get.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    introducing queen cells has not produced any better results. if anything so far they have a lower rate of return than introduced virgins based upon 9 cells that where introduced on 5/13. 2 have produced mated queens, 3 have been confirmed failed and the remaining 4 are still pending. No sign of a queen in the pending colonies giving cell introduction less than 40% success rate. Introduced virgins had risen to 50% during that same period of time.

    IN all this method does not produce enough queens at least at this time to restore the devastation it cause to the apiary. In all it took nearly 180 frames of bees to attempt to mate these queens. of those over 40 frames of bees where lost. Some nearly 70 are not used in nucs to get newly mated queens started and the remainder where used to boost those nucs. nearly all frames where poorly populated at eh end of the process. As a result we now have over 50 mated queens producing brood. But none of them have a bee population that allows them to produce at maximum ability.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    I have no easy answers for you sitting here Daniel. Obviously you have put a lot of effort into this. Perhaps it's something as simple as not being in a very hospitable area for queen production. The advice I often give to aspiring beekeepers is to find someone in your locale that has a successful operation and shamelessly copy them and learn what you can and can't do in your area. Do that at least until you get your operation off the ground and can begin experimenting with variations. I had a large nuc yard in Texas once that appeared ideal, but our takes were horrible the first couple of years. We finally moved it to a different spot just a few hundred feet away and suddenly the takes went from 50% to the upper 80's. Was it a coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. I have no explanation only guesses. This past spring our cell yard struggled for most of a week with only around 50% cell acceptance in our builders. I tried everything I could think of but then just like flipping a light on a new pollen flow kicked in and it went up to 90% and hummed along after that. I was ready for cells but I guess the builders weren't. Beekeeping is like that sometimes.
    Daniel, don't take this as a criticism, it isn't meant as one, but perhaps you just need to take a step back and reassess your plans and goals. Don't sell out on a single plan until you find out how conducive it is to the area you are in. Perhaps as you learn your area and it's flows you will better be able to tailor a profitable beekeeping plan. Maybe it's more suited to honey production, maybe you can find an outlying location that would better suit your goals, I just don't know but I do wish you the best. We all live and learn.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    Jim, I don't consider it criticism. it is trouble shooting. I am also aware that not all problems have solutions. But the only question that has a guaranteed no is the one that was never asked. So I tend to ask just to see if anything unexpected shakes out. I have thought of moving the mating yard to a new location and am in the process of trying to research better locations.

    ON another note. I am not sure that two week really bad spell woudl have been as bad as it was had we had a continual cell production going. We produced cells then shut it down due to limited equipment available. By the time we saw the loss of cells and virgins we where way behind in getting the cell builder up and running again. Combine that with the random usually turns of misfortune and we simply never got a good run of cells going. We had a colony with 20 cells in it but a rouge virgin must have gotten past us and all those cells where lost. i was hoping to get a better sample of cells in comparison to virgin introductions.

    I am in a process that for the next 3 years I can do this sort of stuff. after that i need to have methods I can rely on working for the most part. This is not an income for me yet. it is paying for itself and that is about all. But it is paying for fairly fast growth.

    With as many little details that can be corrected that I have to keep up with. These total blow out things begin to get overwhelming. I was planning to work on improving our management and build up of nucs this spring. the whole lost queens thing sort of overran any of that getting much attention. We manage full size hives very well. but we do not seem to do as well with nucs. different pace to things and we have not developed that instinctual feel for them yet.

    Anyway I appreciate the comments even if they are not answers. Any and all thoughts are considered some are attempted if i have the resources to do so. Some may alter my plans for the next attempt.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    An update t this thread.
    In July we started grafting queens again. Out of approx 500 grafts we got about 20 queens to emerge. Sorry if that is a repeat in this thread I have mentioned it in other places on the forums but am not sure I put it here. another problem another day.

    As for hte success in getting queens mated. we went to another yard and filled up the mating compartments. then brought them back here. the bees stayed in the compartments. so far from a very small sample our success at gettign queens mated has risen to 75% with a potential for 88% or better.

    All the information that has come my way since starting this thread seems to point to inadequately populated compartments. nucs etc. And it is starting to show up in many ways now. nucs that abscond? simply have to leave the hive to stay alive. Unable to regulate the temperature in a box they do not have the population to manage.

    Anyway at least for now we are seeing an improvement in successfully mated queens. now to get cells produced. I think that is a cell builder preparation issue. Simply I have been trying to put out to many fires and now everything is suffering.

    Populations issues are being addressed across the board with associated improvement in hive conditions.

    In all my since of when there are enough bees is that they need to have at least half of any space they are in full. And that is barely minimal. so if they are a frame of bees in a 2 frame compartment they can manage. Move that same frame to a 5 frame nuc and it will falter. That is just an off the cuff rough impression at this point.

    Someone suggested the cell issue may be disease related. This very well could be. My experience with diseases is not all that much. I simply have not had to deal with them yet. We had chalk brood in the spring but that cleared itself up. I don't see anything else that indicated any of my bees are suffering from any disease. Of course I simply may not be recognizing it.

    Anyway thanks for all the comments and thoughts. It's been a rough trail this year.

    In all we have expanded from 23 colones to somewhere around 50 right now. With several more queens to confirm mated over the next week. we may end up with about 60 colonies in all. Not quite 1/3rd of what my goal was. Better than none.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Mating nucs

    Good job! Good job!
    At least you've found out the problem to make a correction.
    Thanks for sharing.
    I luv bee source!

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