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  1. #1
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    Default Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    I have reared a few batches of queens every year since my second year beekeeping and have generally run about 60% laying queens from cells planted in mating nucs. Not really very good, but I have come to accept it, and chalk it up to a robust population of birds, dragon flies and other flying predators. But my experience this spring has me reconsidering this.

    Over the course of the spring I have had about 20 honey production hives which were either intentionally made queenless by me removing the queens, or were known to have swarmed or superceeded, and thus requeened their selves.

    I stayed on top of it, and did a timely queen test by giving every hive that might have failed to requeen a marked frame of brood to check for queen cells - instead of deep inspections during the main flow. Some were then obviously queenright upon inspection (often eggs were laid on frames adjacent to the test frame) - others got marked as "Tested QR" to be rechecked later.

    Yesterday I did the final inspections and confirmed that 100% of these full sized hives have successfully requeened on the first try and now have laying queens.

    At the same time I have had about 55% success in 3-4 medium frame mating nucs in the same yard.

    Maybe the queens orient on the big hives and get back where they belong better. My honey hives AND mating nucs are all lined up in rows on long hive stands.

    Maybe the small hives don't take care of the cell and virgin queens as well. Or Maybe I am getting poor emergence from my cells.

    Anyway, this is actually good news, because it indicates to me that there is a lot of room for improvement in my mating nuc/cell cultural practices.

    Anyone know another possible factor that I am over looking?
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  2. #2
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    West Bath, Maine, United States
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    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    Only more questions;
    How well do you think the different methods will perform? If placed in hives with equal adequate resources, would the queens perform equally?

    50 % return on 3.5 frames pretty much dedicated to that use compares, to 100 % return on say 15 frames which is still able to conduct other business?
    4 yrs, Peak 14, back to zip, T lite; godfather to brother's 3.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    ...in the same yard.... My honey hives AND mating nucs are all lined up in rows on long hive stands.
    On the same stand in the same yard? Maybe your success with mating nucs would be better, if you do not set up bigger hives along with your 3 frame mating nucs. Some distance should be between full hives and mating nucs. Bees drift to bigger colonies and queens do, too. The queenless bigger hive might be more attractive to a young queen as is the poor hive she took off from.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    What do you mean when you say the large hives made queenless were successful on the "first try"? My hives will make several queen cells when I kill or remove the queen. So if the first queen doesn't mate, the second might. So the success rate of cells to queens might be closer to your mating nuc rate.

    I have a yard under what looks like 50-75 swallows constantly circling the hives. When I first put bees there and then saw the swallow population, I thought that I would probably have a problem with big slow queens coming in for a landing, but I've never had a hive to queenless there.
    Bruce

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    Quote Originally Posted by beedeetee View Post
    My hives will make several queen cells when I kill or remove the queen. So if the first queen doesn't mate, the second might. So the success rate of cells to queens might be closer to your mating nuc rate.
    What usually happens unseen in your hives is that the first queen which emerges will kill all of her sisters who are still in the cells. There are of course exceptions - especially in big swarmy hives, but usually there is only one queen left at mating time.

    What I meant by on the first try is that when I give a hive a frame of brood about 2-1/2 weeks after making it queenless they build cells on it (indicating that they are hopelessly queenless) by knowing that I could give them a second chance by letting them try again with the cells they build or giving them a ripe cultured cell. What I would actually do is give them a caged queen, because the risk of SHB meltdown is too great when the hive is queenless for longer than about a month.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    BernhardHeuvel - Maybe your success with mating nucs would be better, if you do not set up bigger hives along with your 3 frame mating nucs. Some

    I agree, but at this point I am a hobbyist and only have the one yard to use. I already put about as much time into it as I can - probably more than I should. Although since I started splitting the income with my wife I don't get too much pushback. Mating nucs are mostly on separate stands from production hives at least.

    Saltybee -
    How well do you think the different methods will perform? If placed in hives with equal adequate resources, would the queens perform equally?

    50 % return on 3.5 frames pretty much dedicated to that use compares, to 100 % return on say 15 frames which is still able to conduct other business?


    That's true - although it might be worse than that depending on how you look at it. Count the cost of making up a mating nuc and the value of the resources used, and you better get several queens out of it if you want to come out. Until the honey flow is over - which it is.

    The queens from mating nucs are (usually) used to requeen queenless production hives and make increase splits - and occasionally help out a friend in need. Although the ones in the honey hives - produced during the main flow with many many drones available - are probably about as good as they can get physically. Their performance is potentially excellent I would think. They usually all perform quite well for the most part - there are exceptions of course.

    I don't deny that I have some things that I need to improve on.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    Although since I started splitting the income with my wife I don't get too much pushback.
    Darn, I need to be a better negotiator...
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    What usually happens unseen in your hives is that the first queen which emerges will kill all of her sisters who are still in the cells. There are of course exceptions - especially in big swarmy hives, but usually there is only one queen left at mating time.
    I'm not so sure that is the case. I think that either the bees protect some cells from the virgins, for at least a while or because of different aged larva used for supercedure/emergency that the virgin doesn't deem the younger cells a threat yet. In an incubator that won't happen and all same aged cells will be destroyed, but I've found different aged cells still viable a couple of days after a queen has hatched.

    From an evolutionary view letting the first queen kill all of the others wouldn't make sense. Why make all of the other queen cells anyway. The biggest threat isn't not hatching, it's coming back from mating flights.
    Bruce

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    I wouldn't be surprised if something like that happens at times - bee behavior is obviously very complex and variable in response to different conditions.

    However for practical purposes I assume that if a hive doesn't have an actively laying queen within a month of becoming queenless it needs intervention. And here in the south it needs it pretty quick.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    [B Although since I started splitting the income with my wife I don't get too much pushback.
    I can't get mine to take the loss.

    David, although I do sometimes ask a question to make a point, those were straight out "I do not know" questions.
    4 yrs, Peak 14, back to zip, T lite; godfather to brother's 3.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    Quote Originally Posted by beedeetee View Post
    the virgin doesn't deem the younger cells a threat yet.
    I believe that you are correct. You often see younger cells completely intact with a virgin running around, but as you pointed out in a grafting scenario, all cells are the same age and treated equally by the virgin. She will get to all of them, but the urgency isn't the same as on a cell bar of grafts.
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    I guess all I am saying is that the fact that large hives have better mating success may not have as much to do with their size as the fact that they get more chances of success with different aged cells. Some cells may have been made immediately with older larva and some a few days later from what were eggs at the time of the "event".
    Bruce

  13. #13
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    Dec 2010
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    Coatesville, Pa, USA
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    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    "more chances" presupposes that there are multiple queen cells in the larger hives. Is this the case? I had one hive where I found several queen cells (2 were bad / drawn on old comb) but the others were good. I left one cell with the hive and split the others off. What other "chance" is there than this queen? My limited experience seems to be the same. The larger hives have always brought back the queen. I honestly didn't put it together before this. It seems in my very limited experience this has held true. Hmph!!! Something to think about and consider. Perhaps using 5 frame deeps for mating nucs? That's a lot of resources to start, but once you have them started you can rotate the queen out about every month or so. Let her lay it up, then remove her / sell her etc. and give them a new cell?

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    David - try moving your nuc's made from queen rearing efforts 10 miles away from you home yard for at least a month. See if your score comes up. This appears to be my big error of late. All the times I've done this in the past, I had high % mated / accepted / laying good brood pattern. All the times I haven't done this, the results vary quite a lot.

    I'm going to build the vented nuc's right on the trailer the day before cell planting, close them up queenless for overnight, plant them (still locked inside), and move them 10 miles or better the following day, after they have been locked in for 2 days. I'm going tomorrow to check my bees for resource level - if I can still get in a short, late season queen rearing run.

    If you are still running queens this year, please try this. I want to see the results. Thanks!

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    Would this be to move the virgin queens far away from their brothers and near relatives for mating - or just to get them away from the main apiary in general?

    Although in the past I have mostly grafted my own cells, this year I have been getting them all from a friend who rears queens using VSH breeders from VP queens so as to get those particular genetics (which BTW I have been very pleased with) so I'm already more or less covering the first point.

    Check out this frame from one of those queens...



    While I'm at it, this one is from a daughter grafted from a Sue Cobey carni...



    My bees seem healthier now than they have ever been.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    This is to prevent the older bees transferred to the nucs from going back to the old hives, leaving the nuc's weak and susceptible to robbing. I think I've been making this mistake - NOT moving them, I mean.

    Your queens' laying patterns are awesome! I'll probably get some of Adam's queens next year or two. I can hardly wait to go get trained by Dr. Cobey

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    Quote Originally Posted by kilocharlie View Post
    This is to prevent the older bees transferred to the nucs from going back to the old hives, leaving the nuc's weak and susceptible to robbing. I think I've been making this mistake - NOT moving them, I mean.
    I TRY to just make them up plenty strong with nurse bees so that they don't get too weak despite losing the foragers - then by the second round of cells that is absolutely not an issue. Try is the key word - I agree that weak nucs don't seem to do as well as strong ones.

    Quote Originally Posted by kilocharlie View Post
    Your queens' laying patterns are awesome! I'll probably get some of Adam's queens next year or two. I can hardly wait to go get trained by Dr. Cobey
    Those are good queens, but of course you know that the reason I took those pictures is that they were especially nice. Very low numbers of mites apparent in drone brood samples is really a bigger deal - but hard to take a picture of.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    Quote Originally Posted by beedeetee View Post
    What do you mean when you say the large hives made queenless were successful on the "first try"? My hives will make several queen cells when I kill or remove the queen. So if the first queen doesn't mate, the second might. So the success rate of cells to queens might be closer to your mating nuc rate.

    I have a yard under what looks like 50-75 swallows constantly circling the hives. When I first put bees there and then saw the swallow population, I thought that I would probably have a problem with big slow queens coming in for a landing, but I've never had a hive to queenless there.
    I thought the first Queen emerged killed the others so that regardless of the number Queen cells the hive has only one chance for a mated Queen. I could be very wrong.
    Janne....first hives April 2013, 19 hives, treat, plant zone 8b, at sea level, latitude 49.13, longitude 123.06

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    Quote Originally Posted by kilocharlie View Post
    try moving your nuc's made from queen rearing efforts 10 miles away from you home yard for at least a month. See if your score comes up. This appears to be my big error of late. All the times I've done this in the past, I had high % mated / accepted / laying good brood pattern. All the times I haven't done this, the results vary quite a lot.
    I've been skimming quickly trying to catch up after being away for a few days, so I may have missed the context, but this comments puzzles me. Why would you want to move your mating nucs 10 miles away for a month? Most queen breeders put a lot of effort (I know I do) in saturating their mating areas with desirable drone sources. Moving your nucs 10 miles will take them out of the desirable drones that we work so hard to achieve. If its just weak nucs, then that's easily resolved by getting your mating nucs established early in the season prior to the dearth. I like big populations in all my mating nucs by the end of May, so that the June dearth is manageable without resorting to heroic efforts. Been there - not fun.
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Bigger IS better for mating nucs - or so the numbers seem to indicate...

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    Check out this frame from one of those queens...
    Nice! Shame you have to confine her to such dinky frames....
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

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