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?