How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?
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  1. #1
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    Default How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    I was giving a lecture on queen rearing, (and using a bunch of slides I stole from Michael Bush, but I did give him credit) Anyway, I realized I was covering an important point, but had no data. How many nurse bees does it take to raise a queen? We all know you need a lot, but how many? The reason is this: In a walk away split, those bees are doing all they can to raise a bunch of emergency cells. Eventually though, all those are killed by the first queen to emerge so that work is mostly wasted. So, it's a matter of efficiency in raising queens. For example, if each nurse bee can create enough royal jelly to feed 2 other workers (they have to make more than enough to feed one, or hives would never increase) however, if it takes 200 nurse bees to make one queen cell based on Royal Jelly amount, for every time that you create a wasted queen cell in a walk away split, you have lost the potential of 400 workers. If there were 5 emergency cells in that split, you lost 1,600 potential workers.

    So, every time you use a cell builder to create queens, and put them in a nuc with larva, you've just given them a leg up of over 1,000 bees? What if it's more than that? I don't know, and I couldn't find the data. Is it not a requirement of royal jelly, but worker potential? (more workers have to stay in the hive to feed than can go out and collect?)

    Rob.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    Shame on your for not giving credit when credit is due!
    Hee, he.
    Anyways, I think it is the set up you are using that need to set the boundary a bit to give you more accurate estimation. For example, if it is a cloak or snelgrove board method I am sure there are many more nurse bees to nourish these queen cells. A 5 frame nuc set up is another measurement. But if only on a shake out method to build the bee bomb then it is hard to say because more nurse bees there. The other variables are that the nurse bees will need some time to make the RJ before depositing them into the cell cups. The timing between the first and 2nd or subsequent deposits I don't really know. Of course, the more nurse bees present the better. But as the bees aged they will turn into another task bees so no longer a nurse bee. The just hatch bees are not nurse bees yet. Bottom line is that there are too many variables that cannot be control or measured. But one frame of bees can make 2-3 good queen cells. So the approximate number is between 1000 to 2000. I have a frame of nurse bees with eggs/young larvae attached in a 5 nuc set up that do not make any queen cells. I am still questioning whether or not the old comb has anything to do with this issue.
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

  4. #3
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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    In Canada, in 1975, two researchers named Liu Ying-Shin and S.C. Jay, raised queens in cages using only 200 nurse bees. I can't find a free copy of the study on the net. I read about the study in Giles Fert's book on breeding queens. So technically the answer to the question is 200 bees.

    I wouldn't want to pay the going price for a queen and then find out she was raised by only 200 nurse bees!
    42 + years - 24 colonies - IPM disciple - Naturally Skeptic

  5. #4
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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    Quote Originally Posted by beepro View Post
    I have a frame of nurse bees with eggs/young larvae attached in a 5 nuc set up that do not make any queen cells. I am still questioning whether or not the old comb has anything to do with this issue.
    It is easier for them to rework new soft comb, so it can make a difference in how many cells or how good the cells look. If it's old brood comb, they have to float the larvae out to the face of the frame before they can make it turn down. In my TBH, the best queen cells get made on the bottoms or sides of the comb where it's easy to extend the wax. I still prefer to have the main hive make the queen cells (by pulling the old queen to a nuc) and then removing them once they are capped. That way I know I have a large group of nurse bees to feed the cells and plenty of wax makers.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    Morse and Hooper said that a worker larva is visited 10,000 times from egg hatch to cell sealing. I can only imagine how many visits a queen larva requires.

    So, I suppose 200 nurse bees could successfully rear a queen cell, but a quality queen?

  7. #6
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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    If a typical worker larva got 10,000 visits before being capped, then I would guess that a normal queen cell will get at least 3x the number of visits than a regular worker larva.
    Yes, the bees prefer to work on the soft wax to draw out the queen cells. You mention about a large group of nurse bees to feed the cells. Then would it be better to move the cells while in development onto the comb frames for the nurse bees to better feed them? There are more resources available on the comb frame than on the graft bar where the cells are at.
    I am not using the traditional shake out method but instead use a 5 frame nuc hive to finish the cells.
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

  8. #7
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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    Morse and Hooper said that a worker larva is visited 10,000 times from egg hatch to cell sealing. I can only imagine how many visits a queen larva requires.

    So, I suppose 200 nurse bees could successfully rear a queen cell, but a quality queen?
    Ive seen that number for a long time....and I don't really believe it.

    10,000 visits over 6 days is more than a visit a minute. It is hard to watch this in a heavily populated observation hive....but I have put 24 post graft cells in an enclosed observation hive many times...the cups fill with royal jelly, but they are not getting visited once a minute.
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  9. #8
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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    I think the number of nurse bees can affect the size of the cell (at least according to allen dick), but I've had large, aparantly well fed queens come from small queen cells.
    Sometimes the lights all shining on me
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  10. #9
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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen? Why would someone ask that question? Perhaps trying to minimise the populations in a cell starter/builder? I dunno, but sounds like that question is not the pertinent question to be asking about what it takes to make a decent or good quality queen. For the size of box being used, we need swarming condition population and heavy stores with incoming nectar and pollen, or simulated incoming, with enough nurse bees to do the work of being nectar handlers, larva feeders, house cleaners, etc. What number of nurse bees it takes is immaterial in the over all picture of trying to raise good queens. The number could be 200 (I doubt that number myself) or 2,000 or much more depending on all conditions of the operation. I think the correct answer would be to say... As many as it takes, per size of box being used and conditions inside it and the environment around the area.
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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    Not only the number of nurse bees but also the quality of the
    feed that will affect the size of the cells. When the nurse bees are hungry they cannot produce the thick Rj required for these quality queens produced. That is why we put in the extra patties and syrup to make sure the nurse bees are well fed during the entire cell rearing process. As long as the nurse bees are well taken care of the quality queens are ensured.
    The size of the cells may depend on the size of the grafted larvae and the well fed nurse bees that have the excess Rj to deposit them in. I think as long as the cells are full of Rj to feed the queen larvae they will come out as quality queens. The size of the queen also varies according to their genetics.
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

  12. #11
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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    Quote Originally Posted by deknow View Post
    Ive seen that number for a long time....and I don't really believe it.

    10,000 visits over 6 days is more than a visit a minute. It is hard to watch this in a heavily populated observation hive....but I have put 24 post graft cells in an enclosed observation hive many times...the cups fill with royal jelly, but they are not getting visited once a minute.
    I would expect you to disagree. Well, I would listen to Morse and Hooper before I would listen to you Dean. They both had a lifetime of experience, and you've had....??? And, do you really think that bees in an observation hive will perform the same as a normal sized colony? No way.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    Quote Originally Posted by deknow View Post
    I think the number of nurse bees can affect the size of the cell (at least according to allen dick), but I've had large, aparantly well fed queens come from small queen cells.

    And Allen is wrong too? Sure Dean.

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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    I routinely see smaller queen cells and they, almost without exception, come from either a weaker builder or they are at the very end of a bar on a stronger builder and usually don't have their cups as full of rj. We typically cull them despite the fact that the emerging virgin will almost always be indistinguishable from one that comes from a longer cell. I don't have any proof the smaller ones are inferior but given that they probably had not been fed as well or perhaps been chilled a bit on a cold night it just doesn't seem prudent to use them.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    And Allen is wrong too? Sure Dean.
    How do you read that as disagreeing with Allen? I posted a number of photos of large queens and the tiny cells they came out of...Allen's comment was that the number of bees working the cells affects the size of the cell itself. I could see that the queens were well fed (quantity wise...i have no way to test RJ quality), that they were large, and the cells were small.

    I cited Allen because I've never heard anyone else make this claim, and it is the only explanation that fits my observations. I was not calling him 'wrong' (and I'm not sure how it could have been read that way).
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  16. #15
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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    I would expect you to disagree. Well, I would listen to Morse and Hooper before I would listen to you Dean. They both had a lifetime of experience, and you've had....??? And, do you really think that bees in an observation hive will perform the same as a normal sized colony? No way.
    Don't listen to me, do you own observation. When I hold a frame of calm bees covering brood, I don't see each brood being visited every minute.

    I suspect that any observations that Morse made or referenced (Lindauer, etc) were made in an observation hive. I can imagine some high tech modern ways to look at this in the middle of an undisturbed broodnest, but nothing that Morse would have used. Observation hives are always problematic, but how do you think these observations are made?

    Maybe in Roger's day he could still by X-Ray glasses from the back pages of a comic book...otherwise, he either observed a pulled frame or was using a observation hive.

    I have observed plastic queen cups fill with RJ in an ulster observation hive over a couple of days without anything that looked like a visit more often than once a minute.
    Sometimes the lights all shining on me
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  17. #16
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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    I routinely see smaller queen cells and they, almost without exception, come from either a weaker builder or they are at the very end of a bar on a stronger builder and usually don't have their cups as full of rj. We typically cull them despite the fact that the emerging virgin will almost always be indistinguishable from one that comes from a longer cell. I don't have any proof the smaller ones are inferior but given that they probably had not been fed as well or perhaps been chilled a bit on a cold night it just doesn't seem prudent to use them.
    Jim, these are all photographed with the cell they emerged from.







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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    Quote Originally Posted by RobWok View Post
    if each nurse bee can create enough royal jelly to feed 2 other workers (they have to make more than enough to feed one, or hives would never increase)
    They have to make enough for more than one in their career - not necessarily at one time though.

    Also - just to point out - those queens that are emerging from those dinky cells... The cells are pretty dinky, but not as dinky as they look like if you picture the cup as part of the cell - as it would be if it weren't grafted and cultured . Even so, you almost never see natural cells that small in a healthy hive.
    Last edited by David LaFerney; 04-21-2015 at 07:50 AM.
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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    Mark Winston, "Biology of the Honey Bee" page 97:

    ...Lindauer (1952) observed that an average larva was inspected 1926 times for a total of 72 min, but only fed during 143 visits. The time per feeding visit averaged 1.3 min for a total of 110 min feeding time per larva, or slightly under 2% of it's larval life. Other studies (Lineburg, 1924; Kuwabara, 1947) have shown higher values of up to 7200 visits or a maximum of 1140 feeding visits per larva, possibly because the amount of inspection and feeding may vary according to the ratio of larave to nurse bees. When the ratios of brood to nurse bees have been calculated, results show that a single nurse bee rears the equivalent of two to three larva during it's nursing lifetime.
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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    They have to make enough for more than one in their career - not necessarily at one time though.

    Also - just to point out - those queens that are emerging from those dinky cells... The cells are pretty dinky, but not as dinky as they look like if you picture the cup as part of the cell - as it would be if it weren't grafted and cultured . Even so, you almost never see natural cells that small in a healthy hive.
    Well, a healthy hive raising a queen cell would by definition either be swarming or superceding, which are both generally done in times of abundance with resources the bees have allocated and not stimulated by the beekeeper.
    Sometimes the lights all shining on me
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    Default Re: How many nurse bees does it take to make a queen cell?

    Quote Originally Posted by deknow View Post
    Well, a healthy hive raising a queen cell would by definition either be swarming or superceding, which are both generally done in times of abundance with resources the bees have allocated and not stimulated by the beekeeper.
    Or emergency replacement. I like to make my queen cells by pulling the queen of a booming hive over to a nuc and letting the hive raise lots of queen cells that I then split out to various places. That way they are well fed queens. I also make sure there is fresh new white comb on multiple bars for the queen to lay on. They rework that a lot easier than older brood comb.

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