Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size
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  1. #1
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    Default Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    I think this got discussed last year here, but something interesting happened with my percentage of returned queens. With reasons I won't go into (to long) but anyway I set up 50 mating nucs, about half of the nucs were four for five frames, full of bees, and some brood. The other half were much smaller, with about half a frame of bees to a frame of bees, and little brood. The stronger nucs had 100 percent return! The weaker mating nucs had 30 percent return with mated queens. The weak mating nucs and strong mating nucs were mixed between two different yards, so I know it wasn't the location, the cells were all from the same queen and cell builder. The only difference was the strength of the mating nucs.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    interesting results thanks for sharing. would you surmise that the queen didn't like the small colony so just left?
    Terrence

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    Thanks for bringing that point home, Matt.

    Were the frames medium Illinois (6-1/4" deep frames for 6-5/8" supers) or deep Langstroths (9-1/8" deep frames for 9-11/16" brood boxes) or perhaps some other size?

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    I've observed pretty much the same thing. I wonder if perhaps the bigger, stronger hives are just easier for the queens to find when returning from mating?
    Since '09-75H-T-Z6b

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    I think several things are involved. At least 3 frames are required for a half-way decent night time cluster shape, 4 or 5 are still better. There has to be enough room for the queen to lay eggs. Too small of a nuc' can cause pre-swarming conditions to occur in short order. The bees may well decide that the box just in not large enough...

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    Just thinking weird thoughts out loud here...

    Does any one think bees from the hive go out with the queen on her mating flights? If so, it seems that larger mating nucs or hives would have enough bees to to attend to and celebrate the mating flights. Maybe mating flights are not as successful without a large procession cheering on the deed and escorting the queen back home?
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  8. #7
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    I just saw the most intense mating area I've ever seen last week.

    A side gulch in a canyon had bee noise that I heard from 80 yards away (drones are a bit louder than workers). I hiked the detour to see if it was a commercial drop or a swarm.

    As I got right to the back of the gulch, there they were, just above the tops of the brush and trees, forming "comets" and turning and burning all over the place. I must have seen 25 drone comets in 1 and 1/2 minutes. They made S-turns, vertical dives, spins, U-turns, you name it - fighter pilots should have studied them.

    I know I saw at least 4 actual matings, all because it happened so close to me. As soon as a drone mounted a queen, the comet would break up and re-group somewhere else.

    But it was almost all drones. They were quite a bit easier to spot in flight than the queens. I saw no cheering section of workers.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    But.....queen breeders mate thousands of queens in mini mating nucs????

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    Yes, many do. It's always a matter of getting the details in line and learning exactly how your bees tolerate mini- or baby- mating nuc's to mate the maximum number of queens during the season, especially a short season, like in the North. And why not? That's a lot more money - about $25 a piece for mass-produced, open mated queens.

    But it is far more reliable to use a larger nuc', and you gain the advantage of not having an additional transfer to do to those thousands of mini nuc's. They can stay in the 5-framers for 3 to 5 weeks, giving you lots of options and a lot of forgiveness in scheduling. If you are small time or a side liner with 150 colonies, larger nuc's make a lot of sense.

    I only ever considered 4 mini-frame baby nuc's for queens that I intended to sell, never for increaser nuc's to over-Winter. My increasers always got mated in a 3x3 (2 partitions in a 10-framer with 3 narrow inner covers) and moved to 2x5-frame arrangement soon after mating. My mentor doesn't waste the time - he starts the nuc' colonies right in the 10-framers, with a double screen board over a strong colony.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    Quote Originally Posted by kilocharlie View Post
    Thanks for bringing that point home, Matt.

    Were the frames medium Illinois (6-1/4" deep frames for 6-5/8" supers) or deep Langstroths (9-1/8" deep frames for 9-11/16" brood boxes) or perhaps some other size?
    They were 9 1/8 deep frames.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    Bee density and resources? I am thinking out loud. I use 5 frame deep and 3 frame deeps for queen rearing. I have noticed similar results. The weak nucs (less bees) have a low percentage of success as opposed to the strong ones, no matter 3 or 5 frame.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    Quote Originally Posted by odfrank View Post
    But.....queen breeders mate thousands of queens in mini mating nucs????
    And what are their average catch rates?

    A friend of mine raises queens professionally, using 4 way mating boxes with a feeder and three or four mini frames in each quarter of the box. The catch average varies from time to time.

    I wonder if queenrearers play the odds of having the queens needed by running more and more mating nucs.

    "The only difference was the strength of the mating nucs." This may well be the key.
    Mark Berninghausen

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    Interesting. I don't tend to follow the anti-drifting "best practices", I don't have funky horse-shoe shaped apiaries, my entrances aren't all facing different directions, my hives aren't spread out... When I talk to people about my queen rearing and mention this, they often go "oh, wow, you must have a lot of stray queens not coming back!". Actually, I don't, they almost all come back. I never considered the fact that my mating nucs are typically 3-10 standard frames of bees, as opposed to mini mating nucs, to be part of the answer.
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  15. #14
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    if nucs are close the queens that return to the stronger hives tend to lay quicker than the weaker nucs as there is less bees to manage the hive . hives that lay earlier produce more pherformones hence more guard bees which can nock of other queens flying close by

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    I have noticed something similar, yet there is one variable that is lacking in the experiment:

    Which queens came from which nucs? That is to say, did all the queens that had returned successfully from their mating flights return to their original nuc, or did they go to the largest queenless nucs they could find?

    I think larger nucs have a more intense "queenless" scent and may be more attractive. They have more bees at the entrance to "greet" the queen's return - fanning their pheromones. Thus a competitive scenario is created for all returning mated queens.

    Furthermore, if all nucs are the same size in the same yard, I think the overall success rate would be the same.

    Just a theory based on similar observations.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    And how about the make up of the nuc? If there is lots of open brood, will the hive behave the same as when they are clearly needing a queen. Perhaps its a distraction from the task at hand of getting a queen mated. And how about the worker mix. Maybe its just me, but nucs made up of bees from another yard with foragers, seem to do better than those made primarily of young bees from the same yard.

    Preliminary results is that I've had good success with queens raised above a snelgrove, mostly broodless when the queen is flying, compared to mating nucs made up with 2 frames of bees. I am now going with 3 frames of bees based on this discussion.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    Quote Originally Posted by GusK View Post
    I have noticed something similar, yet there is one variable that is lacking in the experiment:

    Which queens came from which nucs? That is to say, did all the queens that had returned successfully from their mating flights return to their original nuc, or did they go to the largest queenless nucs they could find?

    I think larger nucs have a more intense "queenless" scent and may be more attractive. They have more bees at the entrance to "greet" the queen's return - fanning their pheromones. Thus a competitive scenario is created for all returning mated queens.

    Furthermore, if all nucs are the same size in the same yard, I think the overall success rate would be the same.

    Just a theory based on similar observations.

    I think that you are probably partially correct - in that a larger mating nuc has more of everything that makes it easier to find when a queen is returning from her mating flight - visually larger, more scent etc.

    While I'm sure that there may be exceptions I think that queens generally try to return to the hive they emerged into - and sometimes they just get confused. Here is what I base that belief on - When I arrange mating nucs in cross or star shaped groups (2 to five nucs per group) with the back sides pointing into the middle of the formation, and the entrances pointing out, I get much much higher success than when they are lined up in straight lines on long hive stands. The "star" shaped groups just make it a lot easier to visually tell which hive is which - even for me. They are however considerably less convenient to work and mow around. I do try to keep all mating nucs in pretty good demographic shape.
    Since '09-75H-T-Z6b

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    Risk vs. reward. I raise queen cells from grafts (as a small timer) in 5 frame medium nucs. These have either 5 frames (2 open nectar) or 3 frames with a 2 x frame feeder. That is a whole lot of pulled frames in a lot of 100 boxes.

    My friend raises mated queens in nucs not much bigger than a file card box. He gets about 75% return and ships 150/week all season long. The resources "wasted" on the 25% that fail are insignificant compared to shaking out a 5 frame medium box that is laying drones.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    Aren't you supposed to sell them before you can tell they are drone layers???
    Since '09-75H-T-Z6b

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Unintentional experiment with mating nuc size

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    Aren't you supposed to sell them before you can tell they are drone layers???
    I assume that sarcasm? I run the medium nucs up to 8 or 10 frames, and sell them in a single with a migratory cover serving top and bottom. May change this in the future as they grow too fast at that stage. Purchasers have had trouble with early swarms when hived up with a "foundationless" super. The colonies are growing quickly and the relatively empty boxes they get supered up with don't draw them up, leading to a swarm pattern despite the extra "room' they have been given.

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