Should I wait to see drones before I split?
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  1. #1
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    Default Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    I have an overwintered colony with a really good queen. There is a lot of brood, including capped drone, but last Friday when I added a honey super, I did not see any drones.

    Tomorrow is a good weather day to split; I plan to take the queen, with 6 or 7 frames of brood, honey/pollen stores, etc. to a different yard, and leave behind a frame with very young larva and/or eggs with one of the 2 7-frame deeps and also leave behind the honey super.

    If I look for and find NO DRONES, I am wondering if I should wait to split. I appreciate your comments regarding this. I am NOT adding a new queen, but letting the bees make their own queen.

    Phil
    Last edited by philip.devos; 04-17-2018 at 12:09 PM. Reason: forgot to mention I am letting bees make their own queen

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    You not only need drones but mature drones. So if you don't have hatched drones yet I'd wait. You want a well mated queen not just bare minimum amount of drones.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    @Clayton: Thanks for the reply.

    If I DO see drones when I go in tomorrow, they will be young, having just emerged, likely since Friday the 13th. However, the hive that becomes queenless tomorrow will not have a virgin queen emerging for about 10-12 days from now (I am assuming they will choose larvae newly emerged from the egg, about day 4 or 5). Subtracting from the total time required from egg to queen, 16 days, I would think that the queen will be going out on a mating flight around April 28 to May 1.

    I am a little antsy about this hive, as they are a bit crowded, so I don't want to risk a swarm. The next warm day after tomorrow will be Saturday April 21.

    Phil

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    I have seen it written that if you have drones under cappings that are at the purple eye stage, that they will have emerged and matured enough to mate with queens grafted at that time. That is probably cutting it pretty close, and as Clayton says, you want the queen not only mated, but well mated. Her firing rate and potential improves with the more drones she hooks up with.
    Frank

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    keep in mind that it is not the drones from YOUR hive that will be mating with the virgin queen. It should be drones from other hives in the area. So if you know you have other beekeepers in the area with hives that are further along than yours, with mature drones, then go ahead and do the split. My Italians had drones back in late February. My Carni hive is just now starting to pop them out as their spring buildup was slower this year. (I think they read the weather better than my local weatherman)

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    @ruthie: Yeah! I was hoping some folks in the Baltimore area would add their opinions, and whether they have seen drones.

    I have a couple of weak colonies a couple of miles away. I will take a look at them to see if their drones have emerged.

    Taking a look at Michael Bush's book, I understand that the drones take mating flights about 14 days after they emerge (day 38), while an emerging queen takes mating flights about 9 days after she emerges (day 25). Since my one colony will be queenless at the split, assuming the worst case, that the bees choose an older larva (say day 5), then the queen that emerges will not be taking a mating flight until 20 days afterward. That would put her start of mating flights at May 8. Assuming there are emerged drones, they would be starting their mating flights at May 4 or 5, several days before the queen.

    After observing how many drones (if any) I see tomorrow, I will decided whether to split tomorrow or wait until Saturday.

    Phil
    Last edited by philip.devos; 04-17-2018 at 06:07 PM.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    If you can keep a close eye on your hive, let them head toward swarming... work with the swarm process. Once they start to make queen cells, move your queen with brood, supplies and workers, and that acts as a swarm, then keep the queen cells in the old space or more. When you do this they have chosen the best for the new queens instead of the best they have at the time you remove the queen..... you have to be able to keep a close eye on them though.... works well for me.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    >Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    Yes. I want to see them flying without having to look too hard to find them.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    I would expect that by day 25 the queen would have already been out to make, except for delays due to weather. It doesn't take her nine days to harden her wings. So you may need to have a good number of drones before that date.

    Richr's idea of watching them closely and using swarm cells to grow the new queen (as opposed to emergency cells) is a good one. Many people believe they are higher quality queens since they were always intended to be queens and always fed royal jelly. I think bees are pretty smart, though, so I think that if they have the correct resources they will choose perfectly-timed larvae in most circumstances. But either way, they won't likely swarm until they believe there will be sufficient drones for mating with their new queen.

    One thing that allays my swarm-anxiety, without the hassles of pulling frames, is just tipping up the brood boxes and looking from underneath to make sure they aren't/haven't started queen cells. They won't swarm without leaving well-developed QCs behind. There would no point to taking that risk. While sometimes QCs for a swarm are in other places in addition to the lower edges of frames, I think it would surprising if a colony swarmed without a single QC hanging off the lower edge of frame where you would easily see it. I tip up every brood box, every five days during the later end of my swarm season.

    In general I like to have lots of drones, warm settled weather forecast in the mating-period target, and excellent food resources during the larval period for both drones and potential queen cells.

    Nancy

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    Phil,
    I have two hives a bit south of you, in Lothian. They had a bunch of drones already emerged last Saturday, the 14th. I can't say they were flying, but I also had the hives open early, around 0800.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    Thanks all for your input.

    I completed the split today (while some of you were responding). I took a look at a colony several miles from the one I split. There were quite a few drones in that one. The one I did split had many drones walking around the frames. (I did NOT see any flying).

    I took the queen to a third yard with a couple of frames of capped brood + bees and some frames of mixed open brood and some stores + bees.

    I left behind a mix of stores frames, capped brood, and some open brood + eggs. The bees had started some swarm cells on the bottom of a couple of frames, but I did not take a look to see if they had larva inside.

    I may have jumped the gun. I am pretty optimistic about this, seeing the large number of drones. By the third week in May we will have the verdict.

    Phil

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    I think you'll be ok, I made up 4 nucs on 4/13. I had plenty of drones out and dandelions were popping out. Unfortunately we had temps in the 30's last week overnight. I had a little chilled brood in a couple nucs that I didn't shake quite enough nurse bees into. I checked them yesterday, 4/22, and they all had capped queen cells.
    If they hive you pulled the split from had swarm cells, they may swarm with a virgin. I've pulled the queen and made a split from a hive with swarm cells and they swarmed with a virgin queen

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    Nice to hear from you crabbydad. I have seen a few drones flying yesterday and more today. I think by the time that the (now queenless) colony raises a queen there will be interested drones. Since they became queenless on APRIL 18, I imagine she will emerge around May 1, and will be going on mating flights around the 5th or after.

    Thanks for the warning about the swarm cells. I will take a good look after the rain ends on Thursday or Friday.

    Phil

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    Update on split: The concern when I decided to split was whether there were sufficient numbers of drones in the neighborhood where I had left the hive queenless. In summary, when I split on April 18:

    1. I saw a lot of drones in the queenless hive.
    2. I left behind a frame with many eggs and very young brood.

    I expected that the queen would emerge around the first of May, so I went into the hive today to look for empty queen cell(s). I expected the queen to start mating flights sometime this week.

    The one thing I did NOT anticipate was what I found; a laying worker(s) hive.

    There were quite a few queen cells, some open at the bottom, suggesting emerging queens. One was still unopened. I am scratching my head as to what happened. I am also wondering if there is any way to save this colony.

    Were all the queens rejected and killed? (I did not see a queen walking around).

    I would appreciate any ideas.

    Phil

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    Quote Originally Posted by philip.devos View Post
    The one thing I did NOT anticipate was what I found; a laying worker(s) hive.

    I would appreciate any ideas.

    Phil
    Don't write it off just yet. I would suggest that what you are seeing is a very newly mated queen just getting the hang of things. Check in about a week and see if she hasn't gotten the egg laying thing figured out, and there is only 1 egg in each cell.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    I agree with Ruth. I had a new queen lay multiple eggs in cells as she first got going, apparently it is quite common. They were all on the bottom so I knew everything was ok. My experience is that a hive will not go laying worker when queen cells are present. Also, queens I started March 31st have only been laying for just over a week now.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    Thanks for the reply, Ruth. I had originally planned to wait until the 15th or 16th to see if there were any eggs or brood. I'll take a look next week.

    Phil

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    >I split on April 18

    Drop dead date for a queen is: 12 days to emergence + 21 days to get mated = 33 days. That would be May 21 which is not for another 12 days.

    http://bushfarms.com/beesmath.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    Not to argue with Michael, who is way more experienced, but last year I had a laying queen about 10 days after emergence. Not this year though. In fact they were pushing the other end at the full 21 days before I saw the first egg. Can you take a photo of the frame?
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Should I wait to see drones before I split?

    Thanks Michael and JW. I am a bit too antsy.

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