Drone Congregation Area Saturation
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  1. #1
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    Default Drone Congregation Area Saturation

    I'm hoping that someone who reads this thread will have tried this and will be able to provide useful feedback on how to optimize a strategy that I've been thinking about.

    I've managed varroa in my apiary with organic acids (oxalic acid vaporization and formic acid strips), green drone comb placement (so that they can be removed, frozen, and eliminated), and hive splitting and requeening with queens raised from my best hives to introduce brood breaks that would hamper varroa reproduction.

    This year I am going to be devoting significant effort to improving my apiary's genetic stock (queens of a few different lines ordered from a few different sources), and in addition to grafting larvae and raising queen cells from these queens, I want to pull frames of drone brood from my best hives and from these new queens in an effort to saturate my drone congregation area by selectively placing them into a few nucs at nearby outapiaries (instead of freezing them). I'd be using my older, less productive queens (ones that would otherwise have been given Michael Palmer's hive tool test) to serve as the queens in these nucs...they're really just being created to be overflowing with drones...

    The number of drones raised this way will stack the deck favorably when the virgins take their mating flights and will hopefully result in improved local genetics overall with my bees having a greater ability to cope with varroa, make it through a New England winter, bring in the honey, etc.

    I'm a little worried about creating mite bombs with these nucs that might ultimately hurt my apiary.

    Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions from personal experience in doing something like this? Are there any articles or chapters that you can suggest I read that might detail important steps/procedures to increase the probability of success?

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  3. #2
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    Powhatan, Virginia, USA
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    Default Re: Drone Congregation Area Saturation

    Depends a lot on where you are located in relation to other beekeepers and "feral" hives.
    You can stack the deck a little by surrounding your mating yard with hives containing your desired drones.
    They need to be 1/2 - 3/4 mile or so away, as well as getting your drones in as many other surrounding beeks as you can.
    Hard to saturate the area.
    I do it to get more VSH drones in the area that I am mating F1 daughters of II breeder Queens but it is always going to be an open mating random result.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Drone Congregation Area Saturation

    " I'm a little worried about creating mite bombs with these nucs that might ultimately hurt my apiary. "

    Just an idea... You are not going to pull honey off these nucs, and they are 'hivetool" queens, so why can't you rotate treatments biweekly all summer?

  5. #4
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  6. #5
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    Default Re: Drone Congregation Area Saturation

    Your mileage may vary, but here's what I found: "saturating" my area with available drones did little to progress my breeding efforts.

    Many commercial queen producers need to saturate their DCAs with drones in order to make sure enough drones are available to effectuate mating. When mating a few hundred or a few thousand queens per week, that makes sense. But it's of little concern to me and my 5 queen every other week operation (at best). Still others saturate their DCAs to propagate their genetics as opposed to "feral" genetics. But I've never been able to secure the right property holdings to make this work (one queen breeding yard in the center, and at least 4 other outyards, each at least .5 miles away from the main yard and .5 miles away from every other outyard, ideally one in each compass direction). So I made do with what I had (one main yard, and two other outyards within 2 miles of the original yard). Things were progressing in my breeding operation, but I was having some mite issues from my drone yards. After some of those colonies collapsed, and I had to move some others into a few other locations I had, I realized my drone production was significantly limited and lacking. But I kept raising queens anyway. I didn't notice a decrease in my breeding operation. I've since abandoned the use of drone outyards. It's too much trouble for me with not enough benefit.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Drone Congregation Area Saturation

    msl: Thank you for those two reprints. Very helpful information, and it doesn't surprise me that Larry Connor was giving this advice over a decade ago...He recommended a caged virgin queen in the hive to keep the nurse bees from trying to raise a queen from any eggs that got put into the drone nucs, which is different than my thought about using a queen pulled from a less productive hive that was being broken up to make new nucs...I guess an artificial queen could be used instead to provide the queen mandibular pheromone and fool the bees into thinking everything is just hunky dory.

    specialkayme: Your 'mite issues from your drone yards'...were they just weak because of high mite counts, or were the drones coming back to your main yards and being welcomed (along with their mites) into your production hives?
    As Outdoor N8 suggested, these drone nucs aren't going to be production hives, so being proactive with treatments may well be able to help keep them from becoming mite bombs.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Drone Congregation Area Saturation

    You don't want to be putting the drones into nuc's. They need to be in strong hives that have PLENTY of pollen. Tons of it. And the capacity to keep on bringing it in by the doodoo load.

    Drones are a luxury afforded only during the pollen flow, then the boys get to die. Place them near the DCA!

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Drone Congregation Area Saturation

    Repeated or atypically frequent mite treatments of the drone yard hives may have unintended consequences: The drone mother queens and drones themselves maybe harmed by the treatments leading to lower fertility, or chromosomal damage that would express in the offspring of your queens that mated with drone-yard drones;

    And if you're just moving the drone frames to the the drone yard to complete their development and mature sexually, where are they coming from? If they are coming from the yards where you're also raising your grafted queens, then it is possible that you will inadvertently create new queens with too-many similar sex alleles to the available drones from the drone yard which results in a poor brood pattern as a high populations of the resulting brood are aborted by the workers caring for them. Virgin queens typically fly farther than the their brother-drones. But if you've moved their brothers to a more distant outyard, they could wind up mating with them despite their normal natural choice to not do so.

    Wicwas Press has a very interesting book on queen mating behavior. The authors are German and there are a few bumps in the translation. But I learned a lot from it, and I pick up something new every time I re-read it. The title is "The Mating Behavior of Honey Bees (Apis mellifera)" by Gundrun Koeniger, et al. Pricey little book ($48 on Amazon) but useful.

    Nancy

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Drone Congregation Area Saturation

    Quote Originally Posted by Knisely View Post
    specialkayme: Your 'mite issues from your drone yards'...were they just weak because of high mite counts, or were the drones coming back to your main yards and being welcomed (along with their mites) into your production hives?
    As Outdoor N8 suggested, these drone nucs aren't going to be production hives, so being proactive with treatments may well be able to help keep them from becoming mite bombs.
    Both. The drone colonies had a tendency of collapsing much easier, and mite counts in all neighboring colonies had a tendency of increasing proportionately. I never let the drone colonies completely collapse though.

    I don't treat colonies for mites. I treat yards. So if one colony is collapsing from high mite counts, all colonies in the yard get treated. Frequent, rotating treatments isn't great for drone stock. Switching between formic, oxalic, and thymol takes a toll on a colony and the fertility of drones.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Drone Congregation Area Saturation

    I'm not sure I understand your logic. I think I understand some of it. So you're taking drone brood from your best hives and putting it in the nucs so they will emerge? What are you breeding from? I get the impression you're buying stock to breed from. I would never breed from stock I bought that hasn't been through the winter. Winter is the great selector for winter hardiness. There really is no other... As far as "mite bombs", I allow all the drone comb they want in my hives and my mite counts are never high. But I'm also on small cell comb. The drone comb isn't a problem for me.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Drone Congregation Area Saturation

    Nancy & Michael: I expect to have enough genetic diversity that inbreeding won’t be a major problem. I appreciate your statement that winter is a great selector for winter hardiness, Michael, and using some drone brood from the queens coming in will be a potential liability if they are no better at huddling up through the winter and no better with hygienic behavior, whether that’s mite biting or pulling brood with varroa under the capping.

    I’ve been thinking about pulling the queens from the nucs and replacing them with queen mandibular pheromone containing strips. Any brood (drone or worker) in the NYC will hatch out and all the mites will be phoretic and subject to being knocked down with a single OAV treatment. That might still keep those boys randy & ready and fully loaded with good quality sperm.

    Has OAV’s impact on sperm quality been evaluated?

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Drone Congregation Area Saturation

    >Has OAV’s impact on sperm quality been evaluated?

    I have seen on study on the topic, but I doubt it has any impact one way or the other.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Drone Congregation Area Saturation

    Quote Originally Posted by Knisely View Post
    Nancy & Michael: I expect to have enough genetic diversity that inbreeding wonít be a major problem. I appreciate your statement that winter is a great selector for winter hardiness, Michael, and using some drone brood from the queens coming in will be a potential liability if they are no better at huddling up through the winter and no better with hygienic behavior, whether thatís mite biting or pulling brood with varroa under the capping.

    Iíve been thinking about pulling the queens from the nucs and replacing them with queen mandibular pheromone containing strips. Any brood (drone or worker) in the NYC will hatch out and all the mites will be phoretic and subject to being knocked down with a single OAV treatment. That might still keep those boys randy & ready and fully loaded with good quality sperm.

    Has OAVís impact on sperm quality been evaluated?
    just something to consider. using a proven mother as M.Bush stated is a solid and typical practice. that mother might be an open mated queen used "as is" to produce more production style colonies or you might cross proven survivors by insemination and then graft cells off that inseminated breeder for open mating.

    as you said, you are trying to bring in some new genetics. if you think of this in the longer term, it is wise to use the new stock simply to produce drones for next year or some time in the future to be crossed to your already proven breeders. that is especially true if you are using something with a track record like vsh where you are trying to incorporate that into your current bees. i'd take your newly obtained breeders and simply graft a pile of daughters and not worry about any of the matings right now. you are simply making mothers to raise drone stock with a proven trait. next year or later this summer you can sort thru some of the drone mothers and cull as needed or even find some that are exceptional. you saturate your surrounding area with those drone mothers and then graft off the proven breeder looking for acceptable crosses.

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