Time before E Cell construction?
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  1. #1
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    Default Time before E Cell construction?

    I have often read and observed that bees will show signs of cell construction about 3 days after becoming queenless.

    In my present scenario I have been feeding in frames with brood to colony that came out of winter queenless. It is 4 or five frames now I have donated, and each time I have not seen cells started by day three. It seems like near the 5 day mark. (I am destroying them after capping as there are no drones flying to mate them.)

    Not only are they not starting to work on available day or two old larvae, they seem to wait till the last egg available hatches and then start cells on that larvae when it is a day or two old. That can make quite a time lapse.

    I have yet to find a cell capped in the time frame that would indicate that bees will choose an older, less suitable larvae if they have choices.

    Has anyone else been perplexed when testing for queenlessness and been nervous that the bees did not jump on it right away. I am adjusting my time frame to at least six days for obvious cell construction before assuming queenright or not.

    Going for some new queens and a couple nucs this weekend; six hundred mile round trip.
    Frank

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Time before E Cell construction?

    600 miles! Wow. I have posted before about the need to make sure there are fresh eggs, not appropriately aged larvae, on frames when doing walk away splits as it takes the bees some time to get moving on the E cells. As long as they get capped by day 9 post split, I figure all is good. I recently did a split and counted 1 capped cell and three started but still uncapped on May 21st. When I checked the hive 12 days later, I had no less than eight properly emerged cells on the frames. Where did the other four come from? They weren't there earlier. I think the bees actually started feeding them as queens before they even started drawing them out as queen cells and finished the job while I wasn't looking.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Time before E Cell construction?

    There are two kinds of 'queenlessness', which can affect how the colony responds. One is where the queen is no longer present and so the source of queen pheromone is abruptly absent - which usually provokes the drawing of a large number of emergency cells.

    The second is where the queen dies - invariably as a result of beekeeper error - and if this should go unnoticed, her body will stay in the hive where the presence of queen pheromone will persist for a short while, and then gradually begin to decline. This can cause supersedure, rather than emergency cells to be created, and even then, older larvae may be chosen due to the delayed response.
    I've only ever seen this once, when I was asked to look at a hive with just one 'emergency' q/cell. The marked queen was found on the hive floor - very dead indeed.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Time before E Cell construction?

    Quote Originally Posted by JWPalmer View Post
    600 miles! Wow. I have posted before about the need to make sure there are fresh eggs, not appropriately aged larvae, on frames when doing walk away splits as it takes the bees some time to get moving on the E cells. As long as they get capped by day 9 post split, I figure all is good. I recently did a split and counted 1 capped cell and three started but still uncapped on May 21st. When I checked the hive 12 days later, I had no less than eight properly emerged cells on the frames. Where did the other four come from? They weren't there earlier. I think the bees actually started feeding them as queens before they even started drawing them out as queen cells and finished the job while I wasn't looking.
    Yes the day 9 figure should be good. I agree that they may be feeding the larvae with queen rations even before it starts to turn down vertical. I think how new, soft and only half drawn cell walls have to be much easier to rework than hard old comb full of cocoons. The cells on the former can appear quite like a swarm cell drooper and the latter hardly any exterior construction at all.
    Frank

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Time before E Cell construction?

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    There are two kinds of 'queenlessness', which can affect how the colony responds. One is where the queen is no longer present and so the source of queen pheromone is abruptly absent - which usually provokes the drawing of a large number of emergency cells.

    The second is where the queen dies - invariably as a result of beekeeper error - and if this should go unnoticed, her body will stay in the hive where the presence of queen pheromone will persist for a short while, and then gradually begin to decline. This can cause supersedure, rather than emergency cells to be created, and even then, older larvae may be chosen due to the delayed response.
    I've only ever seen this once, when I was asked to look at a hive with just one 'emergency' q/cell. The marked queen was found on the hive floor - very dead indeed.
    LJ
    I think that degree of angst from queenlessness could well make the bees response more like supercedure than emergency. That may be why such nice queen cells result from a separation via the Snelgrove board.

    The colony I am nursing has been queenless for more than a month. That is one I suspected as having a near miss with suffocation. I emptied inches of dead bees from the bottom board and removed the bottom deep. Didn't dig through that mess looking for a queen , though did alcohol wash on dead bees- negative for mites.

    Now the combs I fed in were fresh from a very strong queen so maybe quite a bit of pheremones hanging around so the workers dont panic to start cells.
    They are up to about 5 seams of bees now so with a new queen should be at least a nuc status. This was a test hoping to rule out that they died of EFB: With no brood in the colony it is hard to diagnose for EFB. Hopefully the other 4 hives that died out in March were suffocated too. I will hate to wear that one but better than having to throw them away as EFB contaminated. I will test that water very gingerly though!

    Re. the older larvae; Just thinking that they could start feeding larvae that was five days from the egg and if in old comb might be another day or so before its constructon becomes obvious as JWP suggests. It could easily appear to have been started by rearing an aged larvae. I dunno. Seeing only one cell started is not comforting. I dont think I have ever seen less than 7 on a snelgrove initiated requeening.
    Frank

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Time before E Cell construction?

    "Bees soon become sensible of having lost their queen, and in a few hours commence the labour necessary to repair their loss. First, they select the young common worms, which the requisite treatment is to convert into queens, and immediately begin with enlarging the cells where they are deposited."--Huber's New Observations Upon the Natural History of Bees, Letter IV

    http://www.bushfarms.com/huber.htm#letter4

    My experience is they will start almost immediately. Like two hours. 12 days later there will be a virgin queen in the colony.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Time before E Cell construction?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    "Bees soon become sensible of having lost their queen, and in a few hours commence the labour necessary to repair their loss. First, they select the young common worms, which the requisite treatment is to convert into queens, and immediately begin with enlarging the cells where they are deposited."--Huber's New Observations Upon the Natural History of Bees, Letter IV

    http://www.bushfarms.com/huber.htm#letter4

    My experience is they will start almost immediately. Like two hours. 12 days later there will be a virgin queen in the colony.


    I disagree with this premise if it is put forth as being authoritative. Results can be as you quote and state, but they are most certainly not always so. I think there could be some substance to the points LJ mentions about the the suddeness and degree of being separated from the queen. My experience with many double screen division board separations point to there often being a longer period to start cells and certainly not always with the new larvae present at separation time. Perhaps this creates results functionally more like supercedure than emergency cells.

    My experience in the last month or so with giving combs with brood of all ages to queenless bees have not shown that quick a commencement. The capping time rules out having merely missed the first stages of construction which indeed can be hard to see on older comb. Perhaps having to work with older comb influences timing and choice of what age egg or larvae to work with.

    The state of this hive is more than a little bit unusual in that they have been queenless for a considerably long period of time and kept from starting laying worker by the repeated donation of comb freshly laid from a queenright colony. Population is minimal and conditions colder than avreage.

    I am confused a bit by their starting of only one cell each time and apparently not as soon as they could have done by starting with one or two day old larvae.

    The gist of it is that I think that a person can not guarantee a hive is queen right just because you see no start of cell construction immediately when presented with a test frame with brood of all ages. I think you would have to allow 5 days to be on the safe side.
    Frank

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Time before E Cell construction?

    I am with you Frank. Too many splits that have not had capped cells on day 5, or 6 for that matter. Residual queen pheromone may explain that. On the other hand, when grafting, cells are almost always capped by day 5. I need to buy a copy of Michael's book and give it to my bees. Tell them to get with the program.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Time before E Cell construction?

    Frank, I'm sure there is a range of variability between strains of bees, from hive to hive and from one time to the next. My own experience is to see the beginnings of queen cells 2-4 days after removing/losing a queen. I'm sure there is something to the queen substance delay if the dead queen's carcass remains in the hive. Have you seen this in more than one hive?

    On the upside, I'd personally be happy with bees (apparently) waiting to make queens from freshly hatched larva (waiting until day four or five to start queen cells). They should be better queens than an inter cast queen made from a three or four day old larva.
    ...We don't see things as they are, we see things as WE are...

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Time before E Cell construction?

    It is something I had not thought about a whole lot before. I will have to be more observant about timing variations in the future to see if I can connect other possibilities with the variability. On partly drawn new comb I have certainly seen construction very quickly. A few times there has been a delay that made me start to wonder if there were not even an unexpected vagrant queen in the works. Snelgrove also suggested that older foragers seemed more apt to starting cells upon older larvae than nurse bees would be. (Get er done, never mind dithering!)

    In a prosperous colony where all larvae are copiously fed from hatching onwards, there may be not be a decisive difference in queen quality between queenly designation of a one or a three day old larvae. In tough times it would be nice to think the larvae selected to be a queen got the favored treatment from day one.
    Frank

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Time before E Cell construction?

    >but they are most certainly not always so

    Obviously, nothing is "always"...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Time before E Cell construction?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    >but they are most certainly not always so

    Obviously, nothing is "always"...

    Yes, obviously, and I thought the thread was discussing reasons why the timing might vary from the norm. Had you put "usually" in your answer I would have agreed without any pushback.
    Frank

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Time before E Cell construction?

    Ray Marler had mentioned that when grafting, if you put a frame of eggs/larvae in the cell builder, 5 days PRIOR to adding the graft, the bees will draw out the grafts nicely. Like the young larvae "primed the pump". If you don't sometimes they won't. So it may be that bees which are not actively raising young brood have to "warm up" to feed the queen cell. I had a similar experience with really prolonged timing this year on some early queen rearing - the cell builder just took its sweet time!

    So perhaps a hive that was actively feeding lots of larvae responds quickly to losing a queen, because it can. And a hive that has not had brood to care for, and gets a load dumped into its lap, then shows a delay in starting to feed/care for queen cells.

    I am actually wondering if the bees can delay the brood in maturing by not heating the eggs/larvae. I mean, the egg/larvae should be able to survive that - think about a butterfly. Its eggs are at ambient temp. So are its larvae - the caterpillar. Temps will determine how quickly those mature. Could be something similar for a hive that wasn't a strong hive with a walkaway split or a suddenly removed queen vs one that wasn't actively raising brood and isn't as densely populated.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Time before E Cell construction?

    Trish, I think there are many subtle conditions that can induce bees to actions that seem to lie well outside their usual responses.

    I noticed that some of the donated frames with quite large areas of brood had much of the perimeter cells emptied of eggs and larvae. It was more than they could cover and likely perished and was perhaps eaten. The colony was underpopulated and queenless. At least they have not gone laying worker and are still starting a queen cell each time I tear down the previous one and give them a fresh frame. Maybe they are getting tired of my games!


    I will shake the bees off frames on Friday to make sure I have not missed any started cells. I should be home early enough for Saturday install of their new queen. After this month of fooling around they better appreciate her. If not, there are drones starting to fly now so they could make their own.
    Frank

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Time before E Cell construction?

    A week later I find that the first two cells capped have been torn down. Three other cells with well developed peanuts are being thinned down on the ends. The first cells started may have made a queen but the bees apparently decided their later efforts had more promise. It appears that when made queenless they can start feeding a several day old larvae or sometimes wait till one of the eggs available hatch and build on that.

    I wonder what all factors into their decision making.
    Frank

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