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I've been getting by for five years now with no queen program and it caught up with me this spring . Opening some of the hives they were very low on numbers and became moldy with the low number of bee's and to many box's most still had a queen but she wasn't laying much anymore .Affected hives had plenty of honey no deformed wing virus and other hives that got the same oav treatments were booming coming out of the winter . I was in the habit of catching my on swarms when I wasn't doing good swarm control and in doing so was ending up with even more old queens .I have the losses under control now did a few splits and took the extra queen cells out to replace queens in the hives that were in trouble pretty much all have rebounded and doing well . I,ve been aware for sometime that i needed to raise my own queens and replace queens every two years but i never got it going . I see two ways to start raising my own queens and have them available when i need them , the problem is to have queens early in the season before drones are available for mating I need to overwinter some nucs something i haven't tried yet , the other option is if i could get my hives through later into spring when drones are available then I could raise my own queens using the cloake board method or Joseph Clemens method explained by David Laferney or many other methods . Any insite or ideas from the guys that have been doing this for some time now would be greatly appreciated .
 

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I think your queen rearing would depend on your goal, honey or bees. I concentrate on bees and think of honey as a by-product. Because of that I start to split hives when the winter breaks in late April using flyback splits. I base that on my Apple trees flowering the 1st week of May. Those colonies build up enough to make some honey but not bursting with it by July. Sometime in June I start small amounts of grafting and use those queens for nucs harvested from my strongest hives.

This year I plan to expand my grafting operation after harvest and split up almost everything to put it in a nuc for winter. I've never lost a 5 frame nuc, except to bears. I will mark the ones that have old queens and see what they do next spring. Going into winter anything that looks weak gets combined so that wimpy hives don't go into winter. I assume you have a strong fall flow since we are not that far apart and near the river.

My numbers aren't huge yet and I'm still recovering from 2 bear attacks last year that wiped out a lot of my hives. So far, I've been able to have fresh queens available if needed and use my best older queens for creating new ones. My plan may also completely break down as I expand, but it is working for me so far along with trapping swarms.
 

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I simply use nucs. I did not do it this past year and it was a mistake. Sometimes using swarm queen cells other times I purchased mated queens. I can usually replace a winter loss (not required lately) or merge to replace a queen early in the Spring. I am one hive over my desired quantity of 6-8 hives but will start two nucs soon from hives with lots of bees & brood.
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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One of the ways you can manage your aging queens is to remove the old queen to a nuc and allow the hive to requeen itself in the summer. You get a post summer soltice queen for your production colonies, and still have a backup in case a few fail to return. Those nucs can overwinter and be allowed to raise a new queen in the spring, or be given a purchased queen. Meanwhile, your production colonies are off to the races with a young queen and a flow.
 
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