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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
This is my first reared queen and this is hopefully an easy question for all of you pros:

I set up an observation hive earlier this month and the few frames of bees and brood I populated it with have succseefully formed a queen cell from which a virgin queen emerged this last Tuesday February 16 around noon.

We've had good weather the last few days but it is too early for her to fly and we have a long spell of rain coming up.

I've seen so many reference to 'the virgin queen has to mate within 20 days or she becomes a drone layer', but it is never clear to me from these references if this is 20 days from emergence or not.

Can someone help clarify for me - do I have until 20 days from noon on February 16th for my virgin queen to become mated (ie: until March 8th) or is the window shorter than that?

More specifically, we are supposed to have a couple good warm sunny days on February 27th and 28th (12 days after emergence) - am I in good shape or could I have a problem?

-fafrd
 

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Hi fafrd,
It can take as long as 30 days from egg. MB's site has a nice chart for the cycle.
Do you have drones flying over there? I don't have any over here in my hives yet.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
KQ6AR,

thanks for the reminder. I've read MB's site for just about everything else - I should have checked it for my answer before posting my question (on the other hand, there is ALOT of informaton on MBs website, so sometimes a quick question is a more efficient way to get an answer :D).

From MB's website, he indicates queens emerging 15-17 days from laying of the egg, and mating flights 21-28 days from the same starting point.

This should mean that mating fights happen at least 6 days after emergence and as muany as 11 day after emergence, right?

This at least implies I should be within the 'mating window' during the two days of good weather we are expecting at the end of the month and it also implies that the commonly held '20 day upper limit' refers to 20 days after emergence, but I did not see anything on MBs website regarding the upper limit on the mating window and the timeframe by which a virgin queen is doomed to laying only drones if she does not successfully mate before then (though I checked MBs site quickly and wll review some of the other pages in more depth).


In answer to your question on drones, my hives do not have drones yet but the hives are still very small - in fact I suspect that in one of my hives the queen has layed some drones which have been removed by the workers.

On the other hand, I've heard of at least two swarms in the Bay Area over the past couple weeks and the folks at the Alameda County Beekeepers Association tell me that swarm activity in this area will really pick up by the beginning of March, so I am hopeful that stronger hives and feral hives have already started poducing drones. Also, odfrank, who keeps a lot of bees on the oter side of the Bay, has seen drones in a few of his hives.

Didn't really cost me much (pulled a frame of brood and a frame of honey and pollen from my strongest hive) and watching the observation hive as they have gone thrugh the process of generatng an emergecy queen has been absolutey fascinating. If I don't get worker brood by mid-March, I can always squish this drone layer, add another frame of fresh brood from my strongest hive, and try again!

My bees are ignoring all sugar syrup and bringing in great quantities of nectar now - what's going on over at your side of the hill?

-fafrd
 

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Discussion Starter #5
i have had queens mate perfectly many days over the 20th day after emerging.
Beekuk,

thanks for this information - hopefully I'll be in good shape (and will know if it has all worked out a month from now!).

-fafrd
 

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I had a late Sept. re-queening in one hive, and didn't know if she mated or not til Jan, but I kept her going for a while to build up the drone population before trying to replace her, now it's loaded with drones (who also need time to mature) and a queen cell, hopefully the weather will co-operate this time. So maybe keep that drone layer around for just that purpose. I was surprised how strong that hive remained over winter without brood since middle of Sept., however we've had over 4 weeks of flying weather here, so last years bees are dropping off pretty fast now. If I wasn't adding brood I'm sure it would be too weak to save by now.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Scorpster,

can you tell me how often you have been adding brood to your drone-laying hive and how much you have been adding each time?

I have another hive that has either lost its queen or has a queen which is starting to fail and appears to be now only laying drones - I am interested in the technique you used to savage your drone-laying hive as may want to try the same thing. Thanks for sharng any additional details of your experience.

-fafrd
 

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Put in a frame with one side all stages of brood without killing the queen Jan 28, they didn't take the bait. I thought they might want to supercede the drone layer and wanted her to lay as many drones as possible. Feb 13 I killed the queen and installed another frame of mixed brood, at which time there was even more capped drone brood and upon inspection Feb 17 there was 1 uncapped queen cell full of jelly and a larvae. Hopefully she will mate this time, weather permitting. FYI, we are about 10 weeks earlier than last year, forsythia, early plums, crocus, all in bloom now. I've been feeding pollen sub and syrup for a month now, but they've been bringing in loads of pollen all that time too. I forced another strong hive into 1 deep last week as well, hoping to make it produce swarm cells for splits ASAP. Full inspections tomorrow could bring on a whole new game plan though.
 

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

Huber says 21 days after emergence she will become a drone layer after she mates if she has not mated before then. That seems about right by my experience. I'm sure there is a bit of a range, but that's a good guess. I always figure if they aren't laying three weeks after emergence, I dispose of them and put another queen cell in the nuc...
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Michael,

thanks for the reference, this clears it up for me. Here's the quote from Huber regarding lack of fertility after 20 days:

"It is undoubted, therefore, that when the copulation of queens is retarded beyond the twentieth day, only an imperfect impregnation is operated: instead of laying the eggs of workers and males equally, they will lay none but those of males."

And here is another quote from Huber about successful mating on the 16th day following emergence:

"On the sixteenth day, I set her at liberty: she left the hive, rose aloft in the air, and soon returned with full evidence of impregnation. In two days, she laid, first the eggs of workers, and afterwards as many as the most, fertile queens"

So based on the emergence of my queen on February 16, she should be fine if we get some good weather by March 4th and if it stays cold and wet through March 9th I will likely need to start over.

-fafrd
 

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Thanks for the info.
Somewhere I had read she had about 2 weeks to breed. Now I see there might actually be a little more time.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Scorpster,

thanks for the reply. I may be in the same situation as you. Added a frame of brood last week and plan to do so again this week and the following week if needed. Waiting for a warm day before I do a full inspection and if I find the old queen may follow your example and eliminate her in the hopes that they create a new one from the fresh brood.

We've got rain and 50-55 degrees now and it doesn't apear that it is going to let up for the next couple weeks. What are the temperatue up in your neck of the woods? Is this your first experience trying to breed a queen this early in the season?

I hatched a virgin queen on February 16th in the observation hive I just set up, and I'm going to wait to see if she can fnd a day with good enough weather and DCA with some drones present to get mated.

Will let you know how it turns out...

-fafrd
 

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A couple of years ago I had one queen that looked very nice, but somehow she missed her opportunity to mate, or for some other reason was unable to lay fertilized eggs. Here she is, my beautiful drone-laying Cordovan:



If only there was an obvious outward sign indicating a queen's status. Instead, it is only obvious once some of their brood gets capped. By then they can have laid many combs full of drone brood, most of which is in worker cells. It just seems like a waste of time and resources - producing drone-laying queens.
 
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