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I know next to nothing about queen rearing but it interests me & i have a question. If you were to graph in the late season when the queen is laying winter worker eggs and you grafted from those eggs would it yield a better queen?
 

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If you graft late in the season when winter bees are being raised you will get poorly mated queens as most colonies have evicted the drones by the time those queens are ready to mate.
 

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I do the opposite, I want the early Queens.
By fall every package and NUC, in the area, has mature drones and you may mate with many non-local bees from who knows about winter survivability.
My spring splits (dandelion time) Have the surviving colonies who have drones which tend to be overwintered local survivors. I try to get mated before the influx of "purchased" bees get drones out the door.

Not sure the eggs matter, what differs from spring egg to fall egg of the same Queen?

GG
 

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I try to keep a handful of earliest mated queens around for selection the following spring as breeders. Because right now everyone and their three month old packages is issuing thousands of drones to DCAs.
I don't keep great track of this, but I do not graft from nucs (because nucs are queens that I combined down from my latest batch of mated queens, which in theory have the most package genetic potential).

Regarding timing, there's an idea (or maybe it's proven somehow) that post solstice queens lay better. I guess that might be true, but I don't worry too much about it.

From a genetics standpoint the queen random contribution doesn't change from egg 1 to 1,000,000 and the drone sperm contribution also does not change (other than being a single sperm sample from her spermatheca). So it's not like she knows "oh, this one drone I mated with makes the best workers for winters, I'll start laying eggs fertilized with his sperm now." There's obviously genetic variability, but the genetic side is not seasonal whatsoever.

As stated above, I try to focus on queen rearing as early as I can here specifically to avoid the pollution of the pool by package bees. I'm not as crazy as some on here. I remember at least one person who was shaking their packages through queen excluders in order to kill off any drones that came in with the packages that might contribute to their early mated queens. That's bananas to me, but... shrug I think once you get into this for a few years you kind of figure out what a good colony is vs a bad colony and it kind of unfolds for you.
 

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As stated above, I try to focus on queen rearing as early as I can here specifically to avoid the pollution of the pool by package bees.....
I will argue that the earliest drones ARE those from the packages (because they come WITH the packages - already pre-packeged; no need to raise them).
At my location the local drones are always 1-2 month behind and you do want to mate rather later than earilier.
 

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I will argue that the earliest drones ARE those from the packages (because they come WITH the packages - already pre-packeged; no need to raise them).
At my location the local drones are always 1-2 month behind and you do want to mate rather later than earilier.
I could see that being an issue regionally. Here, if the weather cooperates, I can get the first round mated before people even get their packages. But it's always close. This year was terrible in that regard.

That said, my overwintered colonies have 2+ foundationless frames in them, so they should issue a lot more drones than would make it here in a package, typically.
 

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I could see that being an issue regionally.
Yes; somehow in my locality the spring is always late and cold (relative closeness to the Lake Michigan maybe part of it).
 

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I will argue that the earliest drones ARE those from the packages (because they come WITH the packages - already pre-packeged; no need to raise them).
At my location the local drones are always 1-2 month behind and you do want to mate rather later than earilier.
disagree
sure if you mate too early, if you watch your drones and mate when they are present all the rest of the overwintered hives will also be at that point and it is the best.
some of my queens were laying before the package orders showed.
And the math, I will have 20 ish 2 to 3 deep hives and in a 5 mile circle maybe there will be 5 packages, so I have them 20 to 1 at the start, now later when they have brood hatching, it changes, and it changes different with NUCs, and it changes when orchards have bees shipped in.

Just like looking for bloom One should look for hives coming and going.

I do not force the first split until 1 hive has swarm cells, this year was late but I still had good luck 16 of 18 splits have good laying queens, 1/2 are big enough to only have "wintering" left as a checkbox for next years splits.

if you would have forced queens to soon for local drones then you would be correct.
No one I know raises queens too soon over here. Do they over by you? If one is going to raise queens one quickly figures out the DCA is their friend , or not, depending, on which week it is.
IMO the norm is people raising queen know that, and have it in the plan.

GG
 

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disagree
sure if you mate too early, if you watch your drones and mate when they are present all the rest of the overwintered hives will also be at that point and it is the best.
some of my queens were laying before the package orders showed.
...........
if you would have forced queens to soon for local drones then you would be correct.
No one I know raises queens too soon over here. Do they over by you? If one is going to raise queens one quickly figures out the DCA is their friend , or not, depending, on which week it is.
IMO the norm is people raising queen know that, and have it in the plan.

GG
In my local group someone always start asking about the drone situation in spring (for splitting/mating/etc).
One of the local bee sellers usually reports his drone status (usually the same guy).
This is our local reference point.

So now, 2-3 years ago (I wrote on BS) I had some "crazy" bees and those successfully re-queened in mid-April.
The ONLY way that was possible by the freshly delivered package drones, as it was just way to early for us here.
I have this very specific case that happened to me.

It is very common around here the first packages are arriving in April and they often contain drones.
Our local drones never ready until sometimes in May (or even later).

So, here it is.
I searched my gmail and here is a local exchange from March/April/May 2019:

Question for you guys....

A promising overwintered swarm went queen-less recently (I found capped brood; lots of emergency QCs).
I'd like to keep this swarm line in observation still, since it overwintered so well the brutal winter (despite the visible mites too).
Well, chances of open mating for the upcoming virgin are likely close to zero (should occur at the end of April/start of May - magically somehow).
So this swarm line will probably terminate.
..........................
Still thinking about it, but I just don't see how this upcoming virgin could mate at all this early in season.
Maybe you can talk me into it.
.........................
She did mate and been laying at least 7-8 days as of May 4th.
Few good days at the end of April was enough.
Though the drones might be the imported, package drones (not exactly ideal, but maybe good enough for a honey resource).
 

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So now, 2-3 years ago (I wrote on BS) I had some "crazy" bees and those successfully re-queened in mid-April.
The ONLY way that was possible by the freshly delivered package drones, as it was just way to early for us here.
I have this very specific case that happened to me.
I'm not trying to start an argument. I'm Zone 5B or maybe 5A. I'm not sure what zone you're in... and yes, it varies regionally as well as year-to-year. But as long as there's flight weather Mid-April here, I wouldn't be worried about a queen being mated with LOCAL drones at all. My big, overwintered triple-deep colonies have drones going in February on good years. And have purple eye pupae by early-April I would say "always".

I don't believe that the "ONLY" way you got a queen mated was with package drones.
But what do I know?

I graft on the Wednesday or Thursday nearest April 15th. And there's more than one or two years in the five years I've been doing that in which I would have been better off grafting April 1st because of how the weather in late-April worked out. I genuinely think that mating flight weather, not local drone availability, is the constraint for me in this area.
 

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I'm not trying to start an argument.
No need. Let's keep it local.

I will say though I will be surprised (and probably uninformed) about how early some bees my actually start drone rearing.
This sounds out of tune with the local climate however (as of me).
But the influence of the imported bees is a fact (no argument there).

Below are my local historical graphs for April 2019-2021 around here.
Flying weather is hardly available here even IF any drones are available.

If some bees are pumping drones for April mating, these bees are utterly out of tune with my local climate.
But I will concede, if southern packages are sold, many of these packages will, indeed, over-winter and pump their drones as they see fit.
 

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Trying to re-post my local April weather.
Weather suitable for mating - 0-3 day for the entire month.
2021 - April 25, 26, 27 (otherwise way too early).
2020 - virtually none (April 7 too early)
2019 - April 20, 21, 22 (the only window when my 2019 queen was able to mate)


64791
 

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No need. Let's keep it local.

I will say though I will be surprised (and probably uninformed) about how early some bees my actually start drone rearing.
This sounds out of tune with the local climate however (as of me).
But the influence of the imported bees is a fact (no argument there).

Below are my local historical graphs for April 2019-2021 around here.
Flying weather is hardly available here even IF any drones are available.

If some bees are pumping drones for April mating, these bees are utterly out of tune with my local climate.
But I will concede, if southern packages are sold, many of these packages will, indeed, over-winter and pump their drones as they see fit.
You're definitely a little cooler than we are here, but not a whole lot (a couple degrees maybe, and I acknowledge that does make a big difference early in the year). The drones this year early-season were flying in numbers that were totally remarkable and in cooler weather than I have ever noticed before. 60-65 degrees and it wasn't just a couple of them... it was tons of them. Just looked through my phone, April 17th, high of 61 here. Mostly sunny. Drones obviously making mating flights, gobs of them and not just one colony.

I haven't bought 'commercial' bees in eight years, just been breeding from swarms I caught and the survivors of whatever mix I've been lucky enough to get through with. I've brought in some queens from Michael Palmer a few years ago. And this year I just dropped in five Caucasian queens from Old Sol a few days ago. I don't know... just to give you a basis of what "my bees" are. They're not southern packages that survived the winter... I got rid of all of those years ago. I don't know what you winter in, and it doesn't really matter... but bees in a triple deep come out of winter vastly different than those in doubles or nucs. Maybe I'm selecting for early drones somehow? I mean, I'm not going to graft from a colony that isn't strong enough to be producing drones for April, because in my opinion that's not a strong colony in my experience. Or maybe a better way to say it is that I don't believe it's producing to it's full potential. Queens that I overwinter in nucs, I think, would also have early drones if given the space and winter cluster size to come through strong enough to do so.

It isn't uncommon at all to have swarm cells that I need to cut out in April, at least a couple of weeks before package bees start becoming available here. I'm usually reversing in March and when I do so there might still be snow on the ground. Good colonies/queens might have 8 (more?) frames of brood when supers go on a week or two after reversing unless weather is absolutely terrible (and sometimes it is). A triple deep might get 4-5 medium supers in early April. And I've never had starvation issues in production colonies in the spring. Usually I'm shuffling honey from them to give them space and to help keep nucs well fed.

I know some of that goes against conventional wisdom, but I'm not the only one keeping bees like this. I know he is kind of an abrasive fella, and he got ran out of here years ago (probably deservingly slow... he isn't particularly tactful), but Tim Ives does this same type of management (in Indiana) and he is treatment free. I'm not TF. There's a guy up in Saskatchewan name Rick... something, I can't remember. He's got bees in well insulated hives that put mine to shame and he's WAY up there.

Again, I'm not trying to be argumentative though I know it might sound that way. There's a lot of people who keep bees here locally who swear that our flows start in late-June or early-July, but my 100+ pound averages pulled before July 4th most years would beg to differ. It's all done by then, usually, as far as surplus goes. But there's usually enough trickle that I don't have to feed in the late summer/fall. Other than sometimes feeding nucs, I haven't fed bees for winter weight in 3 or 4 years. And I haven't fed nucs for a couple of years. They just don't have the colonies coming through winter that can capitalize on what I consider to be the "real" flows.
Again... it's all really local and (in my opinion) can also be tied to management practices. And I fully admit that colonies like this can absolutely SUCK to deal with because it's heavy and they're a headache to stay on top of... And depending on our individual goals/management we are likely to see entirely different things.

Just challenging the idea that queens mated in April are necessarily mating largely with package drones. :)

Edit to add that I am not disagreeing that there's not great weather in April for mating at all. It's totally hit and miss. I don't aim to have queens mating until first week of May as long as the forecast looks good. And the rule of earliest graft being when you have purple-eye drone pupae would put me earlier than my mid-April graft date by at least a week, maybe more. But that's just going by drone availability... if they can't fly, that's all useless, obviously.
 

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.........

Just challenging the idea that queens mated in April are necessarily mating largely with package drones. :)
OK.
I should adjust my view on this one.
There is plenty of over-wintered package bees.
This is just a good demonstration how hard to select bees locally adapted - they are continuously over-ridden by the imports.

Better bees for me would be those targeting the drones for May/June (for more reliable mating).
I am not in bee-selling business to push anything up.
 

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OK.
I should adjust my view on this one.
There is plenty of over-wintered package bees.
This is just a good demonstration how hard to select bees locally adapted - they are continuously over-ridden by the imports.
Better bees for me would be those targeting the drones for May/June.
I don't think I'm following you. Are you saying that my bees are over wintered package bees?

I don't disagree that battling the imported bees is a constant battle. But I can't wrap my head around the idea that mating bees later, when new packages will have full drone populations flying to DCAs, is better than mating them here before people are even shaking packages in. Like Grey Goose said, I've got a MUCH larger proportion of the drone population controlled in late-April into May than I do in June/July... by that time all of the packages have nice fresh drone populations AND the weather to fly in. When I'm getting virgins mating late-April (really early May, but late-April ballpark). I'm selecting not only for LOCAL drones because of the timing, but I am also using the weather to select for drones that are flying in larger numbers at cooler temperatures. If I'm not mating queens until it's sunny and 80 degrees consistently... then I'm also piggy backing all of the new packages in on that party. Which is what I'm trying to avoid for queens I want to try to graft from the following year (or two years).

Or maybe I'm just not following your thought process entirely. If that's the case, I apologize.

I fully realize that trying to avoid mating with certain drones is a total losing battle. That's why the queens I raise from June into August are basically just "production queens" in my eyes. My early mated queens are what I focus on in the subsequent years as they're likely to have mated with a higher percentage of local drones (using weather and time of year to select against fresh package drones as best I can). shrug That's why I give away queen cells to people locally and try to work with them when they need queens as best I can. Just trying to move the needle a tiny bit every year while also understanding that I'm a small fish in a big ocean!
 

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I don't think I'm following you. Are you saying that my bees are over wintered package bees?
Only few generations back, if that.
Most random swarms are nothing more but current/recent package bees as well.
If you are based on swarms - pretty much you run package bees.

Unless you are in Appalachia/South (where feral bees are present), here in Mid-West we are running mostly imported package bees.
 

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Only few generations back, if that.
Most random swarms are nothing more but current/recent package bees as well.
If you are based on swarms - pretty much you run package bees.

Unless you are in Appalachia/South (where feral bees are present), here in Mid-West we are running mostly imported package bees.
Ok, yeah, I wouldn't disagree with that at all. But I haven't caught swarms (that aren't from my colonies and even then, only two including one last night) in six years and have only been breeding from my survivors or in the case one one summer, from a queen I bought from MP the year before. The swarms I did catch years ago were at least from 'feral' colonies to the best of my knowledge. Meaning I caught them within a stones throw of a colony living in a tree, or a colony living in a church wall, or something like that. And some of them were absolutely terrible bees. haha

All that said... we're all just raising some variant of commercial bees. They dominate the genetic landscape in the US. I think about the best that most anyone at my size (<50 colonies) can do is kind of pick out what works best for them and their style as I do not for a second think that my queen crop of less than 100 a year is doing anything to really influence the overall shape of bees in the area. And without truly isolated mating or instrumental insemination there's no real hope, I don't think. This year I did pick up a yard about four miles down the road from my main yard, plopped a couple production colonies there. My mating nucs are in my main yard and this year I've had vastly improved mating returns. Remarkably so. Now... I've got know idea if that's related. But will be interesting to see if that continues in the next few years. If that's the case, then I might have a mental case for deluding myself into thinking that I could somewhat control crosses by further flooding the outyard (or moving my mating nucs there). And who doesn't like a little delusion? 😂

I'm under no illusion that I've got something special, just that I've got something that works (for me) :D
 

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Pretty much every time I had "worthy" bees (from the TF prospective), these were "late" bees.
This includes my current survivor line - they are running about a month later vs. most all the bees around.
I never understood people around me talking "drones" - it was way, way too early for me.

And so, IF one wants to mate with the survivor-style drones at my place, you want to mate late (June/July).

Anyway, I am adjusting my ways trying to preserve the bees that seem to fit better from the seasonal point of view.
Wasted too many good bees asking them to be everything (including TF) - just no possible at my place.
Looking back is painful that way.
 
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