Beesource Beekeeping Forums banner

1 - 20 of 24 Posts

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
1,872 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
So, I have asked and wondered about overwintering queens in a queen bank for use in February to replace drone layers.
" Can't be done, can't be done, can't be done, can't be done," is all I have heard.
Last October, I had a few queens left in a queen bank that I had not looked at for a while.
I opened the queen bank and found that they had raised their own queen from the last time I recharged with brood frames.
The nuc was stuffed with young bees and lots of feed and 3 marked Carolinian queens left in California queen cages.
They looked great!
So, I pinched the queen they raised and wrapped up the queen bank in the same manner that I do with my nucs to overwinter.
Today ( February 3 )was 60 degrees so I took a peek; THEY LOOK GREAT!!!
I am going to use them soon to fix screw-ups.
How do you think they will do?
Have any of you ever done this? If so, how did things turn out?
It would sure be nice to overwinter a bunch of queens and have them available in almonds every year!
When I install these queens, I will prominently mark the hive so I can follow their progress into the season.
Should be interesting to see how they do. I'll let you know.
:)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,865 Posts
I am doing something similar. My preference is to try and overwinter the queens in small nucs (2-3 bars of comb) but plans changed when we got a 'real winter' this year. Now 3 queens and their entourage are camped out in my house. They had to come inside in early January. Research articles say that they will lay just fine this spring, but I plan to mark the nucs that I put them in and see for myself. here is a facebook link to the 3 videos I have done in FB on them. https://www.facebook.com/topbarbeehive/videos/2083085098384676/.

Please keep us posted Harry on how yours do.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
52 Posts
Harry, first of all great job keeping queens alive. Now you will have to keep us updated and provide pictures of your queen bank. Wife and I are doing a little queen rearing and are planning on ramping up production this year. Building nucs and fixing the one the bear got last fall is keeping me busy this winter, but this gives me something to think of while I am doing all that.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,949 Posts
A question:
If they were doing great, why did you pinch the queen? Change up the program? Just curious what your thinking was.

Possibly bees may prefer the laying queen coming out of winter and eventually ignore the caged queens & let them starve, but we have a fair amount of winter left.

I think if it can work, your timing on pinching the established queen may prove to be a critical factor, if indeed it is necessary to do at all.

Just off the cuff, I think If I felt pinching the loose queen was necessary, I'd cage her and bank her along with the others for 10 days before removing her to keep the colony from trying to make another queen cell. After all brood was capped, then pinch or remove established queen to turn the attention towards the banked queens for the remainder of the fall & winter.

If our spring is decent and arrives on time (Unlike last year) let us know how you managed those caged queens if they are still viable and how their seasonal performance measures up.

I've not tried it, but if you have Carniolan types that go broodless for months during winter I don't see why they wouldn't bank for extended period of time, as well, right along side house bees living for an extended period of time during the winter months with extended inactivity.
I think it will all boil down to keeping the banked queens surrounded by the cluster and not left below as they move up to feed & what you do with them to transition into the late winter die off/ spring build up period.

I'm actually a little envious I didn't think of it and try it too :rolleyes:

Would I like to be able to say "I have 50 overwintering queens banked right now?" You are darn right I would!

Good luck!
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
1,872 Posts
Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Ruth, we overwinter many nucs as well every winter. In addition, I have overwintered as many as 40 mini mating nucs for use in almonds.
It has been a very reliable and worthwhile part of our business.
But I was always curious if a queen bank can in some way be overwintered.
Sure; the 3 queens look really good. But will they ever lay a single egg?
Will they be replaced right off the bat?
This will be interesting to find out.

Lauri, you suggested: "Possibly bees may prefer the laying queen coming out of winter and eventually ignore the caged queens & let them starve, but we have a fair amount of winter left."
Yes. that was my thought. I wanted the bees to turn their full attention to the caged queens.

Actually, I was taught that if a queen was ever loose in a bank of queens they would stop caring for the caged queens.
But I have not seen that to be the case during the season.
What is your experience with that?

Oldsap, I think your wife an you will really like my queen bank frames.
I will make an effort to post a picture of the frame with the queens.

I will be using the queens in the next week in almonds. We'll know soon enough!
Of course, I'm already thinking ahead to next year if this works.
Maybe 3 or 4 queen banks with a dozen queens each, stuffed with young bees as late into fall as possible???
Sounds like an expensive gamble.
Fun to think about anyway...
:)
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
10,444 Posts
a very cool idea and something i would be interested in trying if you report success harry. seems like mike bush made a post a while back about having banked a number of queens like that for several months.

a photo would be nice. i'm trying to imagine how how one might place the queens in the banking hive in such a way that they remain enclosed in the winter cluster until spring.

i envision using a single 10 frame box and rotating in honey on the not so cold days to keep the cluster from moving or possibly maintaining a sugar block overhead.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,313 Posts
Hi Harry - I think the "can't be done" attitude probably stems from numerous historical experiments which have failed when trying to achieve this - that's certainly the impression I gained when once considering the banking of queens over winter ... so like many other people I resorted to over-wintering nucs instead - a second-best and relatively expensive option if it's only the queen which is of value.

So - if you or anyone else could come up with a half-way dependable method of over-wintering banked mated queens - that would indeed solve an awful lot of problems !

If you ARE successful, then this will pose an interesting conundrum - just how much historical information can be relied upon, and how much could benefit from being re-assessed ?

Very best of luck with this.
LJ
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,949 Posts
Actually, I was taught that if a queen was ever loose in a bank of queens they would stop caring for the caged queens.
But I have not seen that to be the case during the season.
What is your experience with that?
I don't bank queen for very long, generally just a few days so I can collect on a regular schedule.

But when I get a 'queenless' banking colony that ends up queenright, they still take good care of the banked queens with relaxed nurse bees on the cages. But after a certain point of the queenright effects, when there is capped new brood, when those banked queens come out and new queens go in, there is instant aggressive clinging to the new JZBZ cages. Tells me something's up. That's when I dig deep & find all that new brood.

Ether they made a queen out of booster brood frames as you said, or I transferred a supercedure queen out of an older hive without realizing she existed. (Because I found the older marked queen before I removed brood frames) The old 2 queen trick they pull on us once in a while, ya know.

The eventual preference for the loose laying queen and ultimate neglect of the cages queens may be true in seasonal months, but you know, winter bees are different. I think it would be neat to get as many other folks as possible willing to try this under different circumstances and configurations and start a new thread next fall to monitor the progress and results.

I always rear a few good batches of late summer queens, some to overwinter in their mating nucs, some to sell or use for myself.
My market for those late reared queens is always questionable, but I usually have enough call for August sales to make it worth while. When I sell or use a late queen, I take her mating nuc and combine with another to prep for overwintering in a double.

If there is not a demand for late summer queens, I overwinter a lot more in singles which is more of a crap shoot if winter weather is harsh.
But banking those surplus queens overwinter would allow me to still rear them, yet still make up the remaining overwintering mating nucs into doubles.

P9210017.jpg

View attachment 37421

After a few years of overwintering queens in very small single mating nucs, I've seen just how tough those queens can be. There are always a few mating nucs that come out of winter in a weak state. Queens surviving in some for months with a half a hand full of attending bees. But with a little spring boosting so she could get laying again and they could maintain enough heat to rear brood, come out of those harsh conditions and explode with growth.

This photo below is an example of an overwintered queen from a tiny mating nuc that only had a hand full of bees left in it come Feb.

I had a OB hive I was pretty sure was queenless. I took the late summer mated queen out of the almost non existent nuc and direct released her into this small colony. Small but it was a LOT bigger than what she had been living in up to that point.

She pipped for 2-3 days trying to get accepted into the cluster.
Here is the hive when I introduced her in Feb:

P1050092.jpg

I threw them a bone to carry them over:

P1050110.jpg

And here's what was happening behind that honey:

P4100440.jpg

Here's the hive in June. All from a late summer mated queen that overwintered in a very tiny mating nuc. So I've confidence those queens can be overwintered with very little resources for most of the winter and come out in great shape.
Once the weather warmed and natural feed started coming in ( In addition to supplemental feeding to get them going) that colonies growth was unbelievable.

6-10-16.jpg


It's when you push them you see just how hardy they really are. But management details matter. Especially if timing is critical.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,313 Posts
Just pulled a couple of papers from my Hard Drive 'archive':

IBRA Article: Overwintering of honey bee queens en mass in reservoir colonies in a temperate climate and its effect on queen performance. Gencer, 2003.

No queens survived in Q+ve colonies. 40% of queens survived for 5 months in Q-ve colonies on partitioned honeycomb, but only 16.7% in screened cages.
Mass Storage of Honey Bee Queens During the Winter, Wyborn M.H., M.Sc. Thesis, 1991.

Queens held in excluder cages and stored in queenright or queenless colony banks showed poor survival in all three years of testing, and is not viable for commercial use; survival for any one year, or any treatment, was never greater than 2.5%.

In contrast, an average of 6O% of queens survived that were stored in screened wooden cages and held inside queenless colony banks.
In general, results from numerous papers vary wildly and are thus inconclusive, but the Wyborn thesis is worthy of study (imo) for anyone interested in this, as it's a gold-mine of detail regarding the various methods and materials which were trialled using 500 queens over a 3-year period - in particular screen wire vs. QX as a means of restraining the queen, yet allowing her to be freely fed.
LJ
(quotes above: either edited or paraphrased)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,313 Posts
Whoops - I've just been checking through my notes from 'way back', and it seems I'd forgotten the real reason why I never tried overwintering queens in banks - that decision had nothing whatsoever to do with whether it was a theoretically possible technique or not, but rather it was due to the idea not making any sense.

The overwintering of banked queens is one of those ideas which, when looked at in abstraction (meaning without looking at the real-world events surrounding it) sounds seductively important and all-in-all a great idea - but let's run through the logistics ...

Suppose you set-up a queen-banking system for 50 queens to start in (say) October - where exactly are these 50 mated queens coming from ? Answer: from 50 existing mating nucs.
So - you're going to remove those 50 queens from 50 perfectly happy and stable mini-colonies, and put them into queen cages of some sort. But why ? What exactly is being achieved by doing this ? Is it not better to leave the queens 'as is' together with their own bees, on natural comb, and find some better way of over-wintering those 50 nucleus colonies ? And it's not as if you could use those mating nuc boxes and colonies for any other purpose, so late in the year ...

Indeed, if you check-out both papers I posted about previously, you'll read that mated queens in nucleus colonies were being used as controls for those experiments, against which the merits of the experimental systems being trialled were being compared ! Thus it was being accepted without question that the over-wintering of queens heading nucleus colonies is the de facto most successful method currently known for this purpose.
LJ
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,949 Posts
Suppose you set-up a queen-banking system for 50 queens to start in (say) October - where exactly are these 50 mated queens coming from ? Answer: from 50 existing mating nucs.
So - you're going to remove those 50 queens from 50 perfectly happy and stable mini-colonies, and put them into queen cages of some sort. But why ? What exactly is being achieved by doing this ? Is it not better to leave the queens 'as is' together with their own bees, on natural comb, and find some better way of over-wintering those 50 nucleus colonies ? And it's not as if you could use those mating nuc boxes and colonies for any other purpose, so late in the year ...
As I said above:
I always rear a few good batches of late summer queens, some to overwinter in their mating nucs, some to sell or use for myself.
My market for those late reared queens is always questionable, but I usually have enough call for August sales to make it worth while. When I sell or use a late queen, I take her mating nuc and combine with another to prep for overwintering in a double.

If there is not a demand for late summer queens, I overwinter a lot more in singles which is more of a crap shoot if winter weather is harsh.
( They overwinter much better in doubles VS single mating nucs)

But banking those surplus queens overwinter would allow me to still rear them late summer, yet still make up the remaining overwintering mating nucs into doubles if the demand for late summer queens is small. If I don't sell them, I bank them instead of taking a risk on a bunch of single smaller mating nucs.

Banking some of my late summer queens if they don't sell would give me Options and still allow the rest of the mating nucs to overwinter with better odds.
If I don't combine mating nucs late summer, I have to forgo that last round of queens so the late July queens can have time to build up.
August reared queens come at the price of the mating nucs strength come fall.

photo is 8-14-17:
Here I removed the late July mated queen and installed the last cell of the season. If this resulting August queen is to overwinter, I need to combine it with another mating nuc.
If I left the previous established July queen in this nuc and let them build up their population well and feed them, they would be strong enough to overwinter.

So about half my late queens stay in their nucs and are combined with resources from other mating nucs where I removed the mated queens. Sell, use or possibly bank those removed queens is what I am saying.

Single?:
P8140009.jpg

Or doubled up for overwintering. The Doubles survival rate and spring build up (with far less or no babying) is always better. Especially if winter is harsh and long lasting:

P2060167.jpg

PA050330.jpg

Below is a winter prepped divided mating nuc unit, colony on each side, late summer/fall combined (supered) with resources from other mating nucs.

5 half sized deep frames over 5 on each side.

PA130418.jpg




I've considered not rearing late summer queens quite a few times and cut off my queen sales earlier in the season. I know I'd like to have more time to dedicate to more thorough overwintering prep. But about the time I get requests for emergency queens in August, I need to pick up some Apivar, that money is really handy to have dribbling in here and there to help pay for expenses.

Come March, those overwintered queens sure come in handy. Their surviveability have a big impact on my earliest nuc sales. No overwintered mating nuc queens, far fewer early sales..simple as that.

There is about 2 months difference between when I can make up an early spring nuc with an overwintered young queen and when I can make up a late spring nuc and have it ready with a new crop queen. That's several weeks of more productivity in a short season climate. It's also easier on me to spread out the work load over time instead of getting slammed with everything over the course of a couple months. I like to get out most of my nucs as early as possible so I can concentrate on queen rearing for the rest of the summer. If spring weather is bad or I have to wait for new crop queens for my nucs, the two products I produce overlap and the pressure is really on me to perform. It can be hectic.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,865 Posts
I run my queen castles up until the end of October. The September mated queens can sold to those checking their fall hives and finding they are queenless and I can get one more round of queens mated in October (although who is to say how "good" they are). These queens are allowed to lay in 2-3 comb sections up until December when it starts to get cold. I have to watch the food in there to be sure they are not in distress. Some years, they come through our mild winters just fine and I can boost their numbers in mid spring with brood from booming hives and they become outstanding full size hives by mid summer.

Some years, I have to take extreme measures to get them through, such as this year. Just brought my 4th queen and handful of bees inside for 30 days until the weather breaks. These were not small colonies due to mites, they were small colonies because they were not laying a ton of brood once the new queen got mated.

I've read the articles about keeping caged queens for 90+ days and the research did seem to suggest that having them on their own comb roaming around is best, so I love the idea of using mini-mating nucs or a similar queen castle systems to hold them, as long as the temps are favorable. I just don't have the tiny drawn comb to use.

So far, mine are hanging out in screened butterfly enclosures and get fed some honey every 5 days or so. Some colonies have a lot of the workers dying. One of the other small colonies has very little worker death. To recharge a colony, I scrape the foragers off the syrup feeder and bring them inside to add to the small colony.

IMG_20180204_164620514_HDR.jpg
these bees are going on week #4 of being inside

IMG_20180204_164706435.jpg
this one just came in today. I'm out of butterfly enclosures, so trying the Tupperware container with a screened lid. Wished I had time to hot glue the comb pieces to the lid.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
125 Posts
Harry, are you talking about the mini-mating nucs that contain about 1.5-2 cups of bees? How cold do your winters get? I am having a hard time imagining that that few bees could make it through winter without running out of food or freezing.

Ruth, again I am having a hard time thinking that such a small group of bees with a queen could survive for long. What temperature are they kept at inside?

Thanks to all for sharing their experiences.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
1,872 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
Harry, are you talking about the mini-mating nucs that contain about 1.5-2 cups of bees? How cold do your winters get? I am having a hard time imagining that that few bees could make it through winter without running out of food or freezing.
Our mini's are 3 frame, 1/2 length western frames and a feeder. Much more bees than you state.
I have posted pictures many times here on BeeSource, but since photobucket stabbed us all in the back, they are all held hostage.
I am going to need to find another hosting site.
But yes, they winter perfectly here in Salem Oregon. The lowest temps around here are about 15 degrees, but that is very rare.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
1,872 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
....... reason why I never tried overwintering queens in banks - that decision had nothing whatsoever to do with whether it was a theoretically possible technique or not, but rather it was due to the idea not making any sense.

The overwintering of banked queens is one of those ideas which, when looked at in abstraction (meaning without looking at the real-world events surrounding it) sounds seductively important and all-in-all a great idea - but let's run through the logistics ...

Suppose you set-up a queen-banking system for 50 queens to start in (say) October - where exactly are these 50 mated queens coming from ?
They are coming from queen producers that I buy many, many boxes of queens from every year.
The number of queens that we raise for our internal use is a very small fraction of our needs annually.

Otherwise, you are correct all the way around; overwintering the last graft in the mating nucs is far superior.
:)
 

·
Vendor
Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
Joined
·
53,990 Posts
I have done it in a five frame nuc box and a terrarium heater in the past. I'm trying it in two full size hives (or almost full size) this winter without the heater. I was hoping it would be another mild winter, but that hasn't happened, so I'm not very optimistic. My observations on the five frame nuc box. Without the heater, in Nebraska winters, the cluster would contract and leave the end queens to die from cold. With the heater the cluster is looser and they take care of the end queens, but the shortened lives from more activity required stealing a handful of bees from a strong hive to get them through to spring. I think it is worth trying when you have queens left at the end of the year. A warmer climate would likely yield better results than a colder climate...
 
1 - 20 of 24 Posts
Top