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Would stacking 4-way mating nucs with a queen excluder between them be a viable system? This way the worker bees would be "shared" by each nuc until they grow into a strong enough colony to be moved into a 5-frame deep. Or is there something I am overlooking?

One concern I'd have though is if the queens would find their way back to the correct entrance (a hole in the side of the nuc). Also the feeder I'd use would be a top feeder over the top 4-way nuc that would have to be shared between the two.
 

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i think with 8 queens that close you might have more trouble with them going to the wrong entrence on return
 

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odfrank, you think the sharing of the bees between mating nucs would be ok too?
I would think that you would get an imbalance of population.
 

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Would stacking 4-way mating nucs with a queen excluder between them be a viable system? This way the worker bees would be "shared" by each nuc until they grow into a strong enough colony to be moved into a 5-frame deep. Or is there something I am overlooking?
Orientation and return is the last of your worries.

Your colony , even though it is separated into sections and has an excluder is only a separation in Your mind. In the bees opinion, if they can fully mingle, they are one colony and only want one new queen.

If you install capped cells the bees will usually tear down all other cells after the first viable queen hatches. (It's not just the virgins that do that) Also the virgin queens need seclusion from any other queenright colony until they start laying well. After they are laying and well established, that is the point you can combine colonies through an excluder..IF you are careful about your procedure.




If you install virgin queens in a multi queen, shared system you'll have a real mess of non acceptance. The first two things a virgin queen does is eat and kill. After she is mated and starts laying, she looses that killing instinct. AN excluder would do basically nothing to keep virgins from fighting through it.

I've even installed cells in double deeps with a double screened divider between the two. Checked for a hatch the day of, and found the top had a recently hatched queen, bottom deep's cell was torn down. No chance of that virgin getting through that double #8 screen divider. Both cells were candled before placing and close to emergence, so I knew they were both viable.

If that divider had been solid instead of screened, there would have been no issues. But if you are going to do that, why not have two separate deeps and easier accessibility?

I've watched bees tear down a capped cell installed in a queen right OB hive as well. Established Queen had nothing to do with it. I'll post some of those photos below.

That is what makes a newly mated queen (or a newly installed mated queen) so vulnerable to being killed if you leave the colony queenless for 24 hours before installing a new queen or cell. If you give them a chance to start queen cells of their own, new queens don't recognize 24-48 hour started cells as a threat and they are left to grow. Then the self started cell hatches and the new virgin kills the newly mated or newly installed queen.

(Everyone has their own way, but when I take out a queen, I immediately install the new queens, no matter if they are in the shape of an open cell, capped cell, virgin or mated queen.)

The only time I've experienced a multi cell successful hatch in a single colony is a swarm situation when the bees protect unhatched queens cells and virgins from each other in preparation for throwing multiple cast swarms.

As with many beekeeping procedures, the trick is timing and method details. Using uncapped queens cells is a way I've found eliminated much of the destruction from bees in the colony is already queenright. This includes requeening and trying to replace an old queen without having to dig through the colony and remove her first. If the cell is installed and allowed to be nurtured and grow, it is received differently than if is is already capped and close to emergence.

Here are cells about 5 days old, being placed early in mating nucs because of a failed previous batch and I was short. These early cells have the same success rate as capped cells. You can't candle them before placing, but you got to do what you got to do sometimes.



Here is another cell from the same batch the next day, now newly capped

 

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An interesting thread ....
If the bees (mating nucs) all shared the same space, though separated by screens, would they all "smell the same" & therefore be accepted into any cavity they returned to that did not have a queen present at the instant they returned?

Lauri's comments explain some of my experiences as a nube a couple of seasons back, I put 2 splits from one hive in a common hive body, separated by a political sign board divider, entrances on opposite sides of the box.
one side did really well, the other side dwindled out. I assumed it had been abandoned for some reason.

I am contemplating using snelgrove boards on some hives this coming season for "non-split" swarm control & increase. As I understand it, the screen portion of the snelgrove board allows the hive boxes to "all smell the same", so the new queen produced over the original hive has "instant acceptance" when the old queen "goes away" & the upper box is combined with lower box.
Or am I missing something???? CE
 

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Here are photos of a cell that was placed in a queen right colony, quickly torn down by workers. This colony was started with a small swarm and wasn't growing as fast as I thought it should. I placed the cell just to see what they would do with it. In my experience if they have a good queen they will always tear down a placed cell if it is near the emergence stage.








 

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I run divided deeps all summer as mating nucs. The last round of queens get left, topped with an excluder and topped or combined with resources from other nucs. Standard frames, bees, brood, natural feed and a feeder to top them off.

Shared multi queen colonies work, but queen have to both be below the excluder and separated by a solid divider to be kept physically separate. Not a queen below and a queen on top.









That divider on the mating nuc had shrunk a bit and the excluder didn't have good contact for a positive seal. Rubber based high density gasket tape works well to fill in any gaps. The lighter colored tape in front is medium thickness, darker colored piece in back ground is the thinner size which I use the most. One side is sticky.

 

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Not to contradict Lauri (who has WAY more experience that I ever will), but I was able to raise and hatch 5 queen cells (made by "planned emergency queen cells) in a 5 frame nuc where my topbars were separated by 3 queen excluders. I was going to let the individual sections try and get their queen mated, but ended up needing the virgin queens elseware. (I have noticed when I try and run 2 colonies in a segmented topbar hive with screened bottom, I get an imbalance of workers who are pulled over by the stronger queen's pheromones.

For my box, I pulled the queen from a strong hive that had lots of new comb in the brood nest that was laid up with eggs. After the emergency queen cells were made and capped, I moved 5 bars over to this nuc with the worker bees from that same hive and divided each topbar with a queen excluder. I had 4 entrances, one on each side, but ended up plugging up all but one due to robbing. As soon as the first day where they might have hatched came around, I went into the box with a queen clip and snatched out each one. Ended up finding 2 queens in one section. I guess I might have just gotten lucky on that one go around. But I plan to try it again this year.

Thanks Lauri for all the great photos and info that you post. It's very inspiring!
 

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Lauri, have you tried doing it with protected queen cells? Whenever I doubt a queen cell would be accepted (for whatever oddball reason), I tend to wrap the cell with some aluminum foil, and it seems to protect it from workers. I'd suspect that if the described setup wouldn't work, then it probably would if the cells were protected. But I haven't tried it (all my mating nucs are individual units, and the split deeps I have don't have communicating units) myself.

However, I did try (for reasons I don't really recall) having multiple queen cells hatch in the same nuc, all of them being caged except one. Typical results were that all virgins were accepted initially, and then, over time, some of the caged virgins would get abandoned. There were usually still live caged virgins when their sister started laying, though, so I do believe that a communal colony would indeed care for multiple virgins if their hatching is assured (by some form of protection) until these mated. As for them fighting through excluders... they didn't seem to kill each other through the cages, even if one of them was free to roam. The holes are smaller on the cages, for sure, but a stinger could theoretically poke through (the nicot hair roller type cages, like you use yourself). It's possible the mortality were indeed caused by the roaming queen, but virgin loss was usually low in the first days, and seemed fairly steady at about 1 per week, which isn't consistent with virgin aggression. Similarly, I've had protected cells emerge in colonies with a mated queen already inside, which could then be manually released 5 days later (with the mated queen either being caged or transferred in a split). It's not something I do regularly, though, as it's too much extra manipulations and I dislike handling virgins (way too flighty), but it's techniques I've toyed around with on a few occasions. Queen cells and "old" virgins can be met with hostility in a number of situations, but virgins hatching from protected queen cells seem pretty universally accepted in my trials.

Edit: I wouldn't try it exactly as described, though. What I thought of trying this year, though, is a split deep over a standard deep, with a queen excluder in between. We'll see what it gives. I wouldn't trust virgins separated from each other by nothing but a queen excluder, though, as the gap is wide enough and fighting through it should be much easier than fighting through mesh or (obviously) solid wood.
 

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Having virgins emerge, separated by queen excluders and then removing them before they mate, might work better than leaving them in place to also go out and mate and be laying queens. After all, there are many times I've seen multiple virgins emerging in a hive, but only one queen stays behind to be the queen mother of that hive. There are occasions when I've seen two stay and lay, but it does not last long, eventually there is only one queen mother.

I think the op's plan would work if solid top/bottom boards were used instead of queen excluders to separate the 4 way mating boxes.
 

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I'm planning to use 8 frame mediums boxes for mating. Due to space limitations I'm planning to stack 2 or 3 with entrances pointed different directions. This answers my questions about using screens between to share heat; solid top and bottoms it is!
 

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Not to contradict Lauri (who has WAY more experience that I ever will), but I was able to raise and hatch 5 queen cells (made by "planned emergency queen cells) in a 5 frame nuc where my topbars were separated by 3 queen excluders. I was going to let the individual sections try and get their queen mated, but ended up needing the virgin queens elseware. (I have noticed when I try and run 2 colonies in a segmented topbar hive with screened bottom, I get an imbalance of workers who are pulled over by the stronger queen's pheromones.

For my box, I pulled the queen from a strong hive that had lots of new comb in the brood nest that was laid up with eggs. After the emergency queen cells were made and capped, I moved 5 bars over to this nuc with the worker bees from that same hive and divided each topbar with a queen excluder. I had 4 entrances, one on each side, but ended up plugging up all but one due to robbing. As soon as the first day where they might have hatched came around, I went into the box with a queen clip and snatched out each one. Ended up finding 2 queens in one section. I guess I might have just gotten lucky on that one go around. But I plan to try it again this year.

Thanks Lauri for all the great photos and info that you post. It's very inspiring!


That's the thing about a short thread response. There are a lot of different scenarios that need slightly different treatment in order to work. Too many details to post them all here.

Not a contradiction, every circumstance is different and may have a different outcome.

In your instance, you didn't install capped queen cells into the mingling sections, you let them rear their own. That can make a difference. Instead of separating with a horizontal excluder, After cells are capped, you can just cover them with a small push in cage (over capped brood if you can) and some honey and let them emerge. The first thing she will do is dive head first into an open cell with nectar so be sure she has it available to her under the cage. When you go to remove them, lightly smoke or brush away the surrounding bees, because that virgin queen will be a runner when you take off the cage. She'll also probably have some newly emerged nurse bees with her. Be ready to snatch her up quick before she mingles deep into a crowd of bees and gets away from you.

This frame of cage covered self made cells from a queenless walk away nuc was done my first year with bees. My first attempts at queen rearing. The cages should have been a bit larger, but you get the idea. As soon as they emerged I placed them into their own mating nucs. I let a couple cells hatch without cages to requeen the nuc itself.

 
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