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Is it possible to start a bee hive with, say, 12 workers and 1 queen. The tiny hive would be kept in a closed mesh area and would be fed every day. This would make sure no bees were lost, killed, or eaten.
Is this something anyone else has tried? Would this work?
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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No, that number of bees is too small. The number of bees used in a mini mating nuc is 600. Mating nucs are used solely to get a queen mated and cannot grow large enough to actually be a hive in a season. The smallest number I would recommend is 1# of bees, or about 3000, and that requires the weather to cooperate. Typically, one would start a hive with around 10,000 bees and a mated queen (a package).
 

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JWPalmer is correct. 12 workers could serve as attendants for a caged queen, but it is far too few to be able to start a hive. It takes a lot of workers to maintain the proper temperature, humidity, feed brood, and feed the queen enough royal jelly to be able to lay eggs. Those 12 workers would exhaust their vitellogenin supply feeding the queen, then her abdomen would shrink as she would slowly starved.
 

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600 bees might get started and might not. And only in a very small space like a mini mating nuc or a two frame nuc maybe. To have much of a chance you need at least a pound of bees. Three pounds is better...
 

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Discussion Starter #5
No, that number of bees is too small. The number of bees used in a mini mating nuc is 600. Mating nucs are used solely to get a queen mated and cannot grow large enough to actually be a hive in a season. The smallest number I would recommend is 1# of bees, or about 3000, and that requires the weather to cooperate. Typically, one would start a hive with around 10,000 bees and a mated queen (a package).
I've been researching quite a bit, but I haven't been able to find out why. Why does the queen need so many bees to start the colony?
 

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I've been researching quite a bit, but I haven't been able to find out why. Why does the queen need so many bees to start the colony?
Realize - the bees must maintain perfect temperature/humidity in the hive at all times to be able to raise viable brood (at least immediately around the brood).

(Not to mention to feed and generally care for the brood and themselves and the queen).

To maintain the suitable micro-climate in a very, very small and well insulated volume (say 10x10x10 cubic) inches - a dozen bees are not sufficient.
This small volume needs to be packed by the bees for them to thermo-regulate their "hive" - talking hundreds and thousands of bees already.

Without being able to raise the replacement bees, the colony will die over time - pretty obvious.
So, a dozen bees are sufficient to care for a queen for few days, while in transport - maybe here is where this idea is rooted.

But otherwise, forget this "start a colony" idea.
 

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Why does the queen need so many bees to start the colony?
Maybe you ought to be researching why small swarms fail to survive?
 

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The original post only mentions "bees" and we assume it must relate to the favorite of this forum, the European honeybee. If we put that assumption aside and consider how the bumble bee queen gets the process going anew each year, different possibilities appear. The leaf cutter and mason bees have other interesting and specialized adaptations to wintering and springtime renewal of their species.
 

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Frank, you did look at their user name? I think honey bee is a safe bet. But you are correct as usual. Solitary bees and bumbles do not need an entourage to live and reproduce, but they do not live in a hive either.
 

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Frank, you did look at their user name? I think honey bee is a safe bet. But you are correct as usual. Solitary bees and bumbles do not need an entourage to live and reproduce, but they do not live in a hive either.
JWP; I am sure you called it right. Actually thought that at that level of expertise playing with the solitary orchard bees would be an easier and educational way to get a foot in the door to beekeeping. Much less $$
 

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It's something I have wondered about. If a dozen or so bees and a queen were put on a comb in a climate controlled small box in a lab, where temperature and humidity were set at ideal brood raising temperatures so the bees did not have to bother, could they raise some larvae and gradually increase in number.

Maybe, I don't know.

However for you Hxneybee, the advice you have been given is good, best to start with a normal number of bees. You could try your experiment if you wish, but you are setting yourself up for failure before even beginning your bee journey.

Meeting a beekeeper and having a look in a real hive would give you an idea how a beehive works, and would be a great experience before you actually start with your own bees.

If budget or money is the issue, there are ways to deal with those things. Just lay your cards on the table and people here can help you with ideas.
 

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I read on here or another forum about a man (professor/scientist type) who did this in a lab inside an incubator under ideal conditions. It talked about how long it took from raising a few workers until it was a viable colony. I think it was assumed he was starting with some built/drawn comb. What I read was a second-hand account, so it may be a "bee legend". I searched but haven't found it. Bee legends,.... is that a thing?

Perhaps I should have moved a handful of bees inside this winter. It would be fun anyway, until I did something stupid and killed them. For now I'm going to check my son's incubator, my wife says something is chirping, something you can raise with only 12 or so. :) If I find a reference I'll post it back here.
 

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Why does the queen need so many bees to start the colony?
Brood cannot develop unless the humidity is right, the temperature is right, there is plenty of pollen and nectar to feed them and plenty of nurse bees to feed them and plenty of foragers to go get the food. The queen is helpless and can only lay eggs. It takes a certain critical mass just to keep a small patch of brood warm and fed. And the larger the space, the more bees it takes to reach that critical mass.
 

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Hmmm Oldtimer - maybe you should go see your shrink, because I have been wondered the same thing. Theoreticaly it should be possible. The crunch comes when you have to maitain temperature and humidity AND leave them a path out to poop.

Crazy Roland
 

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Thanks Roland and Joe (y).

The reason I've thought about it is from wondering how to get a varroa free population of bees onto some of our islands down here.

Moving a whole hive, regardless how much chemicals it was bombed with, it would be impossible to garuantee there was not a mite in there somewhere. But if a population could be started with a very few bees, ensuring they were varroa free would be doable.

All just very theoretical at this stage.
 

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A few hundred would do it. Check out what commercial queen breeders do in baby nucs. Course, those guys guys are experienced at what they do, and secondly, they do not have to turn that nuc into a colony, it just lives until the queen can lay eggs.
 

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Oldtimer - Does Auistralia have mites? Or can't you bring them in from there? Otherwise, yes, it would be safer to treat a small number of bees off the comb ,and expand from that small group, just like you do culturing microbes

Crazy Roland
 

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Australia does not have mites but we cannot import from there because they do have other things, such as EFB, and more, that we do not have.

Good idea though.

The other alternative would be to import from the NZ owned Chatham Islands, which do not have mites.
 
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