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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am raising my first queen in an observation hive and have a question for those who have observed the process of a virgin queen getting mated before. Background:

My virgin queen emerged at mid-day February 16th.

February 22nd was the first sunny (and non-rainy) day since she emerged and I spotted her outside taking a short practice flight around mid-day (couldn't observe in the afternoon so not sure what she was up to then).

We had rain the 23rd and 24th, so no foragers and no mating flights.

Today (the 25th) was the second sunny day in her brief life. I watched much of the day expecting her to take fight again but it appears she remained in the hive all day - at least whenever I checked she was there...

This evening around 6pm, I twice spotted her in the observation hive being attended by house bees, just like you see in the books. In the many times I have observed her in the past, she has never been attended like this - she just walks around on a solo mission making her way wherever she wants to go over the combs.

So my question is, will a virgin queen ever be attended in this manner by house bees, or is this a definitive sign that she has become mated and is no longer a virgin? She also for the first time appears to be trying to lay eggs (or at least putting up a pretty good imitation - I have not been able to observe any eggs yet).

I have difficulty believing that she could already be mated becasue it would mean a textbook case like clockwork:

- First practice flights and successful mating 6 days after emergence

- Being attended by house bees and trying to lay first eggs 3 days after mating flight (and 9 days after emergence)

Any insight appreciated - does exhibiting laying behavior and being attended by housebees mean I don't need to worry anymore if she is going to successfully mate, or do virgins about 9 days after emergence typically exhibit egg-laying behaviour and get attended to by housebees in any case? Do I need to wait to see signs of open brood before I can be sure she is mated, or can I relax abou this and move on to the next thing to worry about:D?

-fafrd
 

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Doesn't sound like worry to me, sounds more like good observations and logic.

I've never run an Ohive, but from the queens I've raised, I'd say you are correct... the queen does not have a court until she is mated. This is the conclusion I have come to from my observations with mating nucs and hives splits.
 

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In my observation queens NEVER lay unless they have been mated. Queens that have crumpled wings etc. and can never mate, never lay. Queens that mate late (three weeks or so after emergence), lay only drones but queens that have not mated, don't lay at all.
 

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I agree with both RM and MB. When we make splits we queen them with cells . Some mate very quickly and others can take 10 days or so. Those that mate after that two/three week window tend to be drone layers. As virgins I have noted they do not have court and sprint across the frames like a track star on speed VS the mated queens tend to slow down, travel methodically, research the cells, and have an entourage in tow all the time (attendants).
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks everyone or the feedback.

Sounds like once I see 'classic' queen behavior, I can be pretty sure she is mated. By classic behavior I mean moving slowly, cell-by-cell, placing her ovipositor down certain cells, and being surrounded a all times by a full court of attendants.

I've made some more observations today, and this is not yet what I am seeing. Here is an update:

A/ Queen continues to spend most of her time on 'high-speed' solo missions not accompanied by attendants. This behavior is similar to what I always saw her doing from emergence until yesterday (9 days following emergence).

B/ Occasionally I see the queen stationary on a comb and surrounded by a full court. She stays in this position for s long as 3 minutes at a time with no real movement an sometimes a small amount of rotation.

Bi/ In this stationary position, I have seen her put her ovipositor partway (25%) down an empty cell, and I have also seen her touch her ovipositor down on the surface of a capped cell of honey (she was doing this in the middle of a capped honey frame this afternoon).

Bii/ I have also seen her raise her ovipositor in the air and hold it there for 60 seconds or so, during which time the attendants touch it on all sides with their antennas and tongues.

C/ After 3 minutes or so of this stationary behavior, she will walk out of the circle and go on another typical 'virgin queen solo mission' leaving the circle of attendants in place where they were until they eventually disperse and move on to other tasks.

D/ This stationary and attended behavior only started yesterday, 9 days after emergence and 3 days after her first (and only) day of flight.


So I am not yet seeing consistent classic laying queen behavior, but mostly classic virgin behavior, broken up by three minute spells of what looks to me like 'practicing' to be a laying queen. From the presence of attendants and the worship of the ovipositor, it seems certain that there is some new pheromone activity going on. The question is if this change in pheromones could only be linked to successful mating or could begin based on maturity (9 days after emergence).

I have a few follow-up questions for those with experience in these matters:

1/ Are drone-laying queens that result from inability to successfully mate during the 'window' attended by a court like any other laying queen?

2/ Does a drone-laying queen (from inability to mate) put out the same pheromones as a laying queen?

3/ If the pheromone change is the same, does it happen more quickly for a successfully-mated queen than for an unsuccessfully-mated drone-laying queen?

4/ Has anyone ever seen this kind of mixture of classic virgin-queen and classic laying-queen behavior and if so, what do you think it means?

thank for any further insight

-fafrd
 

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>1/ Are drone-laying queens that result from inability to successfully mate during the 'window' attended by a court like any other laying queen?

Drone laying queens are either queens that run out of sperm (usually old queens or poorly mated queens, or queens that did not mate in that 21 day window but mated late.

>2/ Does a drone-laying queen (from inability to mate) put out the same pheromones as a laying queen?

A drone laying queen is a mated queen, in my experience. She either mated late or she mated and then ran out of sperm either from old age or from poor mating, but she is always a mated queen and dhe does make the same pheromones as a laying queen because she is a laying mated queen. Hopefully the bees will sense the lack of worker brood pheromone and try to replace her, but if she is a total drone layer (as opposed to one that is just starting to run out of sperm) then they will most likely fail at this attempt.

>3/ If the pheromone change is the same, does it happen more quickly for a successfully-mated queen than for an unsuccessfully-mated drone-laying queen?

>4/ Has anyone ever seen this kind of mixture of classic virgin-queen and classic laying-queen behavior and if so, what do you think it means?

A newly mated queen may take a few days to settle in, and during that time she may act a bit like a virgin, but that should not last more than a few days.

Get a magnifying glass and a flashlight and look for eggs. Or take a closeup flash picture and look for eggs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks Michael,

have been using my magnifying glass and flashlight to look for eggs, but no luck so far. The fact that the frames are covered with bees makes it a challenge. I'll keep trying. The flash picture is a good idea but it won't work unless I pull the frames from the hive since the glass screws up the focus.

From your response, I understand that a virgin queen always mates before she starts laying eggs, and it is only a question of whether the eggs are fertile or not based on her mating 'in time' or not.

Has anyone ever kept a queen from successfully mating at all (ie: keeping a virgin queen in a hive with a queen includer in place) and if so what happens to her? Does she start laying drones eggs eventually like a laying worker or dos she just continue living in the hive like a drone without ever laying eggs at all?

-fafrd
 

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>The flash picture is a good idea but it won't work unless I pull the frames from the hive since the glass screws up the focus.

Actually the way to do this on most cameras is to set it for closeup mode, wait for it to focus, push the button part way until it locks the focus, then lean in 1/2" and finish taking the picture. This works because it WAS focused on the glass which is probably about 1/2" from the comb. You could even lean in 1" to get the bottom of the cells more in focus.
 

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Has the queen gotten any bigger after her flight I have had lay queens any where from 9-11 days after emerging usally about 11-12 days if weather is good
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Actually the way to do this on most cameras is to set it for closeup mode, wait for it to focus, push the button part way until it locks the focus, then lean in 1/2" and finish taking the picture. This works because it WAS focused on the glass which is probably about 1/2" from the comb. You could even lean in 1" to get the bottom of the cells more in focus.
Great idea Michael, but I probably need a different camera. Even in 'closeup mode', my camera will not focus closer than about 2 feet. Despite my best efforts to shift 1/2", 3/4",or 1", the resulting picture always came out unfocused. What kind of camera do you have?

-fafrd
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Has the queen gotten any bigger after her flight?
It is now 11 days following emergence, and while she may look a little bigger than when she first emerged, she is still skinny compared to my other laying queens. Also, we had a sunny day today, all of the foragers were out, and twice I spied her come out of the hive to the entrance board, walk around in a circle once or twice, and then return to the observation hive. It was only about 57-58 degrees outside, so maybe it was too cold for her to go looking for drones, but doesn't the fact that she would venture out of the hive in that way indicate that she remains a virgin?

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny all day and hit 64-65 degrees, so hopefully she will take flight and find her drones. Since we are supposed to have rain for all of the following week, tomorrow will probably be her last chance to successfully mate and avoid a fate as a drone-layer...

Another interesting observation in the hive today. Most of the time the queen was running around like a virgin (even more frantically than usual, as were most of the bees due to the good weather). Every once in a while she would stop and wag her abdomen up in the air for 30 seconds or so, which would quickly collect a group of attendants surroundng her. It almost seemed like she was trying to spread her pheromone around. Anyone ever seen something similar and if so was it for a virgin queen, a mated queen, or both?

-fafrd

p.s. if I am correct that my queen remains a virgin (of which I am becoming increasingly convinced), it means that the answer to my original question on whether a virgin queen will ever be attended by housebees would appear to be yes...
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
For those of you who have been following the saga of my first virgin queen, I thought I would give you an update. Today for the first time, 24 days after emergence, the queen is exhibiting laying behavior. Now that I can see true attendant behavior, I recognize that what I saw before when she was still a virgin was 'practice' attendant behavior. Now that she is laying, close to half of the (very small) hive is clustered around her and she is moving very slowly from cell to cell, putting her head down empty cells and then laying into the cells she likes.

The behavior before while she was still a virgin involved stopping periodically, sometimes lifting her abdomen in the air (and sometimes not), waiting while all the bees close to her gathered around in an attendant-like ring, staying in that position for 4 or 5 minutes before racing off again following which the abandoned attendant cluster would slowly disperse and get back to work.

Anyway, I will need to wait 9 days to assure the my mated queen is laying workers and not drones, but since 21 days from emergence was this Tuesday and today (Friday) is 3 days past that, I think the chances are pretty high that she did what she had to do in time and is now a laying queen. And after no brood for three weeks, the bees appear to be even more exited than me!

-fafrd
 

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fafed,
For your pherome question, There was a study done with inseminated queens. The queen that was inseminated with 40 drones was quickly accepted by the workers as the queen that was only inseminated by one was superceeded
 

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Virgin --- unmated Queens --- can be forced to lay only drone eggs by forcibly giving them CO2 ( carbon dioxide) in an insemination apparatus.
this is how many of the ""Special"" traits are created.
In the early testing for SMR queens - this was used to enhance and set the SMR trait
( now called VSH)
it is one of the ways to interbred sisters and sons to daughters to develop speicalized traits.


It is also possible to prevent a queen from mating in the fall.
Remove a queen from a strong hive.
introduce the unmated queen into the good strong hive.
In the spring when she starts laying she will lay only drones.
This creates ""very early"' drones for early season matings. if needed.


Frank Wyatt
 
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