Friday, May 9, 2008

Cell Builder Colony

This is the first year that I have raised my own queens by grafting larva into cell cups. One of the main things that I needed to raise some queen cells is a cell builder. Some queen breeders will use starter colonies to start a large number of cells and then disburse those cell cups between multiple finisher colonies to build the cells and to cap them. Some will also use special nursery cages or banking bars in incubators to free their cell finishers up to increase production. Since I am just getting starting and do not need to make the amount of queens as those who sell them commercially I decided to use one queenless colony to start, build, finish, and incubate my queens.

The first thing you should do is make sure that your cell builder colony is populous and disease free. I would also like to recommend that the colony you use is extremely gentle. A colony which goes queenless for a while can become agitated rather easily and may become ill tempered. After you select your colony there there are few few manipulations that should take place. Keep in mind that this is only one scenario and that there are other ways to end up with the same results. This is just what I did and it worked for me. However I do wish I would have used a more gentle colony but now I know better and will next time.

This is the colony which I chose to build my queen cells. After I decided to use this colony I brought an extra hive body to the rear of the colony. As I went through the frames looking for the queen I placed the frames which contained the most eggs into the extra hive body. When I found the frame with the queen I placed it over to the side to isolate her from the colony. After finding and placing the frames with the most eggs into the empty hive body I then began placing the frames with the most youngest and most larvae into the empty box as well. After getting the frames with the largest patterns of eggs and larvae I searched for any other frames with open brood. After I had the extra full of those frame the remaining frames went into the bottom deep along with the frame with the queen. Once the remaining frames and queen was in the bottom deep I put a queen excluder over it and then placed the hive body which contained mostly all open brood atop of that. The picture above was taken nine days later when all the brood cells in the upper deep were capped.

At this point, nine days after putting all the open brood in the upper deep, I removed the lid and placed the upper deep onto it.

The lower deep is removed from where it is sitting creating a vacancy for the upper deep.

After placing a bottom board where the lower deep was I placed the upper deep upon it.

Once the top deep, now queenless, was in the place where the lower deep was originally, I placed a solid piece of plywood atop it then I placed the queenright hive body on that facing towards the rear.

Since the bottom deep now has all capped brood and is queenless there is no way, or should I say no larvae, for the bees to attempt to raise any queens. Also, with the queenright hive body on the top facing towards the rear all of the returning foragers which leave the top will enter the lower queenless half boosting the population for cell building. The queenless hive body, now on the bottom, also has many young bees in it. The bees have the most time and effort invested in the capped brood so they will stay on the capped brood to keep it from becoming chilled. After two more days many more foragers have left the top queenright hive body only to return to the queenless hive bottom.

After the two additional days I moved the queenright portion of the colony elsewhere so I can gain access to the cell builder more readily. At this point you will need to remove a frame so you can add a frame of eggs for some easy queens without any grafting or you can add a cell bar with some freshly grafted larvae.

If you don't think that there are enough bees in your cell builder you can always shake some in but be sure not to shake a queen in. After a while the population of your cell builder will become depleted but you can keep the population up by adding frames of capped brood.

1 comment:

Liesa said...

I'm very new to beekeeping, this will be my first full year. My dad and I have 4 hives and we are working on building more. Love your blog. Full of so many helpful ideas.