Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What To Do With Your Grafted Queen Cells... Make a Nuc

OK, it has been eleven days since I grafted the queens in the last post to my blog. Those eleven days plus the three or four days (most likely three) makes fourteen or fifteen days since the grafted larvae were laid as eggs. It takes sixteen days from egg to queen so we need to do something with the queen cells quickly. Pictured below is some cells I grafted last year. I got in a hurry today and used and sold most of my queen cells before I remembered to take any pictures so I'll use this old picture so you can see what to expect if you do a fairly decent job when you are grafting your larvae.



One of the great things about rearing queens is that it gives you many more options for which you wish to do with your bees. I used some of the cells to replace some queens I sold a few days ago. One cell was used to replace a queen I accidentally killed while marking. It's hard to admit but I do mess up pretty badly sometimes. When replacing queens that were sold or if I'm simply requeening the acceptance rate of queen cells is pretty much guaranteed. After a colony realizes it is queenless you can give it a queen cell with a queen which shall soon emerge you do not need to worry about acceptance. Like I said, it is guaranteed when the queen emerges from her cell within the colony.

Now today I made some nucs since I had some queen cells. I put the old queens in with the nucs and used the queen cells for the colonies. This method may be somewhat opposite of what most beekeepers would do (I'll explain a little more in detail later), however I find that with a smaller population of bees in the nuc that it will not suffer without a laying queens and will build up nicely. The colony from which the nuc is made can handle the absence of a laying queen better than the nuc. The colony can sometimes benefit from not having a laying queen. I have in the past purposely removed a queen prior to a good nectar flow in order to allow the bees in the colony to concentrate on gathering nectar, drawing out supers, and making honey rather than spending all of their time feeding larvae. After the flow you can reintroduce the queen or allow the colony to requeen itself. Remember to always cutout capped queen cells four days after removing the queen from the colony or you may choose to leave the colony queenless for a longer amount of time if necessary to accommodate the nectar flow. The important thing to remember is that you remove the queen at seven days before the flow hits so most of the brood will be capped, nine days is actually more preferable. I would not recommend a novice beekeeper to attempt this. However if you feel that you have enough skill you should try it sometime because you may be impressed what a strong colony can do without having to take care of larvae during a strong nectar flow. OK, enough talk of this. I'm way off subject so let's get back on track.

I went to my outyard at the black raspberry patch to make a few nucs and took my camera along.



The raspberry patch is only a few acres big and I only have four colonies there at the present. I really wish I would have had more colonies there because I feel that I could have harvested more than the eleven supers of raspberry honey I got. I definitely feel that I would not have got nearly this much honey if the bees had to draw their own comb. It is important to save all of your drawn comb to reuse. Drawn comb is almost like gold to me. The raspberries were in bloom for slightly less than two weeks but I can still find a scarce bloom here and there. Shortly after the berries bloomed I grafted the queens so I could make some nucs right after I harvested the surplus honey after it had cured and was capped. The key to getting an early crop of honey from the raspberries is to have strong colonies. This is achieved by feeding your colonies syrup and pollen patties to the point where the brood chamber is full of "syrup honey", bee bread, brood, and bees. If you would like to know how to strengthen your colonies to get an early crop of honey refer back to my posts on Feeding Pollen Patties To Your Colonies, Feeding Inside a Colony, and Strengthening a Weak Colony. You must start making preparations in late February or early March to make sure that you can get an early crop instead of a bunch of swarms, or no swarms, or even some late winter dead outs from starvation. Also, if you need to know how to make syrup and pollen patties for your bees refer to Recipes for Beekeepers.

OK, so when the honey supers with drawn comb went on the colonies the feeding of syrup stops during the flow. We do not want syrup in the honey supers. After the flow the supers are removed. Then it is time to make some nucs. This is all about timing. Knowing your bloom dates, the life cycle of the bees (required for raising queens on a specific timetable), and having the proper equipment (nuc boxes, preferably drawn comb) ready to go is very crucial at this juncture.

Let's put the nuc together. First a good frame of honey is selected.



Now I need two frames of brood. These frames can be one of open brood (eggs and larvae) and one with capped pupae or two frames with a mixture of open and closed brood. The frame pictured below was selected due the fact that it had the queen on it. It also had open and sealed brood, honey, and bee bread which made it a good frame to select.



And another frame of brood is selected.



The nuc is finished off with a frame of drawn comb.



All that is left to do to the nuc is to put the lid on. The entrance was sealed with screen before any bees were added.



The main colony now requires a queen cell for it is queenless.



I prefer to place the cell between the top bars near the center of the colony. This cell was placed between the fifth and sixth frames of the lower hive body. If you choose to let the queen remain in the parent colony you can place the queen cell into the nuc in the same manner as described above. Be sure that your nuc is in place and will not be moved when you put the queen cell in it or it could get damaged from the top bars should they be moved any.



I got lucky when I found the queen to make this nuc. She was on the fifth frame I looked at. I already had the honey frame in place, the the brood frame with the queen, another brood frame, and a frame of drawn comb. It was a very easy nuc to put together. I had to replace the frames I took from the main colony to make the nuc. Luckily I had some empty frames of drawn comb. When you save your comb and keep it safe from wax moths it makes things so much easier on your bees. This picture is of the top hive body after taking the frames from it to use in the nuc.



The thing to do when you put frames back into the hive body is to center the remaining frames within the box and put the empties toward the outside. This helps to consolidate the brood near the center of the hive. After the upper hive body is back in place it is time to put the inner lid and feeders back in place.



With the feeders in place the must be filled to feed the bees. I now have a short amount of time to coerce the colony into filling the empty frames I gave them before the next nectar flow which will be tulip poplar.

Taking some brood from this colony will set it back some but not too badly. Taking the queen from the colony has set back more than taking some bees and brood from it has. The good thing about it is that this colony will not be set back as far as it would have if it had swarmed. In a sense, I made it swarm, or made an "artificial swarm". Most beekeepers make artificial swarms as a last ditch effort to stop a colony from swarming after it has made swarm cells and gone through the preparations to swarm. My reasons for doing this is because I want more colonies, to stop a swarm before it starts, and to requeen a colony with a new queen. Some beekeepers would not dream of doing this before the main honey flow starts. Then again, these are the same people who will most likely have their colony swarm and lose half their colony up in a tall tree and then lose their honey crop because there was not enough bees left in the colony to take advantage of the honey flow.

There are many things to consider in beekeeping. There is no "right" or "perfect" answer to every situation. This is why beekeeping is an art to be performed at the discretion of the beekeeper. One of the many things to consider is what kind of goals do you have concerning your bees. Most beekeepers goals are to let the bees make surplus honey and then harvest that honey. If this is your goal I hope you are working to achieve it. Don't let your bees do all the work. You can be proactive and share the burden. Don't be one of those guys who only goes out to his colony just add a super when needed and then take them off in July, if your lucky enough to get anything. Be one of those guys who starts feeding in late February or early April. Look in the brood chamber and see what's going on. What if your colony is pollen bound? What if you got sac brood? What if you got swarm cells? What if you have a queen that lays very poorly? What if the colony is infested with mites and on the verge of collapse? Please go out and look in your hives, and I don't mean tomorrow.. See what's happening in there. Maybe you need to make an artificial swarm so you don't lose half your bees and half or all your honey. Maybe you find a bunch of swarm cells and could use them to make some nucs, or put them in some mini nucs, or use one in a queenless hive before it becomes a drone layer. The list goes on and on. Be proactive with your bees, be a beekeeper.

I really did not intend to talk about a bunch of stuff other than making a nuc and what to do with a queen cell. It is just hard to contain my enthusiasm, especially this time of year when the bees are bringing in nectar. I love it. I hope you love it too.

1 comment:

hugh Nott said...

I like your site and what you are saying is good stuff. Thankyou, I am a London Uk beekeeper, with 8 Hives, national, wbc, and top bar, you sound well sorted, best of luck, great stuff. Regards Hugh