Thursday, March 8, 2012
LESSON 116: A Strong Queen Means A Strong Hive www.honeybeesonline.com 217-427-2678
Hello from David & Sheri Burns at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. Thanks for joining us for another lesson in beekeeping.
For those that are new to these lessons and new to beekeeping, you may want to start at lesson one and work your way through all the lessons. Click here to go to Lesson Number One.
In today’s lesson, we’ll take a look at why a strong queen is so important in keeping a strong colony.
LESSON 116: A Strong Queen Means A Strong Hive
I love to raise queens. When I first started beekeeping I loved to harvest honey. There was no greater thrill than opening the valve at the bottom of the extractor and let the golden honey flow. For years I was more interested in producing honey than bees. I thought about raising queens at times, but it seemed too complicated. But, finally I took the plunge and with the help of Joe Latshaw spending an afternoon teaching me how to raise queens, I was raising my own queens. I started off like most, learning, failing and occasionally succeeding. But over the years we improved and now raising queens is second nature. Over the last few years we’ve shipped queens throughout the US and we are proud of our Pioneer Queen. I gave her that name because I’ve heard people talk about our great grandparents as having “pioneer stock”, meaning for what they endured they must have had great genetics.
Some people want our secret recipe for raising good queens. Sorry, it’s not a secret. Graft only from the best hives. Graft from hives that produce large amounts of honey, are gentle, don’t swarm much, put up with mites without crashing and overwinter well. There’s no exact science to it but then there is also no fool proof guarantee either. Queens mate with over 20 drones so though our results are very similar, bee genetics are still difficult to clone.
Once again, we will raise our Pioneer queen in 2012 starting sometime in last April or May, depending on the weather and how early the drones mature. We are excited to be able to also sell other queens from our friends who raise queen after our similar technique. We train many people each year, and we are glad to help sell queens that also meet our qualifications. This will help us to meet more of our queen orders.
A healthy queen means a healthy hive. To maintain a healthy hive the colony has to have lots of bees. A strong laying queen will build up the numbers in a colony. A weak laying hive will keep the numbers low and the colony weak. A weak colony is not always the result of a bad queen. For example, if a colony is sick or has an infestation of a pest, the numbers can go down resulting in the queen not being fed well. This will cause her not to lay well. That same queen would lay like crazy in a healthy colony. So do not always blame your queen.
If the colony is healthy, strong in numbers but the queen is not laying well, it very well may mean a new queen is necessary to keep the hive growing well. All queens sold for less that $100 have been open air mated, which means no one can perfectly control the results. These are known as production queens. Queens that have been instrumentally inseminated with drone sperm from chosen lines are called breeder queens. These queens are not production queens, but are queens used to raise other queens. The average beekeeper uses production queens but queen producers will buy breeder queens to raise queen from her eggs.
I do not believe anyone will be able to produce a queen that can totally resist all pests and diseases in the near future. We can make small headway, but with open air mating it is not easy to hold the lines tight. There are many claims about queens, but if there was a perfect queen we’d all be buying queens from that producer. Much more goes into a successful colony than a perfect queen. For example, we cannot control the weather, amount of nectar produced in plants, bears, skunks, pesticide poisoning etc. Even the best queens need a skilled beekeeper to help monitor and manage the hive.
Spring queens must be monitored closely. It’s not uncommon for new colonies to have queen issues. A new queen may not be immediately accepted. In fact, she may be “balled” or attacked before she is finally accepted. Therefore, it is very important for the beekeeper to inspect the colony every 2 weeks in the spring and early summer. If the queen is missing or not laying populous frames of eggs, replace her immediately with a mated queen. If one week goes by without a queen, close to 10,000 eggs may not have been laid. This iwill lead to a small and weak colony unless a new mated queen is introduce. Call us immediately to purchase a Pioneer queen if your queen is missing.
Whether you are a new beekeeper or an experienced beekeeper you must monitor your queen. Please consider these important tips when inspecting the queen’s performance:
1) Locate your queen. Become familiar with her appearance. It is best to mark your queen so that you will know if the colony replaced her by raising their own queen. Pay close attention to her color, legs, wings and abdomen.
Visible damage could also mean she is unable to lay effectively.
2) Observe the number of actual eggs she is laying. A new egg stands straight up in the cell. This will allow you to see how well she is laying. Learn to identify eggs.
3) Observe the number of frames of sealed brood as this reveals how well she was laying 8-10 days ago.
4) When manipulating the frames, keep your eye on the queen especially as your return a frame back into the hive. Be sure to allow enough space to slide the frame into position without smashing the queen against the next frame. This is called “rolling” the queen. Many beekeepers carelessly kill their queens when inspecting the hive. If the queen is on the outside edge or wooden parts of the frame, do not place the frame back into the hive. Wait until she moves to the safety of the middle of the comb. Keep your eye on her all the way until the comb is in the hive.
Thanks for joining us for another lesson on beekeeping. Please let others know about these lessons and our business. We appreciate you spreading the word!
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David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
Posted by David Burns at 10:52 PM