Saturday, May 16, 2009

Not All Queens are Good

We evaluate the queen bees in the queen mating nucleus hives. This allows us to know what the condition of a queen is before placing her into a full-size hive for pollination service or honey production. It is important that the queen is laying a large number of eggs and placing them in a tight, continuous pattern on the frames. A good queen will lay in excess of 1500 eggs per day. This level of egg laying is necessary to produce a large enough population of bees to produce some surplus honey. It is the beekeeper’s job to ensure that each colony has an acceptable queen.

While checking new queen bees in the mating nucleus hives, I found this one. The colony was gentle and still well populated with bees that I had placed in the hive when I established this nucleus colony. However, there was no evidence that the queen was laying worker brood. Only drone brood was found. Capped drone cells stand taller than worker cells and look like bullets on the frames. Click on the photo, and you can see the queen in the lower center. While she looks healthy, she was probably not properly mated in the days following her emergence as an adult. Rain falling on a number of consecutive days could have prevented her from making her mating flights. Without sperm, the queen could only lay infertile eggs which produce drones. If left in place, this colony would be doomed to dwindle away. I will replace this queen.

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