Thursday, August 4, 2011

Last Chance for a New Queen

Honey bee colonies produce new queens as they need them through the spring, summer, and fall. The bees make new queens for supersedure, or replacement, of aging queens; or they make new queens to sustain the colony after it divides and swarms. Some races of bees, like the Russians, continue to produce numbers of queen cells throughout this time. The bees tear down the cells if a new queen is not needed in the hive at the time. Beekeepers produce queens during the same period by encouraging the bees to produce queen cells. The queen cells may be created by either grafting day-old larvae into queen cell cups or by non-grafting techniques. Today’s photo shows beekeepers practicing grafting at a University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service advanced beekeeping workshop in Little Rock, Arkansas.

In the Mid-South area, queens may be reared from May through August. An important element in the production of good queens is the availability of sufficient numbers of drones to mate with the new queens. If we attempt to produce queens too early in the spring, they are often of low quality because large numbers of sexually-mature drones are not available. The number of drones in the drone concentration areas is often reduced late in the summer, especially during times of dearth of nectar and pollen. At this time, the colonies produce fewer drones and sometimes remove drones from the hives. Late-season queens that are well mated with good drones make for prolific colonies for pollination service or honey production the following year. At Peace Bee Farm, we like to produce a number of extra queens to have as replacements for lost queens. If we detect a queen-less colony during a nectar flow, we can easily replace her by bringing in a laying queen housed in a nucleus hive. Once the two hives are combined using a sheet of newspaper to slow the merger of the bees, the colony can continue producing honey without losing population.

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