Queen bees mate in flight. In areas where Africanized Honey Bee genes are not prevalent, honey bee queens are allowed to mate with drones in the area. These “open mated” queens typically receive genetic material from between 12 and 20 drones when they fly into drone concentration areas. Having a large number of drones in the area insures that the queens will pass along to their offspring a great number of traits for survival in a rapidly changing environment. Beekeepers can increase the number of drones with desirable traits available to mate with queens by increasing the amount of drone comb in hives with favored traits. By adding frames of drone brood foundation, beekeepers can designate certain hives as “drone mother” hives. The process of drone saturation can lead to improved genetics throughout the bee yard when new queens are reared by the beekeeper or when colonies naturally supersede their queen.
New queens are being reared in mating nucleus hives as shown in today’s picture. The queens emerge as adults on day 16 after rapidly progressing through the stages of egg, larva, and pupa. After waiting five or six days in the hive in which their reproductive organs continue to develop, virgin queens make mating flights. It is important that the queens return to their own hive; they will be killed if they wander into another hive. The beekeeper can help insure the queens find their proper hive by randomly placing the hives and altering the hives’ appearance with paint color and patterns. Hives here are pointed in opposite directions to allow virgin queens to orient toward a particular mating nucleus hive. After the queens return from their mating flights, they wait another five or six days while their reproductive organs continue developing before they begin laying eggs. Feeding the mating nucleus colonies throughout the two weeks of development after the queen’s emergence is important. A strong nectar flow also helps ensure the queens receive adequate nutrition during their development.--Richard