A honey bee colony can’t be any better than its queen. We evaluate queens by observing the traits of the entire colony. Strong, healthy colonies reproduce by swarming in the spring. Beekeepers encourage bees to make new queens by setting up hives in the conditions that lead to swarming. To produce high-quality queens, it is necessary for the bees to come from good genetic lines, have good nutrition, and successfully mate with a number of high-quality drones. Shirley Murphy and I are participants in the Tennessee Queen Breeders Association, an effort of the Tennessee Beekeepers Association to develop queen bees adapted for the conditions of the Mid-South. In today’s photo Shirley is installing a queen cell housed in a protective cage in a full-size hive that she is requeening. She presses the queen cell into the side of a frame of mixed-age brood to resemble a supersedure queen cell. Similarly, Ed Anderson cuts off extra queen cells from his best Hendersonville, Tennessee bee hive to requeen another hive. Their queens will emerge inside the hives. After they make their mating flights, they will likely replace the old queens in mortal fight between the queens. Most colonies will accept any queen that emerges as an adult within the hive.
Shirley is also adding queen cells to queen mating nucleus hives. A “nuc" is any hive with less than the full capacity of a bee hive. Nucs often hold three, four, or five frames. We made up five-frame nucs with two frames of mixed-age brood and nurse bees from strong hives. The nurse bees will feed and care for the larvae in the open cells. The pupae in the capped brood will emerge soon to provide young worker bees to care for the new queen when she emerges from her queen cell. For food, we include in the nucleus hive a frame of honey and a frame of pollen. One empty frame of drawn comb provides for expansion of the prospective colony.