Sunday, June 6, 2010

Evaluating Brood Patterns

After new queen bees have made their mating flights, they continue to develop their reproductive organs for several days before they begin to lay eggs. During this time, nutrition is important for development of quality queens. To produce productive queens, the beekeeper needs to ensure that there is plenty of food in the form of honey and pollen in the hive. Since the nucleus hives were established with young nurse bees, there may not be an adequate population of older foragers to collect enough food for the queen and colony. If food stores are lacking, supplemental feeding of sugar syrup and pollen substitute can be done. Pollen substitute patties fed to bees in warm weather are particularly attractive to small hive beetles. If beetle larvae appear in the pollen substitute patties, they should be removed.

When the new queen begins to lay eggs, they may be few in number at first. There may even be more than one egg in a cell during the queen’s early attempts at brood production. The first eggs that she lays may be infertile, resulting in drone brood. However, a good queen will rapidly develop a pattern of laying a single egg in each cell. The pattern of brood production should move toward large areas of continuous worker brood with few holes or empty cells. The beekeeper’s brood evaluation begins in the queen mating nucleus hives and continues after the bees are moved to permanent, full-size hives. The amount of brood and the number of holes in the brood pattern can be used in judging the quality of a queen. The photo shows an excellent pattern of larvae-stage, capped brood. Inbred queens produce inferior offspring that are removed from the cells by the workers. Workers exhibiting hygienic behavior also remove pupae that have parasitic Varroa mites developing with the honey bees in the brood cells. In this case, finding holes in the brood pattern indicates a queen passing along good traits to her offspring.

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