Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Marking Queen Bees

After the new queen honey bee returns from a series of mating flights to the mating nucleus hive where she emerged as an adult a week earlier, she roams the combs for another week. Now, at about two weeks of age, the queen begins a life of egg laying. One queen is responsible for producing the entire population of the colony. The success of the colony depends upon the number of bees that she produces. The behavioral traits and many of the health characteristics of the colony are shaped by the genes shared by the queen and the drones she mated with. The organization of the colony as a social unit is built around the pheromones the queen secretes. If the beekeeper wants to control or improve the bee stock, it is important to identify the queen. Unless the queen is marked, there is no way to tell whether she has been replaced through supersedure. Colonies regularly replace their queen, often more frequently than the beekeeper realizes. Some races of honey bees continuously build queen cells as a survival strategy: A new queen is always readily available if needed. As long as the existing queen remains productive, laying plenty of eggs and producing ample pheromones, the extra queen cells are destroyed by the workers before new queens emerge.

The Russian queen held in a plastic marking tube was reared in a queen mating nucleus hive from a queen cell that I cut from the comb of one of my hives. By continuously evaluating queens, the beekeeper can choose ones that have the best traits for survival in the local region. Those are the queens one would like to have producing new generations of queens. This queen will be observed over her lifetime for over-winter survival of the colony, spring-time population buildup, behavior on the comb, brood pattern, honey production, and gentleness. The dot of white paint on her thorax will tell me that she has not been superseded.

1 comment:

  1. I hadn't realized supersedure occurs that often, but it make absolute sense. love that you are rearing Russian queens!