Sunday, May 22, 2011

New Queens Emerge

A honey bee colony can be no better than its queen. Producing a good queen requires good bee genetics, nutrition, and successful mating with good drones. Queens may be produced in queen mating nucleus hives from larvae grafted from the beekeeper’s best honey bee stock or from supersedure or swarm cells found in existing bee hives. Queens may be produced entirely by the bees themselves if the beekeeper moves frames containing eggs and very young larvae and places them in a nucleus hive set-up to accept them. This nucleus hive is prepared a day in advance with frames of open brood, nurse bees, and frames containing pollen and honey. In this case, the hive may be considered a “walk-away” split, since it requires no attention by the beekeeper after it is set up. There are also non-grafting techniques for producing queens. Any of these methods area capable of producing good, productive queens. However, things can go wrong; and poor queens may result if conditions are not right. For example, the genetic mix of the queen and the drones she mates with must be well suited for the local environmental conditions. The nucleus colony must have adequate food to nourish the developing queen, particularly a diversity of pollens to provide all of the necessary proteins, vitamins, and minerals. There must be an adequate population of foraging worker bees to gather food if it is not supplied by the beekeeper. There must be plenty mature drones in the area for the queen to mate with. Finally, weather conditions must be suitable for the young queen to make her mating flights.

The first sign of the queen’s successful mating is the presence of eggs. Click of today’s photo to see a new, dark-colored queen that failed to develop into a productive egg laying “mother” for the colony. Actually she became smallest bee in the hive. Still, the workers are attracted to her pheromones and attend to her. She will be replaced.

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