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Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Queen Rearing Part 1

Queen Rearing Overview Part 1

I want to share about raising queens. I used to think raising queens was a monumental undertaking left to the more experienced beekeeper, commercial beekeepers or queen breeders. However, it is a good idea for every beekeeper to know how to raise queens. Beekeepers need queens. Honey bee queens are in big demand and in short supply. There is a mystery that surrounds the queen, and most beekeepers are content never to handle her or evaluate her performance. But the more we observe and know our queens the better we are in control of the overall survivability of our colonies.

Also, by raising our own queens, we control much of the characteristics of our hives. This means we should choose to graft from hives that have the overall most favorable characteristics such as:

1. Gentleness 2. Good brood pattern 3. Rapid spring build up 4. Resistance toward pests and disease 5. Minimal swarming 6. Good honey production

Once a good hive is selected, there are several ways to raise a queen. Some use a kit which makes gathering the eggs or larvae easy and requires no grafting. However, these kits can be somewhat restrictive in timing, whereas actual grafting of the young larvae provides much more flexibility.

Our operation has studied queen rearing for several years.

Karee MarshGrafting means that you examine a frame of brood from your selected hive. Then you look for 1 or 2 day old larvae. This is an important step. Here's, my daughter Karee gaining experience in grafting very young larvae from a frame of brood. The younger the larvae, the better. I try to find the youngest larvae that has just barely started to curve on the bottom of the cell. They are harder to graft, but have a much more promising success rate. This is known as grafting, taking young larvae from a frame of brood and transferring it into the queen cups.

David Burns

I took a shot at learning too and it really was not as difficult as I thought. This was many years ago, and raising queens is very easy and enjoyable. 

 

 

Queen RearingI make my own queen cup bars and frames which is a slightly modified traditional deep frame.

 

 

 

Queen grafting frame

As you can see, the horizontal cell bars are removable so that you can easily place them next to your frame when grafting and then place them back into the cell starter nuc. These dimensions are pretty standard. You want the bar to fit tightly so that it stays in place but still can be removed. The cell bars which old the cell cups have a small grooved cut into the middle to hold the cell cups. Finding the right size saw blade ensures a perfect fit.

 

 

 

 

Plastic Queen cupsI use a skill saw blade(1/8") thickness. The cups fit tight and have to be wedged into place the first couple of times.

Once the larvae are grafted into the cell cups and placed on the cell bar in the frame, the frame of grafted larvae are ready to be placed into a starter hive. Often, if the trip back to the starter hive is far, the larvae need to be kept in a humid box, to keep them from drying out. A cooler with a wet towel in the bottom is usually plenty of moisture. It is not extremely critical to keep the grafts real warm when they are at this young age.

In my case, the "cell starter" hive is a 5 frame queenless nuc. They have several frames of pollen and honey.

It is very helpful if this starter hive is overcrowded with bees that are between 9-12 days old so they are producing royal jelly at that age. There has to be a lot of bees, packed in, well fed and lots of young nurse bees. They will build out the comb and feed royal jelly to your newly grafted cells. They do this because they know they need a queen, and you have given them the start of queen cells loaded with fertilized larvae and plenty of royal jelly.

So in summary, we chose a hive to graft from, then we graft 1 day old larvae into our queen cells and place them into a queenless starter nuc with plenty of bees, pollen and honey. Now, you can leave the cells in the starter hive and leave them for 24 hours. After 24 hours move them into a "finishing hive" so the cells can be drawn out fully and sealed.

Now, here's the challenge. You cannot let these queens hatch together. If you do, the first one out will meticulously kill all the other queens in their cells.

In our next lesson, I will discuss grafting tools and techniques, mating queens, saving queens (called banking), how to sell queens and how to ship queens.

Thanks for joining me today, and to contact us, feel free to use the information below. Remember, BEE-have yourself!

David and Sheri BurnsDavid & Sheri Burns Long Lane Honey Bee Farms 217-427-2678 http://www.honeybeesonline.com/