My first round of 2014 queen rearing is complete. Out of 29 grafts I had 15 well formed queen cells. I installed cells in splits of various sizes as follows.
1 – deep (9 1/8) 8 frame hive.
4 – deep (9 1/8) 5 frame nucs.
2 – medium (6 5/8) 5 frame nucs.
3 – medium (6 5/8) 3 frame mating box.
I put two queen cells in one of the splits and the remaining 4 cells I allowed to hatch in queen cages in the cells builder hive for latter use. Four days after the virgin queens hatched into the cages I made up four queen mating boxes with bees from the cell builder and directly released the virgins into them. Unfortunately within a week all four queen mating boxes were killed by ants.
All of the nuc and larger splits now having laying queens but only one of the three queen mating boxes was successful in yielding a laying queen. I have combined all the queen mating boxes into a single 8 frame medium hive. That is a total of 8 successful queens. Not as good as I dreamed but I am pleased with the size and laying of the 8 queens that I produced.
What did I learn?
- The Argentine ants are terrible around here and hives must be over a minimum size to be able to defend themselves from them. When I made up the four mating boxes for the virgins I did not move the boxes to a new yard. Many of the bees were older than I thought and returned to their mother hive resulting boxes too weak to defend themselves. ALWAYS MOVE the splits and mating boxes that were made up to a new yard to keep them as strong as possible.
- The queen mating boxes that I built are made from a 10 frame medium depth body with two divider boards resulting in three, three frame mating chambers. Entrances to each chamber consists of a 3/8 or 7/16 inch hole. Additional ventilation is provided with a one inch hole with a screen stapled over it from the inside. The bees are confused by the screened ventilation hole and try to use it as an entrance but cannot get in. I noticed this on one of the chambers where I had put the ventilation hole too close to the entrance hole. I enlarged one of the screen holes to allow bees to enter at that point on that one chamber. This was the only queen mating box that produced a queen so it is possible that the queens were not able to find the entrance on the other two. In other words my mating box design is poor and needs to be redesigned or modified.
- The use of either deep or medium 5 frame nucs works very well in mating queens and can also serve as increases if desired. I think I will use the medium 5 frame nucs as my mating box in the future. The problem is they take twice as many bees and brood as the three frame box. Then again that is probably why the ants are not such a problem for them.