The first 30 queen cell grafts were moved from the swarm box into LR1 set up as a cell finisher. Another 30 JZ cell cups were grafted and placed into the swarm box. Before placing the grafts into the box I refilled the water cloth and added fresh frames of honey and Pollen though I probably did not need to. I actually think I set the swarm box up with more bees than I needed to so it should easily be able to do well with the second grafting.
I purchased a VSH breeder queen from Harbo Bee Co. http://www.harbobeeco.com/breeder-queens/ The Queens are about $250 each plus shipping. I purchsed one as I only need about 10 queens to make my yards 30 % VSH queens. The Idea is to raise queens that are 100% VSH so their workers will be 50 % after mating with the local drones. Also all the drones produced by queens that are produced by the breeder will be 100 % VSH introducing the VSH qualities to any queens that they mate with. My goal is to produce 10 queens.
I introduced the queens into a nuc on 6/11/14 and released her from the cage on 6/16/14 after I saw that the bees had accepted her. She has been laying now for about 8 days now so today I made my first grafting into 30 queen cups adding them to a swarm box that I made up. Because of the drought there is not much available for the bees and we are near the beginning of the dearth here. I have been feeding both sugar water and pollen Substitute now for about three weeks to keep the bees raising brood in preparation to make splits and setting up the cell builders. I have never tried to raise queens under these conditions so it will be interesting.
Swarm #8 was picked up in Salinas. The swarm is small consisting of three medium frames of bees and a very large queen. The swarm was put in a 5 frame medium nuc set in hive location W2.
While at the W yard I peeked into the two hives with queens that I raised this year, both are laying very well with many frames of sealed brood. The brood should start emerging in 4 days. Both hives barely have enough bees to cover all the brood and the nights have been a little chilly with several cold fronts passing through. I hope I don’t lose any of the brood. The hive populations should start to explode in 4 days as the brood emerges so I will likely need to give them room in six days. The new queens seem to be laying so much better than the older queens that it is amazing. It is exciting to see queens that I raised doing so well.
Update: 5/22/14, Hive is queenless and was combined with W3
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.
I inspected the remaining four queen cells in the cell builder hive and found that they had hatched nicely into queen cages as planned. They look very good. I made four queen mating nucs adding one frame partially filled with capped brood and one frame with honey and pollen to each nuc from the cell builder and then releasing a queen into each nuc. Since the nucs were made up from the cell builder they readily accepted the queens directly.
Made splits to install queen cells in. 3 queen mating nucs, 5 deep 5 frame nucs and 2 medium 5 frame nucs all are queenless waiting for queen cells.
Inspected the cell finisher. There are 14 well finished queen cells which will be ready for installing into nucs on March 27th and 28th. Too bad it is going to be raining. I need to set up the nucs on Wednesday the 26th.
I moved the started queen cells along with the frame of pollen and frame of honey from the cell starter to the cell finisher colony today. The cells that I could see look much better than they did with the cloak board method. The only problem is that the cell finisher is really not as strong as it should be. I added all the bees from the cell starter swarm box to the cell finisher so I hope that makes up for the shortage. Fortunately I am only trying to produce about 20 cells, at most 29 if they were all accepted, and this is much less than the 70 or more that a commercial operation would be doing that requires an extremely strong hive. Hopefully the lower number of cells can be cared for well by the weaker hive. When I moved the cells I was very careful not to jar the swarm box and left all adhering bees to the frames as I moved them to disturb them as little as possible.
I made a swarm box using a 5 frame deep nuc box, added about an inch to the bottom and stapled a screen over the bottom. I added a medium frame of honey, medium frame of pollen and two empty medium frames and a soaking wet wash cloth for water. As per Larry Connors teaching in the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJvLnFDDjEo I shook between 2 and 3 lbs of young bees into the box taking them from two strong hives, covered it and set it on blocks in the garage for about 4 hours. I set up one of the strong hives that I took young bees from as the cell finisher. It consisted of 4 medium boxes, I set the queen in the bottom two with a queen excluder and arranged the top two as the cell finisher section. I moved open brood to the top two boxes with three missing frames in the top box ready for the cell starter frames to be added tomorrow. In the afternoon I added 29 grafted queen cups in-between the frame of honey and pollen and returned it to my garage. I used the Chinese grafting tool this time and found it worked surprisingly well bring royal jelly along with the larvae so there was no need to prime the cells.