Saturday, June 12, 2010
LESSON 76: The Success of Your Hive is Riding On Your Queen
Hello from David & Sheri Burns at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms!
Is there any better life than that of a beekeeper? I’ve kept bees long enough now and have such a love for bees and beekeeping that I even don’t mind being stung. You can always tell a new beekeeper from a seasoned beekeeper because the new ones tell you how many times they’ve been stung and where. Seasoned beekeepers have lost track and don’t care and know you don’t care to hear about bee stings :)
Here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms we are in full queen production! Queens, queens, queens, everywhere there are queens in all stages. My youngest daughter Karee has work along side of me for 3 year now in our queen rearing operation and she’s a pro! All day long we are grafting, transferring cells, marking mated queens for sale, and dividing hives for more mating nucs. Karee knows the whole operation and is a great grafter too.
Our bees help out a bunch with our own garden. Here’s mating nuc number 40 doing double duty. Producing queens and pollinating our gardens. We enjoy garden, chickens, bees and generally living out in the country! We are in our 6th year now in the country and it’s a hoot.
GUESS THE PHOTO! Sheri took this picture of everything we made from our own property in these three containers. Anyone know what’s in the jars? The middle one is obvious, so good luck on the other two. You can click on the photo to enlarge it.
LESSON 76:The Success of Your Hive is Riding on Your Queen
You must keep an eye on your queen and make sure she has a great laying pattern. As we hit middle summer and slide down into fall beekeepers are more likely to kill their queen during super removal, or queens can fail toward fall. Don’t go into winter with an old queen or a missing queen.
There are three caste of bees in a hive: 1) The female worker bee, underdeveloped reproductive ability, 2) The male drones who only mate high in the air with virgin queens, then die and 3) The queen.
When a hive makes a new queen, they do so from a fertile egg laid by a queen. They feed this young, three day old larva or younger, a special queen royal jelly and build out the queen cell perpendicular to the comb. It looks like a peanut shell. From the time the egg is laid until the queen emerges requires 16 days. Workers take 21 days to emerge and drones 24 days.
When the queen emerges she, of course, is a virgin queen or what some call an unmated queen. The queen only mates one time outside the hive. A few days after emerging, she will take her mating flight and fly away from her hive several miles to a drone congregation area (DCA). The DCAs are 40 feet or higher and have been an established meeting place for years. The DCA is a place where hundreds of drones hang out in the afternoon seeking a virgin queen. Virgin queens somehow know where the DCAs are and will mate with 12-20+ drones. She may take several mating flights over the course of a week, but once mated she will never leave her hive again unless the hive decides to swarm. For reproductive swarms, the original, old queen will leave with 60% of the bees and the 40% left behind will be headed up by a new queen.
The queen mates with many drones in order to increase the genetic mix in the hive for survival. During mating, the drone’s genitalia (shown in picture) breaks off and is left in the queen and can be seen upon the queen’s return to the hive. This is called the mating sign. However, since she mates with many drones, each drones removes the previous drone’s mating sign and then mates with the queen.
The sperm from each drone is stored in the queen’s spermatheca so that she is able to lay fertile eggs for years to come from her initial mating flight. She will never mate again. A poorly mated queen may have stored only a limited amount of sperm and may only lay a very short time and turn into what we call a drone layer, laying only unfertilized eggs which produces drones.
It is very important that beekeepers see the value in replacing their queens on a regular basis. Replacing queens especially after June 21 can dramatically increase your hive’s winter survivability.
More on queens next time.
Mon – Thur 8:30 am – 4 pm Central Time
FRI-SAT visits & pickups by appointment only
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N. 1020 E. Rd
Fairmount, IL 61841