Queen rearing discussion – various (spring 2008)

A panel consisting of Tom Prendergast, Micheál C. Mac Giolla Coda, Dennis Ryan, and John Donoghue led a brief but very interesting discussion on queen rearing.  The points raised during this discussion are summarised below:

  1. If a queen in a mating nucleus is not mated within two weeks, then she will almost definitely become a drone-laying queen.
  2. There appears to be evidence that colonies that produce very large numbers of queen cells have a higher propensity to swarm.  The temptation to make up nuclei using such cells should be resisted as it merely propagates the swarming urge.
  3. The introduction of new queens into colonies is most safely achieved early and late in the season.  In mid-season, it is best to make up a nucleus and introduce the queen into that first.  When introducing queens directly into a colony, then that colony should be left queenless for a week beforehand.
  4. The number of mating nuclei that can be kept at one site depends on the number of drone-producing colonies present at the site.  In rearing queens, it is vitally important to give much consideration to providing an adequate supply of high-quality drones, especially now that the demise of feral colonies and let-alone beekeepers caused by varroa has led to a decrease in the number of drones generally available.  It is also important that drones of all ages are available throughout the season, as not all drones observed flying are suitable for mating.
  5. Although the Ben Harden method generally has the brood box containing the grafts and dummy boards placed directly over the excluder, Tom’s idea of placing the brood box containing the grafts over the supers is perfectly acceptable according to the originator of this method.  Indeed, this set-up has the advantage of allowing progress of the grafts to be easily inspected.
  6. The cell-raising colony needs to be very strong.  Colonies with a tendency to produce large numbers of queen cells are actually very suitable as cell raisers.
  7. The criteria used for selecting drone-raising colonies are the same as those for selecting breeding colonies, although drone-raising and breeding colonies should be from different lines.
  8. To prevent matings with rogue drones, mating apiaries should ideally be as isolated as possible and the mating nuclei should be drone free.

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