Brick wall on queen rearing

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Joined
Mar 9, 2016
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Location
Gower, where all the fun happens
Hive Type
National
Number of Hives
24 + a few nucs....this has to stop!
I seem to have hit a wall with my queen rearing apiary and queen rearing in general this year. I have 12 production hives side by side with 3ft gap in between. All of these had 2021 queens, 2 bought in and the rest raised from my 2020 best stock (my criteria is very basic: calmness, no swarming, yield).

So far, out of 12 I only have 3 2021 queens remaining (1 bought in and 2 of my own which have not yield much at all) and all others have either tried to swarm, been superceded and 2 vanished presumed dead. Luckily most of them have succesfully requeened with new queens laying well.

I have just completed a round of grafting from my best 2021 stock (she was subsequently superceded) and have a few newly mated queens from her. However, I had a daughter of her heading one of my hives. bees were gentle then turned unstable and defencive when they decided to supercede her. The new queen is now laying well (had to demaree the hive today) but temper has not changed (ear marked for the squash). This also makes me think that the round of grafting I have just done will produce similar bees.

I am scratching my head what to do next to reverse the trend of swarminess and get more stable bees. My other 2 apiaries have not produced good results with mated queens, always end-up too twitchy and ready to turn on a dial. I don't think moving the mating apiary to either site is an option.

I can probably buy-in a couple of good queens and do another big round of grafting while also being heartless and culling heavily at the end of the season. Whichever way I look at it it will be a fair bit of work to get back to where I want to be.

I am not sure if there is a clear question here but would welcome thoughts or experience if anyone has been there and managed to turn it around. I would also welcome comments from those with a high number of hives on queen losses/supercedure, etc. I seem to be getting through a lot of queens with most of them lasting 1 year.
 
Buy in some stock - Jolanta queens are excellent .
Thanks for the suggestion. Not sure I want to bring in and raise F2s from mixed buckies in my area where the prominent mongrel population and my stock are black bees.... I am worried of the potential temper of further cross.
 
Thanks for the suggestion. Not sure I want to bring in and raise F2s from mixed buckies in my area where the prominent mongrel population and my stock are black bees.... I am worried of the potential temper of further cross.
I would probably stop trying to graft futher this year and simply carry out walk away splits with all your strong colonies - can then do an audit later in the year of what colonies are best to breed from next year. Mardy bees can produce calm queens and if they are left alone will be less hassle - aggressive bees are another issue but it sounds as if you are not at that stage
 
I am going to wait until the end of the main flow and reduce numbers rather than do more splits. I think (hopefully) all hives in this apiary are now not likely to try and swarm for the rest of the season. I will probably cull and unite, get a couple of good queens in and go into winter that way.

Luckily I have 2 other apiaries so will be able to move hives around when supers are off
 
I've also lost a few queens this year and had some weird behaviour. I've also had some new queen colonies turn less friendly in the last week or so. I'm monitoring and likely to buy in a few queens but part of me wants to just say wait until next year and see if they calm down as something odd seems to be happening this year.
 
Something in the air? I agree, some very odd behaviour this year so I wouldn't be making knee jerk reactions based on 2022.
I've got some brood boxes utterly stuffed with bees who don't move, they are really pleasant but previously calm reliable colonies who are quite miserable. I wouldn't hold this recent behaviour against them, there must be an explanation and while there has been a gap, they were moody weeks before.
 
Something in the air? I agree, some very odd behaviour this year so I wouldn't be making knee jerk reactions based on 2022.
I've got some brood boxes utterly stuffed with bees who don't move, they are really pleasant but previously calm reliable colonies who are quite miserable. I wouldn't hold this recent behaviour against them, there must be an explanation and while there has been a gap, they were moody weeks before.
I agree with the jist of that, hopefully all will be well once the brambles start yielding and summer kicks in properly.
I've gone through apiaries in the past fortnight where about half the colonies have been marked down for requeening due to them being spiteful, most of them colonies who'd previously scored well on temperament, bloody annoying!
 
I seem to have hit a wall with my queen rearing apiary and queen rearing in general this year. I have 12 production hives side by side with 3ft gap in between. All of these had 2021 queens, 2 bought in and the rest raised from my 2020 best stock (my criteria is very basic: calmness, no swarming, yield).

So far, out of 12 I only have 3 2021 queens remaining (1 bought in and 2 of my own which have not yield much at all) and all others have either tried to swarm, been superceded and 2 vanished presumed dead. Luckily most of them have succesfully requeened with new queens laying well.

I have just completed a round of grafting from my best 2021 stock (she was subsequently superceded) and have a few newly mated queens from her. However, I had a daughter of her heading one of my hives. bees were gentle then turned unstable and defencive when they decided to supercede her. The new queen is now laying well (had to demaree the hive today) but temper has not changed (ear marked for the squash). This also makes me think that the round of grafting I have just done will produce similar bees.

I am scratching my head what to do next to reverse the trend of swarminess and get more stable bees. My other 2 apiaries have not produced good results with mated queens, always end-up too twitchy and ready to turn on a dial. I don't think moving the mating apiary to either site is an option.

I can probably buy-in a couple of good queens and do another big round of grafting while also being heartless and culling heavily at the end of the season. Whichever way I look at it it will be a fair bit of work to get back to where I want to be.

I am not sure if there is a clear question here but would welcome thoughts or experience if anyone has been there and managed to turn it around. I would also welcome comments from those with a high number of hives on queen losses/supercedure, etc. I seem to be getting through a lot of queens with most of them lasting 1 year.
I can relate to this Jeff, a lot of beekeeping friends are experiencing more defensive colonies this year and I have had 2 as well. Still in the process of requeening which is taking ages and my regret is not acting fast enough.

Think aggression is complex with many factors at play - but probably boils down to genetics (drone as well as queen) and environment (apiary location, weather, forage availability).

Its been windier and cool here this year, then sudden spells of sunshine which seems to send the bees off into huge foraging excitement, with defensiveness thrown in

I’ve concluded you can only try to produce from your best & make more queens than you need, as just can’t tell how they will turn out, until the following spring. Think you then have to assess and be ruthless culling rather than forgiving. I heard an experienced bee breeder recently say he culls 50% and any less you’re not being tough enough. Then as you say, occasionally buy in to improve genetics but when her offspring become queens it all depends which drones she mates with…It’s not easy!

So the other thing we can attempt to do is try to influence the drones v difficult!), making more drones in our best hives. Trouble is not many beekeepers do this. I read there are certain gene loci in drones which specifically carry gene for aggression and if your queens mate with drones like this, the die is cast.
 
I think you are right @elainemary. Taking a step back the weather has not been great here, colder than usual, and I have not had any spring crop which is an indication of the bees inability to gather as usual. This coupled with excessive amount of cabin fever has probably impacted on temperament and increased swarming fever. Unless weather and yielding improve it will be very challenging to identify who stays and who goes. The clover is out here since last week and the bramble is starting in the sheltered spots but today is raining and it will not be over 15 C for the next few days!

I usualy reshuffle apiaries in the winter and my queen rearing apiary has between 10-12 of my best performing production hives which are then used both as queen right cell raisers, drone production (although I don't go out of the way to give them drone foundation) and mating. The other 2 apiaries have the less desirable hives which provide me with brood for nucs , stings, and headaches!!
 
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I think you are right @elainemary. Taking a step back the weather has not been great here, colder than usual, and I have not had any spring crop which is an indication of the bees inability to gather as usual. This coupled with excessive amount of cabin fever has probably impacted on temperament and increased swarming fever. Unless weather and yielding improve it will be very challenging to identify who stays and who goes. The clover is out here since last week and the bramble is starting in the sheltered spots but today is raining and it will not be over 15 C for the next few days!

I usualy reshuffle apiaries in the winter and my queen rearing apiary has between 10-12 of my best performing production hives which are then used both as queen right cell raisers, drone production (although I don't go out of the way to give them drone foundation) and mating. The other 2 apiaries have the less desirable hives which provide me with brood for nucs , stings, and headaches!!
Jeff, I've started to give either a super comb (that they can build drone below) or a foundation less frames (that they can build whatever they want) to my best AND my worst colonies. The advantage of giving to your worst, is they tend to make the majority of drone on this frame so easy to remove / cull. The other option is forking out drone brood across various frames in a defensive colony, as I don't want to populate my local area with bad drones. This is hard when the colony is defensive as takes time to go through all the frames...maybe something to consider for the future?

Sounds you're working hard to improve your stock and doing all the right things. Whilst I am becoming tougher when assessing colonies, I also do think you can't make a snap judgement on one or even two inspections. I moved one of my nicest colonies to a new apiary around a month ago and became really disheartened when she became v defensive. However she has now reverted back & nice to handle again after 4 weeks. Guess you just have to try to figure out is it the environment which is a key factor or is fundamental bad genetics. Can be different reasons, as you'll know for different colonies.

It's a good thread to start & like you, I'd be interested in hearing the experiences of others & how they approach the problem
 
Yes, after reading comments from some of the members here I have started to add 2 foundationless frames in full colonies and 1 in nucs. I have done it mostly to give them the opportunity to draw what they need rather than what I want them to draw. It is a bit late this season but from next season I will do it early in the season to control drones. I am quite lucky that my bees will draw drone comb below the deep frames filling the gap with the floor. I tend to get rid of that if the bees are not to my liking but unfortunately do not have time to go through each bad colony picking drone brood with a fork.

This is probably as much as I can do considering that I have another 5-6 known beeks within a mile radius which are not doing anything to improve their stock. I am jut banking on their virgins mating with my drones!
 
I have started to add 2 foundationless frames in full colonies and 1 in nucs. I have done it mostly to give them the opportunity to draw what they need rather than what I want them to draw
I've found that a pointless exercise as regardless of whether you give them drone foundation or worker, they will still draw whichever cells suits them. I was sorting out drawn foundation from last year's Demarree's this spring and found frames which were 90% drone comb but which had been drawn from worker foundation.
I think the bees are cleverer than beekeepers give them credit for
Or maybe it's the reverse and it's beekeepers that are more naïve than bees can believe.
 
I've found that a pointless exercise as regardless of whether you give them drone foundation or worker, they will still draw whichever cells suits them.

Yes, that's true although you perhaps have a bit more options with the foundationless frame if its all drone, whether for controlling varroa or else? I know if there is worker brood I tend not to dispatch these frames. In the spring if I have BB frames with large patches of moldy pollen I also cut this out and reuse the frames giving them opportunity to do what they want with it, that's another alternative
 
I have one colony with the annoying habit of drawing clumps of drone cells mid comb which is making a right pig's ear of the nest. I managed to work two of the worst combs out only for them to do a repeat performance.
 
Not sure I want to bring in and raise F2s from mixed buckies in my area ??

Jolanta's queens are not Buckfast but Carniolian. She is also (I suppose) the best queen rearer now in the UK.

PH
 
I think your brick in the wall is very common. I’ve reared from plenty of local bee’s and consistency is always the issue, whilst you can judge queens earlier it’s not really until there filling a brood box you can truly get an idea. Trying to tear decent queens from a mongrel population is very hit and miss and in my experience often disappointing! Hence why the vast majority of commercial types will rear from line or pure race bees. You can’t compete with the constancy.
 
Not sure I want to bring in and raise F2s from mixed buckies in my area ??

Jolanta's queens are not Buckfast but Carniolian. She is also (I suppose) the best queen rearer now in the UK.

PH
We have a preference for carnica derived bees in our own unit, but Jolanta maintains a range of breeder queens (c50) and we can supply Carnica, Buckfast, or Amm...grafted from such queens but open mated to a spectrum of our selected drones (plus a few interlopers...cannot be avoided).
We are strong believers in diversity of genetics in the mix to give the population resilience and vigour
From Murray on the Jolanta thread in the Sponsors market section. Black Mountain Honey goes on to say that Jolanta queens sold can be from any of these C50 and mostly mixed.
 
Not sure I want to bring in and raise F2s from mixed buckies in my area ??

Jolanta's queens are not Buckfast but Carniolian. She is also (I suppose) the best queen rearer now in the UK.

PH
According to Murray they have AMM bucks and carniolans
 
I think your brick in the wall is very common. I’ve reared from plenty of local bee’s and consistency is always the issue, whilst you can judge queens earlier it’s not really until there filling a brood box you can truly get an idea. Trying to tear decent queens from a mongrel population is very hit and miss and in my experience often disappointing! Hence why the vast majority of commercial types will rear from line or pure race bees. You can’t compete with the constancy.
Yes especially as I only raise from F1s. With 20 hives, a few nucs, and not looking to increase, is it money well spent to invest in an II breeder queen though and have all your colony headed by queens from the same mother?
 

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