Introduction and Performance of Queen Bees Introducting Apiary Status and Post Introduction Results
John Rhodes and Graham Denney
This project aimed to identify critical areas in queen bee production and introduction, that may be contributing to low acceptance and poor early performance being reported with commercially reared queen bees.
Beekeepers have not been satisfied with the introduction success rate and early performance of commercially reared queen bees for a number of years.
Queen bees from five commercial queen bee breeders produced in spring and in autumn were introduced into honey production apiaries belonging to three commercial beekeepers. Survival rates of test queens and older control queens were monitored at 4- week intervals for 16 weeks. Data considered critical to the survival and performance of test and control queens were recorded.
A significant loss of 30% of spring reared queens occurred compared to a loss of 13% of autumn reared queens. Control queen losses were 17% during the spring trial and average of 5% for the autumn trial. The age of the queen at introduction, numbers of spermatozoa stored in the queen’s spermatheca, Nosema disease, physical damage to the queen during transport, and external hive conditions were identified as factors, which may have contributed to the queen bee failures.
Further trial work investigated survival rates of commercially reared queen bees introduced into commercial honey production apiaries when the queens being introduced were 7, 14, 21, 28 and 35 days of age. The minimum age at which queen bees should be caught from mating nuclei lies between 28 and 35 days, this provided the premium survival after 15 weeks of 66.25% (60% when queens caught at 28 day and 72.5% when queens caught at 35 days).
This project is continuing and has lead to more beekeepers requeening colonies in the autumn and commercial queen breeders catching queens from nucleus colonies at between 28 and 35 days so the purchased queens have a better chance of survival.