How small a colony will raise a decent emergency queen?

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Sutty 

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It's a long time since I did any queen raising due to a 20yr break in beekeeping until last year.
Currently have 2 smallish colonies, building up fairly well.
I have some elderly poly mating boxes in my shed. I was wondering about mounting the mating frames in a full-size frame to get them drawn out and laid in. Then shaking nurse bees into a mating box, and add the mini-frames with eggs and young larvae, feed and close up.
Do you think they would then raise an emergency queen successfully? Seems like they should try!
 

jenkinsbrynmair 

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Too many - but not nearly enough
They would try - but make a poor job of it, you need a strong workforce of nurse bees to raise a queen cell which you would then transfer into a mating nuc once sealed. a cupful of bees is going to struggle to raise a queen at all.
 

Ian123 

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Mini Nucs are just there to maintain a cell placed in just before emerging or a virgin. I’ve pulled removed queens and some did indeed raise their own. Can’t really say how good they are though I’d suspect poor. I’d let your colonies build and just simply wait for 1 to try and swarm before splitting. It’s not the way I’d do it but probably the easiest.
 

Sutty 

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Thanks for the opinions, kind of what I was expecting. I'm planning to wait, and know the "conventional" way of doing it, I just like thinking "outside the box" and seeing what happens!
 

Antipodes 

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Thanks for the opinions, kind of what I was expecting. I'm planning to wait, and know the "conventional" way of doing it, I just like thinking "outside the box" and seeing what happens!
They will raise a queen in the circumstances you describe as I've seen it done, but agree that it would be likely to be small and poor, (also from what I have seen).

Perhaps you could let the colonies build up more, proceed to do what you say with the small frames, and then put it up above the main colony ....a bit like in a demaree, and see if you can get better cells made and capped, and then put them in the apideas with a cup and a half of bees a day or so before they are due to emgerge?
 

pargyle 

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It's a long time since I did any queen raising due to a 20yr break in beekeeping until last year.
Currently have 2 smallish colonies, building up fairly well.
I have some elderly poly mating boxes in my shed. I was wondering about mounting the mating frames in a full-size frame to get them drawn out and laid in. Then shaking nurse bees into a mating box, and add the mini-frames with eggs and young larvae, feed and close up.
Do you think they would then raise an emergency queen successfully? Seems like they should try!
I'd agree with all the above comments ... better to just let them build up ... plenty of time to make increase. Why not let one colony grow and look for a honey crop. Split the other one around July and buy in a decent queen... £40 well spent IMO ... you would then have three good sized colonies going into winter and a better chance of queen rearing, more colonies and a honey crop next year. I'm sure you know - unless you are prepared to buy in nucs or packages beekeeping has to be a long game.. If it is going to pay for itself you need to take the longer view.
 

ChrisS 

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You can get a decent emergency queen cell in a mini-nuc. I inadvertently did this two years ago. I raised a batch of queens in Apideas, left them till I saw brood and moved them on. I left the workers and brood to hatch, and a week later I found an emergency queen cell in one Apidea. She hatched and mated so I put her in a big hive, and she is still laying well 2 seasons on!

Having said that, I wouldn't plan to do it deliberately...
 

pargyle 

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You can get a decent emergency queen cell in a mini-nuc. I inadvertently did this two years ago. I raised a batch of queens in Apideas, left them till I saw brood and moved them on. I left the workers and brood to hatch, and a week later I found an emergency queen cell in one Apidea. She hatched and mated so I put her in a big hive, and she is still laying well 2 seasons on!

Having said that, I wouldn't plan to do it deliberately...
Yes - sometimes you get lucky as bees are predictable only insomuch as they are unpredictable at times - as a planned idea for making increase - non starter !
 

oliver90owner 

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Have you forgotten everything you knew as a beekeeper? Or were you never a proper beekeeper?

They will always try - it is their survival instict. Trying, succeeding and acheiving a ‘decent’ emergency queen are three different things. Acheiving a ‘good’ queen is yet another.

In your case they are likely to simply die. Think about it.
 

Sutty 

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Have you forgotten everything you knew as a beekeeper? Or were you never a proper beekeeper?

They will always try - it is their survival instict. Trying, succeeding and acheiving a ‘decent’ emergency queen are three different things. Acheiving a ‘good’ queen is yet another.

In your case they are likely to simply die. Think about it.
No, not forgotten at all, I'm well aware of the conventional wisdom and techniques - splits, demareeing, etc, and those are what I will probably be using in a couple of months when my colonies have built up more.
I was merely exploring what else, less usual, might be possible, fully aware that it may well not be! The exceptional insulation of polystyrene mating nucs might mean that even a very small colony may be able to achieve more than it could in a conventional hive. Even a poor quality queen would get a new colony started and expanding, with the potential to re-queen later in the year.
Fortunately I'm not easily offended. Generally this seems a friendly forum.
 

pargyle 

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No, not forgotten at all, I'm well aware of the conventional wisdom and techniques - splits, demareeing, etc, and those are what I will probably be using in a couple of months when my colonies have built up more.
I was merely exploring what else, less usual, might be possible, fully aware that it may well not be! The exceptional insulation of polystyrene mating nucs might mean that even a very small colony may be able to achieve more than it could in a conventional hive. Even a poor quality queen would get a new colony started and expanding, with the potential to re-queen later in the year.
Fortunately I'm not easily offended. Generally this seems a friendly forum.
It is a friendly and helpful forum ... RAB's advice is always spot on... albeit delivered in a succinct and occasionally blunt manner ... listen to what he says not the way he says it and you won't go far wrong.
 

Antipodes 

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No, not forgotten at all, I'm well aware of the conventional wisdom and techniques - splits, demareeing, etc, and those are what I will probably be using in a couple of months when my colonies have built up more.
I was merely exploring what else, less usual, might be possible, fully aware that it may well not be! The exceptional insulation of polystyrene mating nucs might mean that even a very small colony may be able to achieve more than it could in a conventional hive. Even a poor quality queen would get a new colony started and expanding, with the potential to re-queen later in the year.
Fortunately I'm not easily offended. Generally this seems a friendly forum.
G'day Sutty,
If you look at a chart showing the fecundity of queens in relation to their weight, you see that generally the heavier the queen, the better, but although the overall curve is upwards, the individual laying rates vary considerably, showing that smaller queens can sometimes lay well. That probably accounts for the experience of ChrisS in Felixstowe in post #7.
 

Repwoc 

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G'day Sutty,
If you look at a chart showing the fecundity of queens in relation to their weight, you see that generally the heavier the queen, the better, but although the overall curve is upwards, the individual laying rates vary considerably, showing that smaller queens can sometimes lay well. That probably accounts for the experience of ChrisS in Felixstowe in post #7.
Not only the rate of egg laying but also mating ratio, acceptance of the mated queens by queenless colonies, onset of oviposition, diameter of spermathecae and the number of spermatozoa in the spermathecae. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232691231 and https://www.researchgate.net/public..._its_effect_on_acceptance_during_introduction .
 

Antipodes 

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Not only the rate of egg laying but also mating ratio, acceptance of the mated queens by queenless colonies, onset of oviposition, diameter of spermathecae and the number of spermatozoa in the spermathecae. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232691231 and https://www.researchgate.net/public..._its_effect_on_acceptance_during_introduction .
Yes, the figures relating to diameter of spermathecae and the number of spermatozoa in the spermathecae are even more varied with weight, but yes, again, do generally go up.
 

oliver90owner 

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It was the’closed up’ bit that really tipped the scales for non-survival. Unless they could chew their way out.
 
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