Moon light mating explained,

Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum

Help Support Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Queen Bee
Beekeeping Sponsor
Feb 18, 2010
Reaction score
Isle Of Wight
Hive Type
Number of Hives
How long is a piece of string
Moonlight mating. Think posted before but hey, something to read : )

While their pals take to the drone congregation areas, the drones of the ten colonies selected by Joe Horner are banned from flying.
A barrier fence along the floor boards preventing them from flying out.

The mating apiary of the Australian breeder is surrounded by forests, in which numerous colonies thrive thanks to the lack of varroa.

However Horner wants the 2000 Queens he raises a year to be mated from its only breeding colonies of the drones.
For this Instrumental Insemination is too expensive.
He uses the Koehler Method (see P. 30-31) in refined form, (his setup allows up to 240 queens to be control mated on a single day.)

One system, many names.

Over time, his operation has become known within Australia, as the Horner System.

In Germany this method is mainly in use by keepers of the dark bee, who use it as a way to keep pure the native bee when surrounded by Carnica.
Here the name used is a playful "Moonlight mating station”, even if it's not likely to be a romantic rendezvous for the bees.

Whether called the Koehler Method, Horner's System or Moonlight mating station - the method has significant advantages over Instrumental Insemination aside from the financial one.

Other advantage: In the natural mating must each drone at the meeting place compete against its competitors.
This is a natural selection amongst the drones, since usually only the fittest males have a chance with the queen.

Horner encourages the prolific production of drones in his selected colonies by introducing drone combs into these colonies 40 days prior to a planned mating.

Prior to mating, selected drone pupae from 3 drone mother (DM) colonies are transferred to a single drone source (DS) colony to mature. The DS colonies are furnished with a queen excluder, which allows workers (but not drones) to have constant passage from the hive.
Horner uses 10 such DS colonies with males from a total of 30 DM colonies for each controlled mating.

Queen cells are introduced to standard 4-way mating nucs (i.e., the hive box is divided 4 ways, with entrances facing in 4 directions). Each virgin is confined to her mating nuc by a queen excluder. Two days prior to the virgins’ mating flight, the colonies are placed in a darkened shed at 13–15 °C.

The mating nucs are on several trolleys that slide on rails, so they can easily be pushed by one operator from the cold room out into the open.

The day before the nuptial flight, he brings the mating nucs out for two hours in the late afternoon, so that the queens can perform their orientation flights.

The next day the Horner waits until after the time of natural flights which is usually between noon and 17 clock.

To be on the safe side Horner determines the precise time of queen and drone release using a control hive.
Horner observes the flight of drones from this hive and waits 30 min after drones are no longer seen exiting the hive before releasing his virgins and drones (ca. 1800 h).
To release the virgins he brings out the mating nucs to the same position they had been the day before and opens the entrance.

Now the bees can go about their businesses, including nuptial flight in the remaining hours of the day.

To increase operator efficiency and the accurate positioning of mating nucs, there are 6 rail tracks that run out of the shed into the mating apairy.

There are 10 hives on each track, connected by chains. When the hives are pushed out of the shed, each one ends up precisely positioned. Individual mating nucs are marked with conspicuous colours and patterns, and the apiary itself has large orientation cues provided.

Horner is very satisfied with his system, which has a mating success rate of 60-80%.

But scientists at the University of Sydney wanted to know how safe this procedure really is. Twice they took paternity tests with randomly selected colonies whose queens were inseminated on Horner's mating station.

The researchers demonstrated that the procedure provides a safety margin of around 85%.
This means that in 85% of pairings, the drones were from Horner's mating station.

Normally, only 15-25% of drones mate with queens from the same apiary if they are not geographically isolated – other drones also come to the congregation area from their colonies up to 15 km away.

Colour Test

Horner has a simple method of monitoring incorrect matings. His bees
are fairly uniformly coloured.

Colonies with have workers of a different colour have the highest probability that the queen
probably also mated with foreign drones.

The results show that a consistent implementation of Kohler Method can increase the safety of natural matings clearly, without a isolated state being necessary.

Otherwise one must accept the disadvantages of Instrumental Insemination in cost.

This method however doesn't obtain 100% security in mating.

The results of the investigation were in the Journal of Heredity 101 (3)."
We use late evening mating as it seems the non native bees have a preference to fly high in warm airs.... apiary vicinity mating can not be ruled out..
Nos da
The researchers demonstrated that the procedure provides a safety margin of around 85%. This means that in 85% of pairings, the drones were from Horner's mating station.

... and doesn't that sound fantastic ?

It's not unlike the recent trend in weather forecasting: "there's a 30% chance of rain". Now that may be of some interest to the statistician, but what of the guy who wants to know whether to take a raincoat out with him or not ? For him, it's either going to rain - or it's not. So for him, the weather outcome is actually a binary event.

Likewise, it's the same for the bee breeder. Sure, you may have an 85% chance of selecting a larva with the desired parentage, but each larva you select for further breeding will either have that parentage - or not. Again, it's binary result.

When taken overall, over many years, and many thousands of larva selections - sure, there will be an overall trend towards what you seek. But don't be too seduced by the figures - it's still a binary (50/50) choice at each larva selection. So you still need to assess the behaviour of each individual queen, because there's no way of knowing which ones are in the 85% category, and which ones are not.
Strange theory in moonlight

First, a Queen needs 3 days to mate and not only 2 hours

Second, when a Queen flyes into drone swarm, there does not exist "natural competition". That is old dreaming. 16 strongest drones out of 10 000 drones. There is no time to test them.

Competition about existence is something else that fastest mating.
So it's tea-time mating rather than moonlight.

Latest posts