For the amateur beekeeper, one major problem is making queens of quality without grafting. The following system was taught to me many years ago and used successfully for a long time till I started producing queens commercially.
The sequence is relatively straight forward and consists of a number of manipulations at set intervals, each one timed to help the bees.
First, let us set the timing. With all queen rearing, there has to be a nectar flow or the bees have to be fed, and drones should be flying freely.
We start by making up a nuc. To control the breeding we try hard to ensure that there are no eggs or young larvae in the 3 or 5 frames, or you can be sure the bees will start a queen up in an obscure corner somewhere and ruin the whole procedure. Once started in one direction it is almost impossible to re-direct them into the direction you want them to go.
One way to achieve an eggless nuc takes longer but is overall more effective. To a two box hive add a queen excluder pulling up all open brood into the upper box make sure the queen is in the lower box, wait 7 days. The bees will cap overall open brood, then remove the bottom box to another part of the yard. Needless to say, the queenless nuc is strengthened by the flight bees from the removed box.
Check and double check.
Check for stray queen cells by shaking most of the bees off the brood frame. You’ll be amazed how many cells can be hidden by a bunch of nurse bees!
Now add a frame of eggs 24 hours after the split! As it is virtually impossible to get a frame of just eggs without special equipment, it stands to reason that larvae of various ages will be transferred. To ensure that the bees will not use larvae too old it is important to remove those true emergency cells from the nuc after they are made.
It is important to remember the bees feeding sequence. When the egg first hatches, 3 days after laying, it is fed Royal Jelly, after it is decided that the larvae are to be a worker the food quality is drastically reduced, this prevents the formation of ovaries and queen pheromones. The bees can even after this time change back to Royal Jelly, and will produce a semi-queen or intercaste, quite capable of laying eggs, but they are usually small and weak, and their egg capacity is very poor. Generally, hives with emergency queens become difficult to handle due to an increase in aggression, possibly the lack of sufficient queen pheromones. The break in Royal Jelly feeding is the cause of the poor queen quality.
Here comes the real crux of the matter.
It is called the 4-day rule and must be strictly adhered to if you wish to be successful. We cut out any cells capped over at 4 days after the egg frame is added.
It is important to remember that any cell capped over before 9 days from egg laying will rarely produce quality queens, because of the reasons stated, and are often superseded very quickly, causing the hive to go into decline till a good queen is made.
We reduce the number of cells, to concentrate the amount of food fed to each cell, as it takes a lot of bees to feed cells successfully. It is possible to remove excess cells and use them in other nucs, just be very gentle, and wait until the 14th day after laying and protect with a cell protector.
Should you be rough handling those delicate cells it is easy to have queens damaged, without wings and other problems.
We have recently completed a 1½ hour DVD on ‘Queen Rearing’ the ways, means and methods explained in detail. See our page on DVDs in our catalogue section and order on line.