This week it will be my first time to raise a queen. It’s a process that will take several steps and checks. And, it will also be a bit of an experiment for us so at this point in time, we’re not sure of the outcome but there will be a three part blog update to it all.
The absence of a queen (for whatever reason) is quickly sensed among a colony as it lacks the unique scent of their mother. A queen produces a specific pheromone that lets everyone know, “I am in the house!” This awareness stimulates the worker bees to work.
Without a queen, worker bees will immediately set about replacing their mother to ensure the survival of their colony. Have you ever heard, “you are what you eat”? Well, in beesociety it literally is true. And it occurs on the fourth day of a bee’s development when its feeding regiment is switched from royal jelly (see pic below) to bee bread (pollen and honey) for all bees except the queen, who is obviously entitled to royal jelly for the remaining 5 days until her cell is capped.
Since the 4th day plays such a crucial role in determining a bee’s place in society, we need to know that there are at least some eggs available in the queenless nuc/hive from which a queen can be raised with that royal deliciousness. I hear it’s very expensive too. Our mini nuc became queenless when we stole the queen to create a new nuc (see previous entry). However, it was not eggless (see left pic below) and had enough pollen and brood so all that was left for us to do was wait. Oh wait! Some additional meals would be good. Check out their yummy mixture (right pic below) of honey and powder sugar that we feed them :
Checking 9-15 days later will ensure that you’ll see at least one capped queen cell because once she hatches on the 16th day, it is much harder to spot a virgin queen considering she is often much smaller or may be out on a mating flight. It also allows you to take action if there are multiple queen cells. As you know, one hive or nuc can only have one queen.
Upon inspection, we had three new queen cells. So we decided to make a little experiment. We left two queen cells untouched. If both emerge, we will very likely be guaranteed the survival of the stronger queen. As for the third queen cell, we decided to make another mini nuc. Hey why not, the winter was rough!
Here’s what that looks like:
1) The queen cell gets cut out of the hive:
2) She is then put in an “incubator.” Just kidding but it is an isolated little box that allows the bees to smell their mother but not touch her once she is born. This will avoid the potential urge to kill her as the bees that are added to the mini nuc come from another hive and are used to another scent, aka pheromone of their mother.
3) The box is then secured to a frame and dangles between two pieces of wax that the bees will draw out to reach her.
4) We then add a cup of bees to the little nuc and lock them up for a while…just a while, so they don’t immediately fly back from where we just stole them from, and hope they’ll adjust in their new home.
5) Close up the mini nuc. I recommend locking it up for a few hours until dusk while providing enough food and drink.
Once the queen is born, we will release her. For now, we’ll have to wait for max 7 days. Peeking earlier is allowed 🙂