Thursday, July 21, 2011

Don't Cook The Queen!

We didn’t want to disturb the queen until she’d had a bit of time to get her broodnest going. So we waited until today, two weeks after she arrived.  Meanwhile the drone eggs laid in the drone colonies about the time she arrived are now capped pupae. These are the drones that will be meeting the young princesses a little later on, but I’ll introduce them later. Also that capped brood that was used to make up the nuc are now young bees. Bees 5 to 15 days old (after  emergence) are the best producers of royal jelly, so the queen is eating really well now and her young larva are well fed, not to mention that the size of the brood nest is larger and the foragers are bringing in food. Even the guard bees are getting a little attitude!

The method we’re going to use to raise the queen cells starts off with using a Jenter style plastic device   known as the Mann Lake Queen Rearing Device  made and sold by Mann Lake ltd. I like the Mann Lake company  , they have good prices, service, and company philosophy. I keep bugging them to donate a device and it’s support pieces to our local beekeeper’s association so I can teach a class on it’s use, but it hasn’t happened yet. If you’re going to teach a class, you should have at least two devices so you are sure the larvae are as young as possible when you show the students how small those little buggers really are! You aren’t exactly sure how long it will be before the queen starts laying so it is good to have a flexible schedule and that’s not easy for a class.

 The Broodnest should be as big as the bees can keep heated properly, so it will be tricky to insert the device without wrecking “central heating” and chilling the perimeter brood. If we were grafting it would be no trouble, but since it is a chance to showcase the Queen Rearing Device, and it works very well, and we have a plan there should be no trouble.

First, we installed a cheater heater. This is a little $2.79 lidded storage box from Home Depot. The box is filled with water and an aquarium heater (From Marine Depot )

The Eheim Jager heater is a bit pricey at $25, but quite dependable, accurate, and our girls deserve it! It comes with a holder that keeps it off the bottom of the water container. The cord sneaks under the rim of the lid just fine and the whole thing fits in box I use for top feeding. The box  was a little short so I set it on an inner cover which closed up the bottom. I set it for 83F (+/-2 degrees) The screen bottomed nuc sets on top and presto! Toasty hive.

The Queen Rearing Device is put in the hive a day before the queen is confined, in order to impart the proper odor to the device. I stick the device into a hole cut into a brood frame that is well used. (I use a torch heated hive tool to cut the hole) The bees usually fill the hole with drone brood the rest of the time.

The queen side of the device, level with the comb, is placed on the edge of the brood nest facing a patch of young, open brood.

The last thing to do is give the bees a little treat: pollen supplement with lots of sugar, mixed thin and left in long lines on the top bars of the broodnest. It was cold when I closed it up but I knew it would be shoulder to shoulder in a few minutes like pigs at a trough!

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