View Full Version : drone yards

Nov 14th 2011, 02:32 PM
Hi guys,

I'm going to try my hand at raising some queens next year via grafting, and probably utilizing a Cloake board. I've tried my hand at grafting at a couple of meetings with little success, but I'm hoping when I'm in the comfort of my own home, without any pressure, I may do a little better (plus my head-strong wife is convinced she can do it). If grafting proves to be a road block, I'll just try one of the many other methods.

My question is... If I have the resources to set up several drone colonies, what is the best placement in relation to my mating nucs? I could set them up in the same yard, or I have another location about 2.5 miles away. I would assume the same yard would be better, but I feel like I may have read something to the contrary.

Thanks, and wish me luck,

larry tate
Nov 15th 2011, 05:34 AM
We spread them around the mating yards from 1 mile to 2 miles. I sure wish we could find the DCA to know for sure. I have seen two some "mating parties?" within 100 feet of some mating nucs. It looked like a swarm and the ex virgin ( i guess) came back with part of a drone in her. Just watch the drone comb for mites. Interesting to see Waynes queens clean them out.
I would think the 2.5 mile range would be great. Practice on the grafting and you will get the hang of it.
Good luck

Nov 15th 2011, 06:14 AM
Hi Dan,
While you're "trying your hand" at it, I'm sure there are enough drones around without specifically raising drones to improve your queen breeding. Now, if you start producing a hundred or more a week, it's time to look into in more seriously.
I agree with Larry, keep practicing grafting. I almost gave up until one day I got 20 cells out of 20 grafts after many failures. I like the Cloake system because even if you screw up the grafts, the colony is still productive. It does take a fair amount of manipulating, but once you do it a few times, the principles make sense. It's a real feeling of accomplishment when you are successful. Sounds like you and your wife can have a "friendly" competition to see who master's it first. Be careful what you wager! :o
Good luck,

Nov 15th 2011, 07:30 AM
Thanks for the advice,

I promise I won't give up on the grafting too soon. Perhaps I'll just try not to worry about the drone colonies at this point; maybe later if I "scale up". I'm sure I'll have enough other details to worry about, not to mention the rest of my hives (and the rest of my life) to keep me busy. I just want to do as many of the "little things" I can to make sure they add up to high-quality queens.


Nov 15th 2011, 05:04 PM
the first decision you should make is in regards to 'selection' of the drone rearing hives. that represents a bit less than 50% of your genetic outcome but don't approach that decision lightly. the other 50% is in the selection of queen mother... but in a time line that decision can come later.

most times you want some distance between queen rearing nucs and drone rearing hives as much to give some distance between strong hives and weak and sometimes queenless nucs. often time here that means drone rearing hives are lined up along the line of pasture and woods and the nucs are inside the brush line. there may be as little as 600 feet between the two. the drones and queens will find the drone congregation areas which are typically some distance away... they are often difficult to impossible to locate. ideally if you could locate drone congestion areas you would want to position drone rearing hives all around this area.

grafting is about practice. it kind of reminds me of learning to weld.... hard the first time but gets progressively easier. try the different kinds of grafting tool.. you will invariable find one kind you like better than others. at the beginning of setting up the cloak board hive intentionally collect some royal jelley ahead of your first real attempt at grafting....pre priming with just a bit of royal jelley as you are learing should give you a bit better success rate (my guess it just makes removing the larvae a bit easier). later on you can likely dry graft.

Jul 3rd 2012, 03:41 PM
Ok, I'm starting to care about the support drone colonies now.

I have the opportunity to set up what would serve as 2 drone yards: one about a mile west of my nuc yard, another 2.5 miles east of the nuc yard. Seems like pretty good spacing to me.

My question is how many support drone colonies do I really need to make a difference? I read in Marla Spivak's manual that one should have 60 drone mother colonies for every 1000 virgins that will be mating (I presume she means at a time). I don't plan on exceeding 50 mating nucs over the 2013 season. That would be a max of 50 virgins mating at a time, so that would mean that I only need 3 drone colonies. Is that correct thinking?

That seems like very few, but perhaps I could place 3 drone colonies (of selected stock) in each of those potential "drone yards" (for a total of 6 drone hives).

Of course I want to produce the best queens I can, but I want to be reasonable. Worth doing? What do you think?


Jul 5th 2012, 06:06 AM
your thinking sounds well reasoned to me. dr larry conner's made some comments in regards to drone hive numbers in one of his little books... I cannot recall the exact detail at this time. here this problem is somewhat easier in that I have a couple of very large commercial (BWeaver) yards around so it is unlikely that drones are ever in short supply.

here this problem is primarily a matter of timing and season... that is to have significant number of early drones to mate with early season produced queens. given the market this means drones hives are fed and pushed to produce drones as early as possible... but there are some limits that mother nature will just not allow you to exceed.

Jul 5th 2012, 08:28 AM
It was probably in "Queen Rearing Essentials". I've read through that one before, but I should pick it up again. Being the club's librarian has it's perks.

I'll come up with a battle plan for next spring. Right now I'm starting to worry about it getting tough to produce a couple more batches of queens into the summer. They seem to be producing plenty of brood and drones for now. I'll just keep feedin' and breedin', and come to you guys at the forum when the going gets tough.


Jul 5th 2012, 09:11 PM
I think you have the title correct. I think??? Dr Conners reduced the question to a set of number somewhere in the text you mention. I tend to buy books from Dr Conner at this or that convention and then read at my leisure and then give the books to our club's library or I would look up the passage and pass it along directly myself.

I guess not being the repository of the club's library has it's own down side.

and as always good luck in your queen rearing endeavors...

ps... I have been doing a little experiment (somewhat suggested by Dr Conner or at least something in his writing) in regards to allowing queen cells to hatch in little cages and then introducing these into small nucs. at this point the experiment seems to suggest more cells don't hatch than I would have first suspected.

Jul 6th 2012, 03:24 PM
Thanks. I will grab that book next chance I get.

If I remember correctly (that's a big if), he makes some statement about the number of actual drones one should have to mate each queen. Although that might be more precise info (assuming he's got it correct), it's certainly not as practical as giving a number of actual drone colonies. At any rate, if it's anything in the neighborhood of the 3-6 colonies I figured earlier, I should be able to handle that w/ little problem.

I've been very curious about using/marketing Virgins myself. I think Dr. Connor wrote an article on the subject a month or two ago in Bee Culture. Seems you could do some "early screening" of the virgins, and just use the cream of the crop. Also, you could offer Virgins for sale at a reduced price, and not have to put out the resources to get those queens mated.

I figure that there must be a narrow window to "move" them, though. For a little guy like me, I don't know if I could count on demand being high enough during the short time I'd want to make them available. Still, it sounds like a fun project, and one I'll probably try sooner or later. One could say the same things of selling cells, and I've had that work out once or twice.

Start a thread on it Tec. You're always around to answer questions, but I never see you just post an update on what you're up to. I'd like to hear it.