Raising queens and nucs. Having a little trouble understanding.

Discussion in 'Raising Queens' started by Yankee11, Feb 25, 2013.

  1. Yankee11

    Yankee11 New Member

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    As my 2nd year as a beekeeper starts, I am wanting to learn more in the way of raising queens and possibly selling queens and nucs down the road. Plus, this seems to be something to do other than just waiting on honey. :wink:

    I understand the process to get the queen cells started. The part I am having trouble getting my head wrapped around is breeding the queens and what to do after that. Where they live after breeding etc.

    I understand you take the eggs and put them in a queenless box. The bees raise the queens. You remove them from the box before they hatch. (simple version, I know)

    Then what? This is the part I get lost at.

    Lets say I raise 30 (20 whatever number) queens on one of those queen frames. What do I do with the 30 capped queen cells. What is the process from here. Do I need 30 queenless nucs to put each one in. They mate and come back in the nuc and start laying, then what, you sell her? If so, then what happens to the rest of the bees in this nuc, they will be queenless again. I just cant picture these folks that sell 1000's of queens have 1000's of nucs sitting around.

    I just want to start understanding how this works. I enjoy working with bees so much I am not sure that I can be happy just harvesting honey.

    Thanks for any input. Also is there any good books out there on this subject?
     
  2. cheezer32

    cheezer32 New Member

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    Yankee11: You say you can't picture folds that sell 1000's of queens having thousands of nucs sitting around but (typically anyways) that is exactly the case. If I remember right for example, Wilbanks Apiaries runs somewhere between 10,000-15,000 mating nucs.

    Each and every queen cell you have you will need to put into a "hive" whether that hive is a full size, nuc, mini mating nuc, or any other variation.

    "Do I need 30 queenless nucs to put each one in" --- Yes, unless you want to hatch out virgins in cages either way though they need to get mated somehow.

    "They mate and come back in the nuc and start laying, then what, you sell her? If so, then what happens to the rest of the bees in this nuc, they will be queenless again." --- Yep, typically those who produce queens will remove the queen in the morning from her mating nuc, cage and ship her out. Then that night or the following morning come back and add a new queen cell ready to hatch. Some people don't even wait they just cage and add a cell.


    It sounds like you are wanting to just take a frame of eggs and pop it into a queenless hive to raise the cells, cut them off the frame, and then transfer them to their mating nucs. Which is fine and is done thousands of times every year however I would suggest that if you are wanting to raise queens to sell regularly down the road invest in a cell bar frame, a bag of cell cups, and a grafting tool. It makes the process much easier (in my mind) to produce queens effectively and efficiently for under 100$ you could get enough to raise several hundred queens.

    Also, it doesn't matter what size mating nuc you use, some argue however that queens develop better when laying uninterrupted for a certain amount of time, and with enough comb space to lay continuously for the duration of that time. The mini-mating nucs that a lot of the major producers use only have about 1 1/2 medium worth of comb space for the queen to lay in.
     

  3. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

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    Before you start selling mated queens, it might be wise to develop your techniques and timing by raising queen cells to sell. Your investment in equipment will be considerably lower (no need for mating nucs) and the manipulations infinitely easier. From time to time you'll have to add bees and food to the nuc to keep the population adequate for the care and protection of the queen.
    Once you've got that down pat, you can move into mating your queens before sale.
    Following that, you can move into "tested queens" that have laid in the mating nuc until their first progeny emerge. In nucs like this, the brood that emerges strengthens the family and adding bees is less of an issue.

    One lesson I learned the hard way is that the nuc hive entrances must be kept to a minimum, otherwise the nuc can't defend itself and is a sure invitation to robbers.
     
  4. Yankee11

    Yankee11 New Member

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    "It sounds like you are wanting to just take a frame of eggs and pop it into a queenless hive to raise the cells, cut them off the frame, and then transfer them to their mating nucs."

    Cheezer, Thanks, I had a cell frame in mind. Not the insert frame of eggs and cut out thee queen cells.

    So lets say I have 20 nucs. I raise 20 queens and put them in these nucs. They get mated and start laying. I have someone that wants to buy 10 of them. I would go out to the nucs and cage 10 queens with some of their attendants. What happens to the nuc at that point. I know have 10 nucs without a queen. There will be eggs in the nucs- just let them raise a new queen or have new queen cells ready to insert in these hives I just removed the queens from?

    I did see someone that modified a 10 frame deep and made 3- 3frame nucs. The 2 outside nucs had their opening the same direction while the middle nuc entrance was the opposite direction. It had 2 dividers inside to keep them seperate. I guess that could mate 3 queens in 1 box? Guess you could do this and make 2- 5 frames nucs in one deep.

    Ef, people will buy the capped queen cells?
     
  5. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

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    1. Definitely do not let them raise their own queen--at least not for sale. A mating nucleus is too weak to do a proper job of raising a quality queen. A really good queen requires the attention and feeding that only a strong colony can provide.
    2. People definitely buy capped queen cells. They are much cheaper and if introduced properly into a queenless hive they can get mated in their new home and do just as well as a pre-mated queen. Transport over long distances might be problematic (maintaining the proper temp can be a problem) but for local beeks who want to pick up and save postage, they are great. Of course, it takes longer for them to start laying, but this is a consideration many beeks are willing to live with.
     
  6. Yankee11

    Yankee11 New Member

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    Thanks again Ef, good to know on the strength of hive need to produce quality queens.

    What about what happens to nuc once you pull the queen out and sell her?
     
  7. cheezer32

    cheezer32 New Member

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    " just let them raise a new queen or have new queen cells ready to insert in these hives I just removed the queens from?"
    As long you have a strong nuc (I am going to assume 5 frame nucs? Words are so interchangable now a days) you could let them raise there own queen, you could also combine the queenless nucs with the queen right nucs, and then split again when more queen cells are available or again as you pointed out you could have cells ready to insert into the nucs you just made queenless.

    As to the modified 10 frame box, most simply call it a 3 way or a 4 way mating box, or something similar. You could mate 3 queens in the box you described, some of them are made so the dividers slide in and out so you could do as you described and make 2 5-frame nucs as well.

    The best thing to remember is there are many different ways to raise queens, and more than one way will work, in my opinion there really isn't a "right" or a "wrong" way there are just some ways that will suite you better and there are ways that will suite your neighbor better. Mimicing proven methods is great, but there is more than one proven method so find which way fits you and your goals the best. The same can be said for beekeeping in general... in my opinion.
     
  8. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

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    You can give them a new QC to raise for mating (you might need to shake in some new bees to keep up their strength).
    If unneeded, you can "eliminate them" by reuniting the bees with a queenright colony.
     
  9. Yankee11

    Yankee11 New Member

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    "The best thing to remember is there are many different ways to raise queens, and more than one way will work, in my opinion there really isn't a "right" or a "wrong" way there are just some ways that will suite you better and there are ways that will suite your neighbor better. Mimicing proven methods is great, but there is more than one proven method so find which way fits you and your goals the best. The same can be said for beekeeping in general... opinion."

    This is one of the MANY things that I like so much about beekeeping.

    I'm gonna give it a try this year. (raise some queens and start some nukes with them). Not sure how far I will take this BUT, I think I am headed in that direction. Raising bees and selling nukes and queens. Plus Honey.

    I have a long way to go, but you have to start somewhere. huh?

    Whats your feeling on just breeding ferrel bees. All 7 of my hives are from swarms and cutout I did last spring and summer. I was thinking of making queens from the hives I like the best after this spring spring flow. I kinda like the idea of breeding local
    bees that have been raised in the local environment. I know, another opinion, but do most people want Italians, Russians etc when buying bees and queens. I really have no idea how you would keep a certain breed true when they fly out to mate.

    Thanks again.
     
  10. Omie

    Omie Active Member

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    Maybe it'd be a good idea to spend this year getting some first hand experience in raising your own queens and creating/managing your nucs, before even thinking about buying the equipment for producing them on a commercial basis. You might find it's not worth it, or that you don't have the available the time it demands.

    A few thoughts-
    Just as new beekeepers find out that they really need a certain amount of drawn comb to be able to expand fast, you may find that although it's relatively easy to cause the bees to create multiple queen cells, it won't do you much good if you don't have enough extra frames of bees to create multiple housing quarters and care for all those new queens.

    Most newbie beekeepers are probably looking for whole nucs or packages to replace their winter losses. Seasoned BK's will be making their own queens or ordering queens of specific genetics.

    Overwintered nucs on the other hand are always in demand in early Spring if they contain healthy laying queens born the previous year.
     
  11. Yankee11

    Yankee11 New Member

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    Hi Omie,

    That is exactly my intention for this year. Make myself some nucs and try raising some queens. You are dead on with new BK's needing more equipment. I found that out as I started out catching my first 2 swarms on the same day. I got behind the 8 ball
    very quick. I have spent this winter building hives to get ahead this summer.

    That's kinda of the reason for this post. To get a big picture of the whole process before I start.

    If I would have tried to get the big picture before catching those 2 swarms last spring I would have been better prepaired.

    Also,

    "nucs on the other hand are always in demand in early Spring if they contain healthy laying queens born the previous year."

    You may be right on with this statement as well. I could have sold 8 nucs so far this spring. Have had 3 different local beeks ask me for them. I sold them some hives (wooden ware) and they wanted nucs to put in them.
     
  12. Omie

    Omie Active Member

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    It's always possible. Stranger things have happened. :think:
     
  13. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    first off yankee there are any number of books and schools that would give you 'great numbers' of alternatives in regards to rearing queens.

    I would suggest as efmesh has above that you first focus on raising a few cells (perhaps even selling or TRADING a few of these) and then moving on to the final but separate process of getting a queen mated. I know of folks that raise nothing but cells (which they sell) and there is some advantage to this in that just raising cells reduces the labor and bee resource input greatly.

    If it was me one of the first thing I would consider looking into and develop is some means of 'banking' the cells in cages/incubator (also requires less bees and very little capital) as something to consider really early. I tried this myself last year after hearing Dr Larry Conner's talk and I would say this did 1) gave me a bit more time in making up nuc 2) really changed how I viewed 'when a cell hatches' and 3) gave me a better idea (numbers or percentage) of queen cells that just don't hatch at all. A large plus is with #3 you are not making up a small mating nuc where the cell will not hatch and all is lost before you even begin.

    once you do 'give it a shot' I suspect even with the stuff you say you understand you will find that there certain nuisance in this process that you can only learn by 'doing it'. for example how many bees to stuff into the starter or how populated a hive must be in a queen right cell starter are not really that obvious but experience does make all those little decisions much easier.

    my final advice (based on lots of personal failures) is to have some means of feeding just a bit all along the way to ALL the various components (hives, bees, whatever) that you use in the process. and yes this really means feeding just a bit from everything from the queen and drone mother hives (feed just a bit and start way ahead of the grafting for both) and the starter and the mating nucs <and as I almost always suggest a trickle is almost always better than a pour.

    oh yes and a ps...
    as I have suggested to others who have done exactly what you talk of doing one of the most compelling reasons to raise a few queens is that 'IT WILL MAKE YOU A BETTER BEEKEEPER'.
     
  14. Yankee11

    Yankee11 New Member

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    Tecumseh,

    I'll look into what you are talking about.

    You mentioned incubator. I have a very nice cabinet incubator. It keeps a very precise temp. I use it for incubating eggs and starting garden plants from seeds. Viewing glass and lights for viewing. Digital thermostat, fan etc.

    What do you do with the queens after they hatch.

    and I agree, this stuff will really help me understand and become a better beekeeper.
     
  15. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

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    Actually, you probably don't want them to emerge in the incubator but want to do whatever is planned for them before their expected day of emergence.
    You have a few options:
    1. Let them hatch inside cages (to keep them from killing one another) in the same hive. For this option you have to have them hatch in a hive with bees to attend to them. They can be sold/distributed to hives to receive them as virgin queens.
    2. You can sell/distribute them before they hatch---knowing the anticipated date of emergence and have them emerge in their new homes.
    3. You can move them to mating nuclei.
    There probably are some more options I haven't mentioned.
     
  16. Yankee11

    Yankee11 New Member

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    I was just reading in a book and this beekeeper was talking about letting them hatch out in the incubator. This way you control the temp and humidity all the way to hatching time. No fluctuations. He also is saying that you can then inspect the queens and make sure there is no defects before they go into the nuc.

    He goes on to say that they are accepted very easily because they have been in a incubator and have no other hives smells associated with.

    He talks about if you remove them from the bator a day or 2 before they hatch, they can be jarred or damaged and the temp can also fluctuate before they hatch. The temp could cause them to delay hatching for a day or 2. Or not hatch at all.

    So sounds like I could wait for them to hatch and inspect and mark them. The day they hatch I could put my nucs together. The next day introduce the virgin queens to the day old queenless nucs. They except her, she gets mated and comes back to nuc and starts laying.
     
  17. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    my incubator Yankee is nothing more than a very robustly populated hive and a frame that is modified to hold small cages which are tubes of small dimension hardware wire formed around wood queen cell cup holders. I use an old wood dowel cell holder on one end and the queen cell on the other. I can take one frames and with a bit of scrap wood have a place to temporarily store 40 or so cells. I myself make up nucs THE day the cells needs to come out of the finisher and generally I just pop the queen cells into these, plug them up for a day or so and store these for that time in a dark and cool shed/barn... I like to set them out and pull the plugs at about the time the cells should be hatching. my incubator is used for any number of cells I have over whatever nucs I make up on the day the cells come off (if I have any). I myself don't like to leave the hatched virgin in their cages too long nor do I consider it good policy to leave them in my incubator for too long. It is kind of insightful to see when the cells hatch. Since these virgins are in cages you do need to come back a day later and release them. At least one queen rearing person I know thinks holding a virgin queen in this way beyond 2 days is likely a mistake.
     
  18. Daniel Y

    Daniel Y New Member

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    First of all if one mating nuc rearing and mating one queen will make you $20, then 1000 will make you $20,000. 10,000 will make you $200,000. That is if bees can do math.

    SO the limit to the number of nucs is actualy determined by.
    1. how many queens can you sell.
    2. how many nucs can you manage.
    3. how many queens can you produce as in how much support do you already have in the way of production hives. extra bees etc.

    Keep in mind that many of those thousands of queens can be sold at lower proce as queen cells and still more as vrigin queens. no nucs needed jsu tlet them emerge into cages in incubators. lot os ways to slice and dice this queen production issue.

    As for a mated queen and what happens afterward. you have this tiny colony that just got queenles. you can rear another queen in it. or you combine it back to another colony. Realize that every queen you produce will produce some small amount of brood. I suspect that to many bees becomes an issue at least for a period of time. Thousands of queens all producing brood even for a short time will produce a lot of excess bees.

    Remember bees can not only be separated they can be added back together. Think of it as a single hive that you take some bees form to rear a queen. then you give the bees back to the original colony when their job is done. All you need in between is a tiny box to get the queen mated from.
     
  19. Yankee11

    Yankee11 New Member

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    I am working on modifying two bottom boards as we speak. I am going to make them so I can set a 10 frame deep or 10 frame medium and have 2 dividers in each box. This will give 3- 3 frame breeder boxes, for a total of 6 breeder boxes. This will get me started. I also have 4 -5 frame nuc boxes I built this winter (plans from this forum)and incubator is ready to go.

    So the first box I will need to make up is a Starter Box. The newly grafted larva on a cell builder frame go in this box for 24 hours or so?

    Then they go into a finisher box until they are capped?

    Then from the finisher box to the incubator?

    Cells hatch and the virgin queens go into the mating nucs until mated and she starts laying?

    Once laying, I can either sell her, re-queen one of my hives if I feel the need to, or start 5 frames nucs.

    When I am done with each box i.e. Starter box, I just dump these bees into another existing hive, mating box same thing.

    What I have seen so far on a finisher box, I just insert a queen excluder and then remove the excluder when I remove the capped cells. I know there is a ton of different ways of doing this I just have to start with a way and then modify it as I go.
     
  20. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    a Daniel snip..
    Remember bees can not only be separated they can be added back together.

    tecumseh...
    well not really. I am not certain where you got this idea? I do it all the time and in various context. The most obvious deviation from 'your rule' is a package of bees.

    a yankee snip..
    Once laying, I can either sell her, re-queen one of my hives if I feel the need to, or start 5 frames nucs.

    When I am done with each box i.e. Starter box, I just dump these bees into another existing hive, mating box same thing.

    tecumseh...
    or you could simply grow the existing unit to some size (typically these do take a bit of feed) and either sell the queen or the nuc or a full sized hive if it grows out to that dimension.

    there is a lot of small detail that you will just have to learn on your own.... as you suggest with tons of different ways there is small detail that will matter for each of these.

    I will give you a couple of examples based on your above paragraph..

    snip 1...
    I am going to make them so I can set a 10 frame deep or 10 frame medium and have 2 dividers in each box.

    tecumseh...
    no matter how many dividers you use remember that a bit of extra space in each slot does have some benefit when it comes to inspecting each of these units. that is if push come to shove you are better off having extra space in each slot and more total boxes.

    snip 2....
    So the first box I will need to make up is a Starter Box.

    tecumseh...
    starter boxes are generally boxes with an entrance that can be closed off or opened up when necessary <generally closed off if the weather turn off bad and you need set it inside and open to let the bees fly when the weather is good. starter boxes should be designed to accept whatever size of frame you plan to use (feed and pollen) and the box itself should have an extra one and a half to two inches added to the bottom of the box (cluster space). it might sound as if this 'extra space' is unnecessary but this one small detail is much more important than the novice might think <been there and done that myself so this is not idle or a speculative notion on my part. I myself use starter boxes that are half sized... 5 frames in size and my good neighbor BWeaver uses 10 frame boxes for the same purpose... both have extra space added to the bottom of the starter boxes.