This page will report news about our on-going Queen Rearing Project.
Read about 2016’s progress, challenges and plans for 2017: Queen Yard 2016 Annual Report
Late July 2016 by Scott Langlais; all photos by Emily Langlais
Apologies for the lack of updates this year, it has been a busy summer, both at the Queen Yard and in our home apiary.
We are coming up on our sixth round of grafts soon. The presumed “dud” colony of 2015 (Patsy) turned out to be a powerhouse! They overwintered well in three deeps and provided our first few rounds of grafting stock. We’ve expanded our mating capabilities by adding twelve five-frame nucs for the yard and several Styrofoam mini mating nucs to use in our home yard.
One of our goals for this project, beyond simply making local bred queens available, is to be able to use these colonies to educate RIBA members in basic queen rearing techniques. So far this year we’ve been able to have a few newbies come out and graft alongside Emily and I. Cindy Holt was a quick learner and has become a valuable partner in this endeavor. More rounds of grafting in 2016 means many more trips out to the yard and having a third person we can rely on to share the labor and attend to tasks when we are unable (like last week while we were away at EAS) has been a huge help. Hopefully this is a trend that will continue as the yard gets more established.
It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses though. Our last round of grafts was extremely disappointing and unfortunately it all comes down to operator error. It was a learning experience but that is cold comfort nonetheless. Certainly we are no strangers to dead bees, but you can’t help but feel more attached to a (future) queen that you have had such a hand in raising. Our trip to EAS In New Jersey at the end of July gave us the opportunity to speak personally with many talented queen breeders and hear several lectures on queen health and improvement so I am eager to begin applying the lessons we learned there to our upcoming grafting sessions. Stay tuned!
**Finisher: a strong queen-right colony in two deeps. The bottom deep contains the queen and capped brood. Over this is placed a queen excluder, then the second deep. The top deep contains honey, bee bread, open brood, and the grafting frame.This is where the grafts will remain until they are fully capped. At that point the capped queen cells can be removed and placed into mating nucs, queenless hives, etc.
Keith and I installed six packages of California-bred Italians from Cedar Lane Apiaries. All packages were extremely robust looking with few dead bees. Our six initial hives are named Dolly, Mariska, Lesley, Ann, Nancy, and Patty for ease of record keeping. The caged queens appear small; as a result of their confinement and being unable to lay, their abdomens shrink. Once they are released and allowed to lay they will plump back up. One queen (Patsy) looks questionable right from the start though. We make a note of it and decide to keep an extra close eye on her.
Early May – all queens are released and begin laying. The various hives get down to work drawing comb, collecting pollen, etc. Even in the first few weeks it is easy to get the sense that some of these hives will be better than others. Patsy continues to lag behind the others but we don’t want to be overzealous and pitch her right away.
May 18 – all hives except Patsy now have a second deep on top. Lesley in particular is drawing out comb like nobody’s business. By comparison, Patsy has barely three frames drawn. One single frame shows an extremely spotty brood pattern of mixed worker and drone brood, of various ages. Many cells have multiple eggs in the bottom.