Queen Project News

This page will report news about our on-going Queen Rearing Project.

New Hive scale Links and Info
Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 11.09.44 PM

As mentioned at the June 2017 meeting, here are a couple links to the scale data for the RIBA Queen Yard in Johnston. There are a couple of different ways to access this. First is to follow this link:
This shows icons for various hives throughout the world that have agreed to share their info with the Bee Informed Partnership/Sentinel Apiary Program.

You can also use this link to go directly to our hive:
I believe you have to create a login (free) and then refresh the link after you have logged in. This is a bit of a clunky way to share the data, but I think it provides a bit more detail than simply going to the public map.

There is only about a week of data accrued so far, but already interesting discoveries. The hive swarmed around noon on June 7th and you can see the weight drop by about 7 lbs at that point. I’ll have a lot more to say about this project at future meetings/online, but for now, check it out and I’ll try to answer any questions you may have.

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.

Queen cells 2016First grafts of the year 6/2/16

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.

Queen nucs 6 20166/10/16 First round of added nucs

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.

Jake White & Cindy Holt grafting on Fathers Day 2016Jake White and Cindy Holt grafting on Father’s Day

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!

Dolly after applying MAQS July 2016Dolly after applying MAQS, late July ‘16

Mid July, 2015  by Scott Langlais; all photos by Emily Langlais  Grafts

Hives continue to build and we are happy with their progress. In lieu of honey supers, Keith had the great idea to add a third deep and continue feeding in an effort to get a jump on next season’s drawn comb requirements. At the moment (7/21) all but one hive are in three deeps. Dolly continues to lag behind her yardmates, though she is much improved since requeening after the initial installation.On one of our last inspections we found capped queen cells in Ann. Her queen was located and placed in a five frame nuc box along with frames drawn from the other colonies so as to not set any one hive too far behind the others. We are still waiting to see whether any of those queen cells will become a laying queen. If not, we will simply reunite the nuc and original queen with that hive.
 RIBA’s inaugural Field Day was held on July 18. Don Joslin and I did a hands-on demonstration of the grafting process. In preparation for this, Keith and I populated the starter box* with bees from the queen yard. I also wanted to do a round of grafts the day prior, so that at the appropriate time in our presentation I could show the progress of the grafts after 24 hours, when they would be removed from the starter and placed in the finisher** colony. The circumstances were far from ideal and frankly I was worried that when I opened the starter in front of our Field Day audience, none of the grafts would have been accepted. Imagine my surprise when all but a single graft had been started! A few of those grafts were done by Emily, her very first attempt at the process. We still have several days to go before we find out how many of those cells will be capped, but all in all it was a very satisfying early result. The hive we grafted from, Nancy, is one of our strongest brood producers.
*Starter: a modified nuc box or similar that restricts bees from coming or going. It is screened for ventilation and includes ample honey, bee bread, water (in a sponge), and approximately 4 lbs of nurse bees. The grafted frame is placed in the starter for 24 hours. With nothing else to do, and abundant food resources, the nurse bees (hopefully) put all their attention into feeding the new grafts with royal jelly and adding wax to the queen cups. After 24 hours the bees are returned to the donor colony and the grafting frame goes into a finisher colony.

**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.

Installation 4/22/15
by Scott Langlais

keithscottScott Langlais and Keith Salisbury installing the packages.

 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.

queenyardspringEarly 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.patsy_spotty

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. patsy_supersede

The reverse side of the frame shows a capped (supercedure) queen cell in the center of the frame.   Emily* and I are unable to locate the queen, but we dispatch the queen cell. The next day, Ed Lafferty and Jim Lawson add a replacement caged queen.  They too are unable to find the original failing queen.  With only 2-3 frames of bees she shouldn’t be hard to find so we assume she has left this mortal coil and gone on to that great apiary in the sky.
Stay tuned for further updates!
*Photography by Emily Langlais