It’s Queen Rearing Jim, but Not as we Know it!
It’s been eventful this year to say the least, last year I collected quite a few swarms from around Wiltshire, however due to the bad weather and probably a lack of know how I just didn’t get the chance to re-queen them, so this year I’ve been fighting the swarming impulse until, in most cases, I lost the battle.
For anyone who doesn’t know, the older a queen is, the higher the likelihood that she will swarm, so by collecting swarms and being unable to re-queen them, I certainly had 2 year old queens in those hives this year and most likely even older (many commercial beekeepers will re-queen annually) so as soon as it warmed up they were just itching to get out and start a new colony.
The other thing which I’ve noticed this year is the speed at which it’s been happening, usually doing a weekly inspection means that I’ll spot any queen cells before they are sealed and I loose a swarm (the bees will swarm straight after the new cells are sealed, weather permitting). This year however, I’ve either managed to miss the cells being charged, or they have developed faster than they usually would, either way the result was the same, arrival at a hive and seeing less bees than I’d expect at the entrance, opening it and seeing less inside, then upon inspection finding sealed cells.
All this has put my planned queen rearing project back a year, while it has enabled me to re-queen all those colonies, well, to be fair, the bees did it themselves, I did manage to catch the 2 planned breeder colonies in the act and split them out into nuc’s each with a charged queen cell. I’m pleased to say that it was 100% successful too, so not only do all colonies have new laying queens in them, but I also have a few extra nuc’s to expand and they will most likely become the breeder colonies for next year.
So although my honey crop will be much smaller than I would have liked, I do have plenty of new laying queens now, so hopefully I can spend my time next year concentrating on breeding queens rather than fighting the swarming impulse!
If you’re interested in queen rearing, these sites are a good starting point: