Got a call the other day from my bee mentor, Steve. He said he was ready to inspect all his mating nucs and collect the successful queens, Remember that we had first “grafted” very young larvae, put them in to queen cups and placed them all into one queenless hive. The worker bees, sensing that they didn’t have a queen, began to feed all of these ( and there were 60 of them ) with royal jelly to make for themselves a new queen ( guess they can’t count…. haha) After a week we went back in and took out 24 queen pupas and put each one into a small queenless nuc of just two combs. Within days the queen would emerge and IF the bees accepted her, and IF she was able to fly out and successfully mate and IF she found her way back to her new home and IF she is able to begin laying eggs, then we would have a good queen. We opened up each of the 24 small nucs; some had no queen, but some had what looked like there was a queen laying eggs, but as we inspected closely, we could see that there were many cells with 2 or 3 eggs in them… a clear sign that a “laying worker” had developed..not a queen. ( and that’s another story)
Looking for the queen bee
Marking the queen with a red paint pen
It can be difficult finding the queen, but after a while I got the hang of it . She is a bit larger and her abdomen is much longer than a worker bee. When the queen is spotted, Steve reached in a picked up the queen by her wings. ( the Queen bee will not sting) and transferred her to his other hand by gently grabbing her around the thorax with his thumb and forefinger, exposing her back. Then he dabbed a bit of red paint from a paint pen ( found at any craft store) on her back and placed her in a special queen cage. ( why red? ….that, too is another story) I was able to help him by handing him the marker and cage at the appropriate time, speeding up the process. For each nuc, Steve recorded what we had found. He will then go back another day and return the queenless frames back into the hives from which he took them out of.
I found this video of queen marking on YouTube…….. www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4Sb6J_uY3E
About halfway through this process, I found a queen on one of the frames Steve was holding, and he said, OK, why don’t you mark this one? I took a deep breath, reached in. grabbed her wings, marked her and put her into a queen cage. Just like that. ( it’s a good thing I didn’t have time to think about it) I did a couple more and got better at it. We ended up with 12 queens. They will be fine for a day cooped up in their little cages. Steve will take these queens out to his hives and use them to replace old, weak queens to to add to a hive that had lost their queen.
Queens cost about $25 each from a commercial apiary ( not including shipping costs) so it is a real cost savings to be able to rear your own queens, especially if you have a lot of beehives. I have just three hives, and know that I know how to do this, I might just try to make a couple for myself. For now, my three queens are doing well.