Queen bees are more than Gold!
Queen bees can cost anywhere from $25 to $50 depending on the seller and the features of the queen. If you raise your own queens, your starting cost will be minimal, and you can continue to raise queens for minimal cost repeatedly. (More on what type of queens are most prolific vs. mild temper vs. robust in a later blog)
We now live in a world where consumers have become used to placing an order and receiving the product either the same, or next day. Ordering bees can be a shock to new beekeepers. For live bees check out:
Hiveworld: https://hiveworld.ca/collections/live-bees or in Manitoba
The number of beekeepers is shrinking from year to year, which decreases the number of beehives for sale. What is more problematic, is the amount of time it takes from when you placed an order for a queen and when you receive her she might be in a poor shape and dead at worst.
The waiting period for the queen can be an extremely nerve wrecking time, however, knowing how to make your own queen can be immensely helpful when you find yourself in a critical situation with your colony.
So the love of beekeeping has made you want more hives. If you want to grow organically you will have to make your own colonies. The easiest way to make your own hive is by splitting a colony. But every colony needs their own ruler, so you need a queen for every hive split. If you want to expand your beekeeping skills and you have the time for it, make your own queen! If you love your present queen’s productivity and hive’s behavior, it makes total sense to try it out!
If you love beekeeping so much, you want to not only sell honey but share your excellent, prolific, strong hives with others? More hives mean more honey and more bees. Do you know the prices of a queen bee, and do you know how much they increase in price every year? So, you can make some extra cash on the side from rearing queens..
There can be plenty of reasons for swapping out your queen and getting the queen rearing production going on full gears, you can have a new queen ready to go quickly.
The amount of time it takes for queens to hatch from their queen cells is 16 days, compared to the 21 days it takes for worker bees, so it is a relatively short time to have a new queen hatching if you are raising your own.
1. You have an old ruler
If you have a queen bee that is older than 3 years, she might start to fail. You may want to hold off a swarm caused by the replacement of an old queen and have more control of their hives that way. Some queens can live up to 6 years and not all of those years are prolific…so you might want to think about changing your queen to a younger one… (not in your personal life though!)
2. A sick queen bee or hive
What if your queen falls ill or the rest of your hive becomes sick? Upgrading to a new queen or making your own in less than 21 days can sometimes save the hive from deteriorating.
3. Queen produces poorly
There are some queens who are just not made to rule the queendom and don’t produce as many bees as others might, or they focus too much on drone production. Either way, rearing a new queen bee could solve this issue fairly quickly instead of waiting months for a mail order queen.
4. Aggressive bees
There are bees like the Africanized “Killer bees” who are extremely vicious and will chase you for a quarter of a mile until she has done her deed. Although there seems to be a correlation between bee aggression and resilience, generally not a lot of people want aggressive bees unless they are sprinters or simply enjoy pain. You will want to think about re-queening especially if you have close neighbors. Most of the time, making a queen from a calmer hive will solve the aggression issue.
Preparing to Rear Queens
Once you have decided upon rearing a brand-new queen, the best time to do it are the summer months due to higher activity in the hives and warmer temps.
You want to prepare to rear queens? A few things need to be prepared:
There can never be more than one queen in a hive. 2 queens in one hive will fight each other till death for one and poor health in the other.
Having extra nucs of queenless worker bees are helpful in some methods used for rearing queens because the grafted or developed queen cell can be placed in a nuc with nurse bees to feed her and develop her.
A special type of nuc, called mating nuc, can be used to start a queen or to test if she can start her own hive. Some beekeepers use these hives to prove that she is fertile before selling her.
What tools are helpful when rearing queens?
2. Grafting Tool
For the grafting method, or Doolittle Method, a grafting tool may be used for queen rearing. It is small flexible pencil-like tube that can be used to remove newly hatched larvae and place it into queen cups.
3. Queen cups
So queen cups are synthetic cells that you will use with the grafting method. After using your grafting tool to receive the larva, you can gently place it into a queen cup for the remainder of the development.
4. Queen Cages
If you are shipping your new queen bees, or you need a place to hold them for a short time, Plastic queen cages work extremely well. They allow the queen to move freely, and have a compartment for food.
5. Queen Castles
If you plan to allow worker bees to nurse developing queen cells from a current (already formed) frame, you will need to have them ready to go before you begin transferring the frames and bees.
6. Magnifying glass
Bees are tiny enough, to begin with, but when you are trying to see a small larva, it can be quite difficult, especially if you are using a grafting tool to remove it. Having a magnifying glass handy will allow you to see what you are doing when you are grafting larvae from a thriving hive.
You can never be too careful when you are working with your hive. So always have your smoker ready to go.
8. Protective Gear
Methods of Rearing Queens
We want to present to you some of the methods beekeepers use to rear their own queens:
Grafting is widely used for queen rearing. A grating tool is a small instrument that is used to remove larvae along with the gel-like fluid (royal jelly) from a newly laid, uncapped, cell.
After the larva is removed, it’s placed in a mock queen cell (aka cell starter) and put into a queenless hive, where it continues to be cared for by the nurse bees who feed her the special royal jelly.
The nurse bees then do their job by rearing a queen from the larvae in the starter cells and capping them.
Once the new queen cell is ready to hatch, it is important that she is protected from the bees that have been keeping her safe. Most beekeepers will use a queen excluder to keep her safe after hatch.
Once she is free from her cell, she is either ready to be sold or placed in a mating hive.
While many beekeepers use this method, timing is crucial to ensure the larva is not too old, and that the queen cell cups are moved at the right time to their next destination. It can also create more confusion and unnecessary movement because the larva, and eventually, queen cell, will be moved at least three times before hatch.
2. Jenter Kit Method
The Jenter method is one of the easier ways to rear queens because instead of grafting larvae, a frame is used to trap a laying queen and she will continue to lay her eggs in the new frame’s removable cells.
The reason some beekeepers like this method is because grafting can be tedious and timing the queen cell’s moves can be time-consuming.
The Jenter kit includes a plastic cover so you can see when eggs have been laid, and when larvae have recently hatched. The fresher the hatch, the better the odds of producing a quality queen.
Once new larvae have been identified, the cells are removed from the Jenter kit frame and placed in a separate frame to develop on their own.
New queen bees will try to kill each other, so even though they are being raised in the same container, the Jenter method utilizes a cage over each new queen cell to prevent the destruction of the new queens.
3. Splitting the Hive
Splitting the hive is a process that beekeepers utilize to prevent a swarm. If you want to rear a queen simply to create a new hive in your apiary, this process may be the best option for you.
This method can be used if your bees have already begun creating queen cells on their own, which is good indicator that a swarm is about to leave your hive.
4. Using Queen Castles
Queen castles are another simple way to rear more than one queen at once.
Basically, a queen castle is an apartment building of four separate hives that each have their own frame of both brood cells and honey cells.
Brood cells and honey cells are placed in each of the compartments, existing worker bees are shaken into the compartments and they will begin thriving and rearing their own queens in each compartment.
In this method, to harvest your queens, you will need to monitor your hive for queen cells, and once they are well-developed, you can remove each cell and continue to allow the queen to hatch in a safe environment.
What to Do With New Queen Bees
Depending upon the method you have used there will be a few loose ends to tie up once your queen has hatched. It is important to repeat the importance of keeping queens cells that are ready to hatch, separated. Remember, Queen bees hatch in only 16 days time, so documentation is extremely important!
1. Create a New Hive
If you plan to split a hive or create a new colony in your own apiary, ensure that the new hive is ready, and full of worker bees. Place your chosen queen into a queen cage, and allow the worker bees to become accustomed to her smell, and eat their way through the candy to release her on their own.
Check back in a week to ensure that she has successfully emerged from the cage, is laying eggs, and the colony is thriving.
2. If You’ve Used a Queen Castle
If you have used a queen castle, you may have more than one queen cell in each compartment. You can remove the queen cells and allow for each of them to hatch separately. Although, you may decide it is easier to allow the queens to fight it out and the winner takes all. You then have a small colony ready for a hive of their own.
3. Sell Your Queen Bees
If you are selling your queen bees, you would be doing your new business, and your customers a service by testing your queen out in a mating hive before selling her. You can do this by slowly introducing her, as mentioned earlier, to the mating nuc and monitoring the hive for a few weeks.
for visual instructions on the Cloake Board Method