This year I made my first attempt at rearing queens. In previous years, I let nucs & hives raise their own queens and this was quite successful. Only, this method doesn’t really work when you intend to plan your nucs & splits, or want queens with certain characteristics.
I got my larvae from a pure bred&mated Carniolan queen. Many Dutch&Belgian beekeepers rely on queen rearing organisations for their pure-bred queens. These organisations own and operate breeding stations on islands along the Dutch, German and Danish coasts. The islands’ beekeepers are solely devoted to one type of honeybee, Carniolan, Buckfast or European dark bee. Local laws often forbid the import of colonies to the islands so they can export queens that are mated into that islands’ specific gene pool. The particular queen-mother I harvested my larvae from, was a pure Norderney-carnica queen. Selected for varroa-tolerance, hygienic behaviour, gentleness and productivity.
So, I raised six gorgeous Carniolan queens! I had hoped for 20, but I guess that would have been a little too much to handle for a first attempt… Anyway! I made 5 nucs to house the new queens in and one went back into the hive where she was born. This year, I didn’t send off any of my own queens to one of the breeding stations. That’s a project for next year.
After finishing the building of the new hives and re-homing the queens, I came an annoying part of beekeeping; the wait. A new queen will spend time inside the hive, eating and being cared for. After about 7 days, she can finally fly out on a ‘mating flight’. After that she returns (hopefully) and the beekeeper can -hopefully- find a healthy, laying queen in the hive.
Because the weather has been quite rainy most of this spring and summer, some of my queens never arrived home. Caught by predators or heavy rain? I’ll never know. Some that have arrived seemed to start laying perfectly fine, only later I discovered the hives’ numbers to be dwindling and only a very unimpressive amount of eggs and larvae were to be discovered inside the hive. This is to be expected when mating flights have to take place in bad weather. I’ve been able to requeen all hives that troubled me, so far. And I can still rely on my blue queens from last year, since these have already proven themselves to be able to keep their colonies going. If some of the new queens are going to fail and do so during winter, I’ll be unable to save their colonies. If, in early spring, I see colonies with a failed queen I’ll join them to a queen-right colony. Inevitably however, this bad summer weather will be to blame for a percentage of winter losses.