Queen mating outside the normal season

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Alastair

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I know most people probably including myself would say you would be mad to try and breed queens now. So just recording this for interest.

I had some queenless nucs I was going to write off for the winter, but late last month noticed one of my best hives still had a lot of drones. So I took a punt and did a graft, aiming to get 21 queens. The drones were still around come mating time and I was able to get enough semen to inseminate 7 of the queens on Sunday the 5th of this month (May). The nucs had been queenless a while and very weak so I direct introduced 4 of the queens as I thought eating out candy might not happen. Turned out to be a mistake, all 4 were tossed out dead the next day. But the other 3 were introduced by cage and have been accepted and now laying.

The rest of the queens were still virgins so since I had the nucs I introduced them just on the off chance they might find a drone or two, again on Sunday the 5th. Haven't looked at them all but I took a look in a few before I got chased off by a downpour of rain, all the nucs were queenless bar one, which had a nice looking queen just laying her first eggs. Still got to wait to see if they develop into workers I guess but looking promising. I will update in a week or so (y) .
 
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Mummzie

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well if someone doesn't try these things on the edge of possibility- no one will ever learn- so its good to see a project like this( however anecdotal)
Her progress will be interesting.
As our climate changes, so to do the guidelines of what's possible.

A few years ago I had some very late Monarch chrysalis's and was told they would never hatch. They eventually did after a considerably longer period of time than normal and a mild winter. So much later that they could have been considered the first of the new season rather than the last of the old.
 
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Alastair

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I was once told that monarch chrysalises can overwinter. No idea if it's true, anecdotal I suppose ;) .
 
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Interesting stuff Alastair. The temperature i have in my head is 23 degrees for mating flights, not sure where i got that from. Do you think you got lucky with a really warm day or that the queen and hopefully the drones were out on a nice sunny day that was not quite that warm?

Incidentally you might find this masters thesis interesting, it is the only NZ research into DCA's that i am aware of, i have found it just now: An investigation of honey bee Drone Congregation Area formation in rural and semi-rural locations in New Zealand : a thesis presented in part fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Science in Zoology at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand
 
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Interesting stuff Alastair. The temperature i have in my head is 23 degrees for mating flights, not sure where i got that from. Do you think you got lucky with a really warm day or that the queen and hopefully the drones were out on a nice sunny day that was not quite that warm?

Incidentally you might find this masters thesis interesting, it is the only NZ research into DCA's that i am aware of, i have found it just now: An investigation of honey bee Drone Congregation Area formation in rural and semi-rural locations in New Zealand : a thesis presented in part fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Science in Zoology at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand
OK, on page 15 of that thesis the author says he saw drones flying to a DCA at 17 degrees in the UK, so that is probably quite feasible up your way?
 

Alastair

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Thanks Br Adamson that is an awesome bit of research! I will admit to not reading the whole thing yet I only just got home and it's late. It will be some excellent reading over the next few days :) .

Re my new queens, I went through all the nucs today, only one of the virgins is laying eggs, too early to say if they are fertilized or not I will have to take another look in a week or so. It would be something of a miracle if they are fertilized because the mating time frame was during that cold snap we had, most of the time there were not even any workers flying never mind drones. But will be interesting I will update in a week or so.

The 3 surviving artificially inseminated queens all have capped brood now and it's worker, so all good. They started laying sooner because i gave them 2 Co2 treatments.

It occurred to me that since the occasional hive has drones right through winter, in theory it should be possible to produce and artificially inseminate a queen 12 months of the year. I might try it in another couple of months just for the fun of seeing if it is possible.
 

Alastair

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OK, on page 15 of that thesis the author says he saw drones flying to a DCA at 17 degrees in the UK, so that is probably quite feasible up your way?

Possible I don't really know. However in the UK they have European AMM's and no doubt other cold adapted strains that probably will have drones flying at lower temperatures I would guess.
 
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Possible I don't really know. However in the UK they have European AMM's and no doubt other cold adapted strains that probably will have drones flying at lower temperatures I would guess.
Good point, i suppose later season open matings could favour cold-adapted genetics such as darker colour/cold tolerance more. Also i think i read that drones over 18 days are unlikely to fly out? I wonder if your chances of successful II are better with drones you know emerged recently? i.e. hives that you observed drone brood in rather than hives holding drones due to queenlessness/weak queen pheremone levels. It really intrigues me that this research, which looks like it might have some good practical applications was completely buried. I presume the author self funded it so was under no obligation to present his findings, plus conference/field-day organisers etc can only get speakers they actually know about!
 
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An interesting topic. And what is your average temperature in Auckland in May, June, July and August? Do you have any observations? According to my information, a free flyby of the queens is possible at +18 °C. This was told to me by a breeder of queen bees from Siberia. The climate there is quite harsh.
 
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In some of the colder harsher parts of Hawke's Bay when we requeened in late March some of the queens would not start laying until the next spring. Most notably this behaviour tended to be seen in strong hives with plenty of bees already to survive the winter and weaker hives would generally try and raise at least some brood.
In the area where I live there are a lot of winter flowering gums and strong hives will often have drone brood all winter. I have occasionally seen very early and late mated queens around here.
 
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Critically important for a colony to start growing drones is a fresh supply of pollen. A frame of empty drone comb should be prepared. And placed in the center of the nest. The colony must be clamped.
From a technical point of view, it is possible to raise drones in your region. For AI purposes. It's too risky for a free flight due to the weather. There will be many losses of queen bees.
 
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Alastair

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Here is the final results for this. I had 21 queenless nucs so grafted cells, these were hatched in a bank and given a Co2 treatment 5 days later then 7 of them were inseminated the next day cos there was only enough semen to do 7 of them. But rather than waste the other virgins they were introduced to nucs even though it was May, on the off chance they might find some drones.

Of the seven inseminated queens 4 were direct introduced to nucs and the bees killed them they were all dead the next day. The other 3 were introduced in a cage with candy and they were all accepted and now laying eggs. All the virgins failed except one, which is laying fertilized eggs. Rather amazing since it is months after normal mating time, plus we had a cold snap all the way through the mating time.

Herewith some photos -

This is one of the artificially inseminated queens with her brood. The workers around her are old, they were queenless for more than a month before she was given to them.

AI.jpg


This is one of the virgins that went drone layer, rather sad, she has been pinched.

DL.jpg


This is the virgin that somehow found at least one mate! As can be seen, proper worker brood. I do not know how well mated or how long she will last, but I will keep her and find out. If she is still going next spring she can go into a production hive.

naturally mated.jpg
 
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Herewith some photos -
I'm no expert, but they look really nice to me. Would you normally get a less "italian type" queen from succesive generations of open mating in your area Alistair? I presume that is your objective with the II, to maintain yellowness and docility? It will be interesting to see what the emerging workers look like in terms of colour.
 
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Alastair

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Yes exactly. Where I am there are beehives everywhere with a complete mix-up of strains and genetics. So I prefer Italians but it is impossible to maintain them through several generations of open mating, I have to buy some in every year. So now with AI I can not just maintain and improve a good Italian line, or several lines actually, but also reliably select for the characteristics I want.

Plus it's very interesting, much to learn beyond just the insemination procedure itself. Adds a whole new dimension to keeping bees :).
 

Alastair

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Interesting thing I noticed from looking at the pics, the nucs with the failed virgin and the one that needed to open mate and eventually did, have a good sprinkling of drones. The nuc that has had an inseminated queen for most of the month has no drones.
I have noticed this in hives also, hives with a dodgy queen, a virgin, or no queen, will often have drones right into winter sometimes in good numbers. Must know they might need them.
 


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