Raise vs Buy - Queens for Hobby Keepers

Welcome to NZ Beekeepers+
Would you like to join the rest of our members? Feel free to sign up today.
Sign up

Josh

Gold
787
525
Christchurch
Experience
Hobbyist
I realise this might be a can of worms, but I would be interested in peoples opinion.

Breeders spend years selecting traits for their queens, and raise a good product as a result.

But I suspect “every” beginner hobby keeper, buys one (occasionally two) hives and “will expand and split to a good number in no time”

But, splits do come a cost. The original hive is weakened (made worse by premature hobby enthusiasm), gear, failures etc.

Would the humble hobby keeper be better off developing a habit of queen investment, and buy well bred established queens to populate splits etc instead?

Obviously supercedure an other opportunities to raise a new hive (swarm prevention etc) are still good things.

Asside from my own experiences (aka mistakes), reading about problem “angry hives” that are a real issue for hobby hives (urban or household hives) and also getting the best out of your limited hive numbers, has me wondering if I’ll be looking for some purchased queens to rebuild my numbers after last seasons experiences.
 

Alastair

Founder Member
8,080
9,292
Auckland
Experience
Semi Commercial
Buying some is good provided from a reputable breeder, there are some people selling any old queen bee, you should buy from where you will get good genetics. It is very satisfying to put a quality queen into a vicious hive and come back a couple months later and the bees are nice and docile and a pleasure to work.

But also, most beekeepers should give raising their own queens a try, it is a great learning experience and done right will save some money.

My view, make most of your own queens, but buy in a few to maintain good genetics. However as you say, making splits and getting them to raise their own queens can have several difficulties. Ifg you want to make splits but want quick results and high success, buy the queens for them. Mated, not queen cells, as not all virgin queens mate successfully.
 

tommy dave

Gold
BOP Club
166
183
mostly wellington, sometimes dunedin
Experience
Hobbyist
In Dunedin @tudorcd arranged access to queen cells from (I'm hesitant to get this wrong, a queen breeder anyway) someone and the resulting queens were wonderful. From those first splits, I ended up going with walkaway splits and letting the bees sort the new queen's out themselves. Starting from very good stock though.

Small sample size, but in the right area getting cells can produce great results at a price an order of magnitude lower than the price of a decent queen
 
  • Good Info
  • Like
Reactions: Alastair and Josh
8,434
4,864
maungaturoto
Experience
Commercial
Would the humble hobby keeper be better off developing a habit of queen investment, and buy well bred established queens to populate splits etc instead?
no, for the simple reason that hobby beeks should not be making many splits.
but buying in queens to replacing existing queens, yes.

its a good practise to get keep good stock, however that doesn't mean you have to buy in queens every year.
 
  • Good Info
  • Like
Reactions: Josh and Alastair

Dave Black

Gold
BOP Club
3,068
3,681
Bay of Plenty
Experience
Retired
There are people who breed queens, and people who raise queens. Doing either of these things reliably and well requires an investment in time and resources beyond the reach of most hobbyists.

That doesn't mean that you shouldn't 'have a go' because succeed or fail you will learn a lot. One of the things you learn is to select good queens, and that is something hobbyists need to get much better at.

If you learn to select good queens, and replace them with good queens regularly, regardless of source, you will have cracked it. 'Breeding' or 'rearing' misses the point, and are not the end-game here, entertaining as it may be.
 
5,526
5,846
canterbury
Experience
Commercial
Raising your own queens is another imprtant step in becoming a competent bee keeper.
IMHO people buy queens and cells because they don't have the time do it for themselves.

A hobyist should have heaps of time ...... so why not raise them yourselves ?
 
  • Like
Reactions: frazzledfozzle

yesbut

Staff member
11,700
6,768
Nelson
Experience
Hobbyist
Possibly because they're like me, they like to have a few bees around the place, would like to have just one hive, don't want to fork out for a hire hive, and end up with double the number of hives they really want in case of a problem. And would prefer that a hive is like a fishpond, there to be admired , otherwise self sufficient.
 
245
156
Christchurch
Experience
Beginner
Raising your own queens is another imprtant step in becoming a competent bee keeper.
IMHO people buy queens and cells because they don't have the time do it for themselves.

A hobyist should have heaps of time ...... so why not raise them yourselves ?
As a hobbyist ... I would say I dont have heaps of time. I work two jobs, have kids and responsibilities to local school and church. I dont have the luxury of focusing on bees full time.... as another point of view
My experience of having my own queens wild mated has been awful as the two that have mated near home have turned out to be super aggressive. Wild mating means I am at the mercy of the unknown stock near me. In my case I think there are black backed bees .. having seen a few .. and possibly cross mating with my stripes is producing angry bees.
Hobbyists dont have the breadth of stock to do good genetics that someone with multiple apiarys and hundreds of hives has.
 
  • Like
Reactions: NZDan and Alastair

Mummzie

Staff member
Gold
1,083
957
Tasman
Experience
Hobbyist
A hobyist should have heaps of time ...... so why not raise them yourselves ?
Explain how- if you have only 2 hives!
A cloake board means you can raise some cells with one hive.
Now how to get say 6 or 7 cells mated using just the other hive?

Resources or the lack thereof are the biggest barrier to hobby queen raising....let alone any selection.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Bee Real
5,526
5,846
canterbury
Experience
Commercial
Explain how- if you have only 2 hives!
A cloake board means you can raise some cells with one hive.
Now how to get say 6 or 7 cells mated using just the other hive?

Resources or the lack thereof are the biggesvvest barrier to hobby queen raising....let alone any selection.
Uh huh ..... but as a hobbyist one is keen to learn new tricks, right.
Queen raising is one of them.
Even with two hives, you can use a split board and make one box queenless, graft cells from your perfect hive and place the cells in the queenless box to start them, then remove the division board and hey presto, you have a queen right starter hive.
Come emergence ten days later, kill the queen, place a cell in the bottom and top with a division board between the two.
The magic trick is done.
You have a virgin on the top, another on the bottom, and hopefully one gets mated.
If both get mated, you've doubled your numbers,or give the excess queen away to a mate and put the two boxes back together.
 
8,434
4,864
maungaturoto
Experience
Commercial
Hobbyists dont have the breadth of stock to do good genetics that someone with multiple apiarys and hundreds of hives has.
i disagree with that.
from my own experience, a few decades ago we did a lot of simplistic beekeeping, ie we never bought in queens or made them.
however since varroa came in our hives got better and better. all due to neighbouring bee hives. most of those would be hobbyists (very few commercial guys back then).
hobbyists can have very good stock and often better than many commercials.
 
  • Agree
Reactions: Alastair
8,434
4,864
maungaturoto
Experience
Commercial
Explain how- if you have only 2 hives!
A cloake board means you can raise some cells with one hive.
Now how to get say 6 or 7 cells mated using just the other hive?
easy as with cloake board setup. only need one hive to make cells.
remember they are open mated, so getting them mated is generally not an issue.
just use protected cells on the hives you want to supersede.
 

Alastair

Founder Member
8,080
9,292
Auckland
Experience
Semi Commercial
My experience of having my own queens wild mated has been awful as the two that have mated near home have turned out to be super aggressive. Wild mating means I am at the mercy of the unknown stock near me. In my case I think there are black backed bees .. having seen a few .. and possibly cross mating with my stripes is producing angry bees.

If the issue for you is your neighbours have nasty aggressive bees that mate with yours, the only real way to defeat that is buy in good stock.

Usually, if you start with a good purebred (or close to it) queen that is docile, and from her you raise some more queens, the first cross with tha aggro drones will produce a worse bee, but not terrible. And that queen will still be making nice drones to add the the mating area because the drones are a copy of her. But the second generation if they again mate with aggro drones can start getting pretty bad.

So a plan could be to get at least one good queen and once needed, raise some more from her. See how they turn out, but once things start getting to where it is unpleasant working the hive/s, buy in another new queen of good genetics then.
 

Alastair

Founder Member
8,080
9,292
Auckland
Experience
Semi Commercial
Yes true, there are a bunch of things can cause aggression.

Just said what I thought based on that he has correctly deduced the aggro problems are caused by bad mating. Certainly happens with my bees if I let them run amock on the wrong side of the hood.
 
245
156
Christchurch
Experience
Beginner
Yes true, there are a bunch of things can cause aggression.

Just said what I thought based on that he has correctly deduced the aggro problems are caused by bad mating. Certainly happens with my bees if I let them run amock on the wrong side of the hood.
The reason I think its mating issues is I had a virgin queen hatched in my hive, she mated and the hive turned ugly a few weeks later.

We had no varroa as the reason for the queen is the nuc, supposedly purchased from a reputable breeder, came with dwv etc. We had bayveroled early and got the hive through the crisis. @CHCHPaul and I met, he helped me through the process. It was my first hive and intro to bee keeping.

This second aggro hive was a flow hive. It came from Paul's stock which we have three hives from. Near Christmas we had something happen and the hive changed.
I cant find the marked queen, and am pretty sure theres another wild mated one there. Again aggro where as all the other hives are sweet as.

We had wasp issues - now lured into extinction, and also black backed bees hitting that hive at Christmas. I suspect the queen was killed. There was a dearth in our area at the time as honey supplies went down, not up.

1hive wild mated for sure ... aggro as ... came right with new queen. 2nd hive possibly the same.
 
  • Like
Reactions: kaihoka


Top