What to do with Your Queen Cells

Friday 9 July 2021

This week the queen series is back for another post! Our previous posts provided an overview of how you can rear queen honey bees, from obtaining larvae to managing cell builders. Today, we will explore some different options for what you can do with your queen cells now that they are ready to be removed from their cell builder colonies.

What to do with Your Queen Cells

After two days in a starter colony and eight days in a finisher colony, your queen cells are ripe and ready for harvest! A queen takes 16 days to fully develop from the time she is laid as an egg. Recall that grafting was already four days into the queen’s development, so after ten additional days in the cell builder colonies you can expect your queens to emerge within two days. For comfort, and in case your larvae were a bit older 24 hours, it is recommended to be prepared for the queens’ emergence by this time.

So what can you do with your cells? The norm in Canada has been for queen producers to use queen cells to restock their own apiaries. One practice is to put the cell directly into the colony in which she will reign. For example, a newly split colony can be provided with a queen by simply placing the cell between the top bars, hanging down into the brood nest. There she will emerge, and in about two weeks she should begin to lay eggs of her own.

Another option is to sell your queens! Selling queens can provide beekeepers with additional revenue, supply the demand for local queens, and reduce the risk of foreign pest and disease introduction to our region. The simplest way to sell queens is as queen cells. They must be transported with care and in a timely fashion to their new hive where they will take their mating flight. However, while, this is simpler for the producer, the consumer demand is greater for mated queens.

Mated queens can be produced using mating yards and mating nucs. Mating yards are much like any other apiary but should be additionally stocked with an abundance of healthy drones. Drones are supplied to the yard by inserting drone comb into strong hives about five weeks before your queens are ready to emerge. The other distinction is that the yard will contain mating nucs. There is a lot of variation between mating nucs, in essence they are smaller colonies for virgin queens to emerge into and from which they take their mating flight. A queen cell can be placed into a mating nuc directly from the finishing cell builder. Allow two weeks to pass before returning to check in. During this time, she needs to emerge, reach sexual maturity, become mated, and begin laying, and she will be the most successful if the hive does not become stressed with disturbance. Mating yards require a lot of resources, so remember to feed the colonies in the absence of a good honey flow. When your queen is successfully mated and ready for sale, she can be placed in a queen cage with attendants and candy!

That concludes the queen series for this summer, and we hope that our readers will be encouraged to try their hand at raising healthy queen bees! Thank you for reading!

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