Introducing the Bee Love 2013 T-shirt. Designed by Jody Fritz Pieper. If you want one, contact me and I’ll get it to you. I wear it almost every day. Because it’s wonderful and feels good.
Bob the Architect Saves the Day
One thing that’s really handy to have if you’re rearing queens is your very own wonderful certified sweet architect. Why? Because your architect can help you build these awesome 3-frame queen castles (also called “mating nucs”).
Once your queen cells are capped, you place the cell in a tiny little hive with a cup or two of bees and a frame of honey, and the bees tend the cell until the queen emerges, mates, and begins laying her eggs.
My friend Bob is my favorite architect. He’s also one of my favorite friends. He’s fun to hang out with. And Bob built these gorgeous queen castles. And if you need some, I’m sure he’ll sell them to you.
The Accidental Queens
I’m here to report SUCCESS on the queen-rearing front.
I read the books, watched the videos, asked my questions on the beekeeping forums. I bought the little plastic queen-rearing cells, the queen-rearing frames, the little larvae-lifting device, the queen-rearing nucs, and the mating castle. But before I could even begin my actual experiment employing all those suggested gizmos, a queen-killing accident in my strongest hive resulted in a slew of drop-dead gorgeous queen cells. They were sublime…at the same time horrifying and thrilling beyond imagination. I harvested the cells. From which queens emerged and mated and began getting down to work laying eggs in breathtaking patterns.
That accident taught me a lot.
So, I am now rearing my queens without all those devices. No larva-scooping device. No fancy cells or frames. I am simply populating a 5-frame nuc with a very strong number of bees, giving it a frame of honey, a frame of pollen, and a frame of brood…and once it realizes it’s queenless (24 hours after I make the nuc), I give it a frame containing four-day old larva. I then wait seven days and harvest the queen cells and Viola!, within three weeks I have beautiful queens with developed ovarioles ready to get to work.
This whole experience reminds me of my bread-baking experiments a number of years ago. While many of my friends were getting all heady about their fancy bread-making machines, I began makign the best bread imaginable using only my hands and a wooden spoon. I don’t even use a bread pan. I simply toss my hand-formed loaf onto a baking sheet. Something deep within me wants to avoid gizmos.
All of this is to say, Reader: I now have a strong number of very beautiful queen bees who are laying in some drop-dead gorgeous patterns. It makes me dizzy to see the beauty. I’ve chosen my queens from swarms I collected early this season…and from my surviving stock. Which means that these queens embody strong Midwestern genetics and stand a chance of surviving our winters. And their offspring know how to forage our Midwestern flora.
If you need a queen, my friend, I’ve got her right here (as long as I can keep up with demand while still producing strong queens…I’m not a queen factory. I delight over every queen…which, for some reason, seems important). And I can get one of these sweet queens to you.