We promised that we would share our successes AND our failures, I just didn’t think we’d have a failure to share so soon!

We tried our hand at queen rearing for the first time this fall.

Queen rearing means that we are trying to make a hive think they are queenless, introduce a large number of small larva and let the bees raise a group of queens at one time.

Normally, if one of our hives is queenless, we introduce a frame from another hive that has very tiny larva in some of the hexagonal cells in the honeycomb on the frame. The bees will then choose a larva to create a new queen for their hive.

There are times when beekeepers want to make several queens at once. Usually this is either in the Spring or Fall when the beekeeper wants to split larger hives into two smaller hives and wants to use one frame of larva to make many queens for several different hives.

Since we’ve never tried to make queens in bulk, we thought we should practice before this Spring when we plan on splitting a lot of hives and will need to have a lot of queens.

So we bought a system called the Nicot System. You grab the queen with the genetics you like from her hive and contain her in a box in the hive for a few days to lay eggs. The eggs are laid in small cups that you then transfer to a frame. The frame gets inserted in a hive that has been queenless for 24 hours. The bees will then jump on the eggs and hopefully, turn most of them into queen cells. Then the queen cells hatch out into new queens!

We went out to the hives and luckily found our queen easily. (think looking for one bee that’s slightly different in a group of 10,000 moving bees.) We put her in the Nicot box, put it back in the hive and sat back and waited. 24 hours later, we removed the queen, examined the cups and…… no eggs.

Fine, we had plan b ready! We took a frame of brood and grafted larva into more tiny cups which we inserted on the frame and then put it the still queenless beehive.  We went back several days later and… queen cells were being made.

We stepped back and decided it was getting too late in the season to try to raise queens. We gave up, but only for the season. We will try this again in Spring, but this time we will do it a little differently.

*We will put our Nicot box in the hive several days before we lock up the queen so the bees get it ready for her.

*We will leave the queen in their for several days if we don’t see eggs in the first 24 hours.

*If we try to graft again, we will get better magnifying glasses!

The important thing for us and our bees is that we tried, and we will continue to try new things. We will read and practice and ask other beekeepers and read some more. And hopefully, one day, we’ll be reasonable proficient and can go on to try other new techniques.

We invite you to join us on all of our adventures, successes and failures!

Michelle and Matt

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