July 12, 2007

Looking for genetic diversity

To continue documenting my progress with raising queens let me first say this….


It ain’t been easy.
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Left: A queen cell frame containg 7 queen cells. Out of 90 grafts 10 queen cells were made by the bees.
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Out of 90 grafts I made two weeks ago, 10 were accepted by the bees and made into queen cells. The cells that were produced by the bees were smaller than the two cells I got from the 30 grafts made on my first grafting attempt.
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Right: A close up of two of the queen cells from my second grafting attempt.
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Grafting is the process by which a small 3 or 4 day old worker bee larva is transferred into a larger artificial cell. This cell containing the grafted larva is then placed into a queenless hive. The bees, being queenless, will attempt to raise a queen bee in these artificial cells by adding wax to the artificial cell, and feed the larva royal jelly. If all goes according to plan, 12 days after grafting the cell a mature virgin queen will emerge from each cell.
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Left: A grafted cell 48 hours after the graft. You can see that the bees have already started adding wax to some of the cells.
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As I stated earlier, out of 90 grafted cells, only 10 were accepted. On my two attempts I am averaging about a 10% acceptance rate. This could partially be due to the dry days I have grafted on. It is said that there is a better acceptance rate when the relative humidity is around 70%.

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Left: A queen cell in a plastic cell protector. The cell will be removed from the frame and placed in a small nuc hive containing two frames of bees and brood, but no queen. If all goes well, a virgin queen will emerge from the cell and be accepted by the bees.
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Yesterday I harvested the cells and placed them into small nuc hives containing two deep frames of bees. The queen cells should be emerging today. We will see in a few days if it has been successful.

So far this is where my attempts have failed. My two original grafted cells failed to emerge. Looking back this was probably due to the fact that I transferred the cells into small nuc hives on the 8th day after grafting when the cells were just capped. We had two cold nights after that. The small amount of bees in the nuc hive may not have been able to keep the cell warm. Now that the temperatures are consistently in the 80’s, that problem should go away.
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Right: A frame of bees. This frame has young bees emerging from the cells. A 2007 queen laid eggs on this frame. It was a solid beautiful pattern of brood. You can still see some of the original solid pattern of brood in the left part of the frame. Every cell is filled with brood.
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As part of this queen rearing exercise I have introduced a new queen into one of my hives. She is a northern queen from a survivor stock of bees. A survivor queen means just that. The bees have survived for a number of years with out medications or any special help. Next year her genetics will be added to the gene pool in the area. Any queens mating with here offspring may inherit some or all of her ability to survive.

I was offered a mating yard across town by two local beekeepers. The area has a large number of managed hives so there should be plenty of male bees for the virgin queens to mate with. In addition there is a good amount of genetic diversity, something I am looking for in this experiment.

It is my hope that increasing the amount of genetic diversity will allow a greater combination of matting possibilities.

Who knows, perhaps we will get a spectacular queen.






3 comments:

  1. My sister lives in Sandwich and I am trying to get her to start beekeeping. I live in Illinois and am interested in rearing my own queens. Any chance that I could talk to you about it. Will be on the Cape in August. Do you go to the Barnstable Fair? I have to miss it this year. My Mom is also a resident of the cape.

    I have a couple of hives with great queens and would like to breed from them so that I can avoid chemicals.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Claudia:

    I would be happy to talk with you.

    You can email me at

    mark@cape-architect.com

    I will be working the fair at the bee booth on Friday July 27th 7:00 to 10:00 pm

    ReplyDelete

Spring

Spring
Peach Pollen

Spring Pollen

Spring Pollen

Queen Cell

Queen Cell
Well Fed Queen Cell

Marked Queen

Marked Queen
Queen produced from my second graft attempt