For whatever it may mean – concerning discussion of the danger of neonicotinoid plant protection poisions – for bees in first place. Poision is never harmless, even if the harm it may cause to others than the target bug, vary quite a bit. During different circumstances.
One of the dangers for bees discussed is when the neonics are used as coating on corn seeds. When planting the kernels (dust) and during the time when the plants are small (guttation drops – water drops on the plants from within the plant).
During short periods under certain circumstances my bees were seen seeking moisture deep down in the axillaries of my homegrown corn (starchy corn as the type is used by framers). They are not flowering yet as can be seen. At this point you can speculate that the plant fluid is still toxic to bees, if the plant seed is treated with neonics.
It hadn’t rained for some time. The corn was not irrigated. They grow on a place where their roots can reach moisture.
If you have corn field close to your bees it may be good choice to give them a water supply of your own.
There are different ways of producing queen cells. It’s always good to have a number at hand, especially during the beginning of the season, but also in the middle of it. Most of the queen cells are needed for early splits, nucs and failing queens. It’s the easiest way of ‘repairing’ a broken colony and to produce a new colony with desired traits and keeping the genetic variation both in the bee stock and in the individual colony. If you let these virgins mate in the apiary and your stock is good enough and the drones from your bees have a lot influence on the matings of the virgins. The very easiest way of making new colonies is of course making so called walk away splits. Take a box of bees and brood and move to a new stand in the same or another apiary. Sometimes they fail to produce a laying queen. Then you save them by giving them a frame of brood and a ripe queen cell of desired heritage. For example from a colony with high VSH index (see an earlier post about that).
I have tried different ways of producing queen cells. For many years I used a modified way of using the Australian or New Zealand method, with an excluder with an entrance and a board that can make the boxes above it queenless. It worked satisfactory. But especially early in the season such starters too often have failed to produce as many as I wanted of the larvae I gave the starter.
Pasaga Ramic is a skilled beekeeper from Bosnia that moved to Sweden many years ago. He has modified a swarm prevention board called Snelgrove board. He uses it in different ways, mostly not for swarm prevention. One way he has invented and tested for some years before writing about it is to produce queen cells. The only thing I had against this method was that it involved some lifting of the broodnest box(-es). But he said it worked so well I had to try it.
I normally use three 12 frame (square) shallow (Langstroth 137 mm high frames) boxes for brood nest. But I reduced it here to two boxes for easier lifting. I choose a not so strong colony just after middle of May (it was on two brood boxes then). And it was time (almost) to give them a third box, so I gave it as a super with a queen excluder.
The way Pasaga uses his Snelgrove board (starter board) you can say this board is just a bottom board with a central netting and a small entrance.
- You place the super on the bottom (normally actually without any brood frames!). Then the starter board with entrance facing backwards in relation to the entrance. Finally the brood box(-es). Later on when the colony needs more supers they come on top (as you see on the picture I have such a super waiting on the left).
- Wait one day, then put the list with the queen cell cups with the larvae in the middle (or about so when you put in two lists).
- Wait another day. Then you take away the starter board and put the brood box(-es) on the bottom, queen excluder, super with queen cell list (plus later on more supers above).
The first time I used the starter board it was ridiculously small amount of bees in the super so I put two brood frames in the middle of it, with a space between them for the list with the larvae. The colony was not that very strong and I doubted it would make many queen cells.
I didn’t look until the cells should be capped and opened to move the few I expected to the incubator. I had put in 15 cellcups with larvae. I got 15 well fed and well built queen cells!
Later on I grafted 30 cell cups for every go and got 26-30 queen cells. Try it!
I lifted off the roof from the hive and saw at the same time how the dead drone on the roof slowly began to glide off it down into the grass. During a fraction of a second I saw that the drone had the mating organ depleted. It had mated, died and fallen down on the hive roof. That is, it had mated just above the hive or not far from it. The apiary was a drone congregation area. It had to be documented. I had the camera with me lying in the car.
But I realized when the drone fell down into the grass that it was too late. I would never find the drone and put it back on roof and photograph it. And I never did.
The apiary is situated in a little hollow, not a perfect place according to some as it would keep cool air in the winter. But the sun warmes the place and it has bushes and some trees that give shade during part of the day. Close to spring flowers, water supply and good summer flow. Upwinds are said to be a part of the forming of drone congregation areas, where virgin queens mate. It seems that the apiary happens to be a drone congregation area.
By the way there were two splits that had virgins ready for mating now.
As I wrote in my previous post I did my first test with a good result. I was somewhat surprised. It seems also this colony I tested is my best one. A little embarrassing as I’ve been breeding and selecting bees for many years and in later years also for varroa resistance. The colony was a big swarm I caught last year that most probably came from the wall of the dog training center in the area where I live. But right in the middle of the ‘Elgon land’, only Elgon drones around here for virgin queens to mate with.
I’ve been breeding a bee I call Elgon as an important part of it’s heritage come from the slopes of Mt Elgon on the border between Kenya and Uganda. I visited the area in 1989. You can read about the adventure here: http://www.beesource.com/point-of-view/erik-osterlund/exploring-monticola-efforts-to-find-an-acceptable-varroa-resistant-honey-bee/
The queens from this swarm hatch at least one day earlier than ordinary European bees. That’s what we learned quickly when starting breeding with the Monticola material. So this swarm is influenced of Apis monticola in its heritage. Still the Elgon stock is. And many drones have very black thorax from this swarm, another trait that can be common in Monticola bees. So nature has evidently helped me select a good variety of the Elgon bee. If you are religious it’s easy to think you’ve got help from above. Well, Someone probably saw I couldn’t make a good enough selection myself.