Questions with Mike Palmer

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Mike Palmer Answers Your Questions

Mike Palmer keeps bees at French Hill Apiaries in St. Albans. We are grateful that he has agreed to answer questions on beekeeping in Vermont, his workload permitting.

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More on Queens

Bonnie Kolber writes:

I am a new beekeeper, have had a strong productive nuc colony that swarmed 3 weeks ago Sunday, and I was unable to capture the swarm. All queen cells (around 8) have hatched out, but as of Sunday (3 weeks since swarm) there was no sign of a new laying queen. Should I requeen, or is it too late in the season for this colony? Or should I just be patient and hope she is out flying/mating? They have 4-6 frames of honey between 2 deep boxes (which were mostly full!), but no brood at all.

When I place queen cells in mating nucs, they are within two days of emerging. We catch the mated queens sixteen days after giving the ripe queen cell. At that time, most mating nucs have eggs and very young larvae, indicating that many of the queens start laying about 12 days after adding the cell. While that's the norm, some are seemingly queenless on day sixteen, as there are no eggs present. While I add another cell to these nucs on the day following queen catch, some don't really need one because the queen is actually there but hasn't begun to lay.

What I'm trying to say is all colonies are different. In some, the virgin queen emerges, takes her mating flight in a couple days, and begins to lay, all in a matter of a week and a half. Some take their time, don't mate until, say, the second week, and won't lay an egg until after three weeks have past.

Wait until thirty days have past, and check again. Sometimes the virgin will be lost on her mating flight, and the colony will go queenless and develop laying workers, but most swarmed colonies will be able to re-queen themselves with no problems.

- Mike