Picking up where we left off with Good Queens, the next obvious piece of this is that good queens should be healthy beyond belief. If they were raised in luxury this will probably be the case when you get them (or when you have finished producing them), but…and this is a big factor in what’s going wrong with queens…what happens when you get them? Are you putting them in a cesspool of chemicals and crud that no self-respecting honey bee would choose to live in, given a choice? Are YOUR colonies worthy of a good queen? Chemical free? Pest and disease free? If not, how can you expect your queen to thrive? The biggest factor of course is the varroavirus complex. If it’s in your colony, or the mating nuc she came from, she will have it, or get it…and once infected pass it on to every single bee in the colony…those who care for her will get it, those eggs she lays will have it, every youngster in the colony will get it from every house bee that comes in contact with her…there is no escape. And there is no way out.
Varroa is the problem and Varroa control is the answer. Period.
Of course good queens need to do the job they were intended to do. If everything else is in place, then she is free to mass produce bees for the next…1, 2 maybe 3 years…so she should be laying how many eggs a day?
You can guess…or you can count. Here’s how to figure out how many eggs a day your queen is laying.
It takes 12 days from the time an egg is laid until the cell is capped, right? So, after your queen is established, say a week after she’s installed, or a couple weeks after mated if you raised her, make a mid-day inspection and determine how many capped brood cells are in the colony. How? Easy. You can take photos and go home and count, which is a good way to start. Here’s some metrics…a deep frame, depending on manufacturer, is 50 cells tall, and 90 cells wide….4500 cells per side. A medium frame is 35 x 90 cells, or about 3100 cells per side. Once you’ve got the photos you can count, estimate or guess, but if you count a few, you’ll soon get a good idea of the per cent of the side of the frame that has sealed cells. And then a number of sealed cells. Write it down. In 12 days do it again. Estimate, or get an exact count and write it down. Take that number, divide by 12, and you have number of eggs per day laid by your queen. How many? How many should it be? The books say 1000 maybe 1200 a day should be the number…where’s your queen?
Do this three or four times and get a good handle on your queen’s productivity…and then find out what’s wrong if she’s under-performing…lack of room, is she sick, are there enough workers to care for that many eggs, are they healthy, is she laying unfertilized eggs in worker comb and they are being destroyed…find out why, and then fix it.
Next, Rule 2 – Have Good Genetics
This may seem the same as having good queens, but it’s not. It has a lot to do with the old saying…a great queen in a bad colony will be out performed every time by a mediocre queen in a great colony. Let’s see why.