CARRICELL – A CONVENIENT TOOL FOR REQUEENING IN THE 21ST CENTURY  

 

Part Two – updated 01/07/2021 - by John Dobson - (now retired)

 

What used to be a difficult and time-consuming job has become a quick and simple one for many bee farmers.

 

Cells are introduced without de-queening.

Some years ago I decided to take the advice of an elderly beekeeper acquaintance and re-queen my hives using 10 day protected queen cells.  The cells were introduced around the end of the honey flow without first de-queening.  This method induces a natural queen bee supersedure at a time of year when the weather is usually settled and bees will readily accept a new queen.  If nectar was still coming in, I would simply place a protected cell into the centre of the third (honey) box.  If the honey flow had finished, honey had been removed, or the hive looked hungry, it was essential to feed.  In this case, I placed the protected cell between two outside frames near a feeder with a full 4 litres of syrup.  

It is important to use cells that will hatch the following day to allow the virgin time to become established in the hive and build up her strength while workers are busy storing their feed.  This is also why I preferred to place protected cells away from the brood area and the old queen. (We used masking tape cut to 70mm to wrap around the cells to protect the bees from killing the virgin.)

 

I re-queened all of my hives every year and consistently achieved 80% or more newly mated queens.  Any failures were replaced before winter with a caged queen.  Other bee-farmers in New Zealand are convinced easy-care re-queening is the way to go, - “Why take 20 hours to do a job that can be done in 5 hours?”

 

Takes about 2 minutes per hive.

Although I describe myself as basically ‘lazy’ (ie I like to work efficiently and have time to do other things) I managed to re-queen 130+ hives a day on my own.  It took about 2 minutes per hive for the whole procedure. Some bee farmers do up to 300 cells per day, with an extra person helping.

  

One bee farmer used brown packaging tape to protect his cells and introduced them into the centre of the brood box just below an excluder.  Late summer and early fall (autumn) is the preferred time – just as the flow is slowing down.  He introduced cells when he was taking off honey, or alternatively, he left the hives 3 – 4 weeks before removing the honey.  He had produced his own cells but did occasionally use commercially supplied 10-day old cells for the bulk of his re-queening.  He had tried this method of re-queening in the spring but found it was not as successful. 

 

Another bee farmer said, “Searching for, and killing old queens and replacing them with caged ones, used to be the worst job on his apiary calendar”. He then re-queened 80% of his hives in a very short time with very little pressure.  Using cells wrapped with tin foil the previous night, he and an employee re-queened 140 hives per half day.  

He used commercially supplied cells, “to save employing an extra staff member to produce them.”    He took honey off during the late flow and introduced protected 10-day cells into the middle of the top brood box.  He preferred to place cells in the brood area so there was no risk of chilling during the cooler nights.

 

A natural method bees are happy with. He completed his re-queening over 2-3 weeks, and intended using mated queens before winter to replace any failures. He also set up 180 splits which achieved 95% successful mating.  He was confident that easy-care re-queening would benefit his bee business. 

“It’s a natural method and the bees appear happy with it.”

 

Each of these bee farmers used a Carricell portable incubator to transport queen cells to their apiaries.  There are many methods of re-queening, and in a commercial situation, easy-care or induced autumn supercedure can have considerable advantages. However, the bee farmer does take on some risk when using queen cells, rather than caged queens, such as unsuccessful mating or lost queens.  Also, half the genetic make-up of the offspring will be from his or her own drones, and if the bee stock needs drastic improvement, caged queens will give quicker results.

 

Easy-care re-queening has apparently been around for quite a while.  It is increasingly being recognized as a simple, effective system that saves a great deal of time.

 

For more information on the Carricell or Cabinet incubator, write to 

John Dobson, 67 Poporangi Road,   RD1, Hastings 4171 New Zealand, Phone 0064 27 449 4396, or 0064 6 8707070, 

Fax 0064 6 8707077, or email beeline@xtra.co.nz