Can I make 500 queens in 1 week?

A frame of "queen cells" that have larvae that will grow into new queen bees.
In the first frame they are covered in the nurse bees that are feeding them royal jelly.
The second frame shows that some of the cells have a rim of brown wax, indicating that they have been accepted by the bees.

What's new on the farm:

This week, Andrew says to me, "I need you to make 500 new queens!"

Making queens in the middle of summer is pretty easy because by then, a hive has grown in population to the point where they are already thinking of making another queen to split up the hive as their natural way of reproducing (that's when you see "swarms" get loose!).

Making queens in the spring is harder because the populations are smaller and they are not in the mindset to be reproducing.

We need queens during the spring so that we can make new hives early on in the season, and they will have more time to grow to a big enough size to make it through the winter, and sometimes even produce honey to harvest.

These hives replace our winter losses and help our operation grow in number.

On Tuesday this week, the team and I set up a handful of hives so that I can use them to make our queens.

Raising queens involves using a technique called "grafting" which involves carefully picking up worker bee larvae and moving them into frames of cups that the bees associate with cells that queen bees grow inside.

When the bees come across larvae in these cells, they feed them a special royal jelly diet which changes the larvae so they develop ovaries and become much larger than a regular worker bee.

I think it's pretty amazing that genetically, a worker bee and a queen bee are the same, but their diet completely changes how they develop.

Anyway, on Wednesday I grafted 270 larvae into the hives. The weather was a bit chilly (10 Celsius) and I was worried that maybe it was too cold for the larvae while I was transferring them.

On Thursday my fears were realized as I opened up hive after hive. Zero larvae accepted. Two larvae accepted. One larvae accepted. In total, out of 270 larvae, only 5 of them were accepted by the hives. That's 1.8%. Abysmal.

Crap, we have to do it all over again. This time, I grafted 315 larvae inside my car with the heat blasting.

I opened up the hives again on Friday. 10 accepted. Zero accepted. 4 accepted. This time, about 25 out of 315 larvae were accepted. That's 8%, which is pretty darn bad.

Okay, what can we do to motivate these hives to accept these larvae? Is it too cold? Not enough bees in the hives? Is there enough food in the hive?

What if we made these hives queenless?

Removing the queen from each hive would cause these worker bees to be desperate for a new queen. So, we got to work finding the queen in each hive and putting her into a small cage with a handful of worker bees to be set aside temporarily.

Caged queen bees waiting to go back into their hives.

Over the next two days, I kept grafting. 161 accepted out of 540 (29%). Then 171 accepted out of 360 (47%).  Getting better, but not the best.

As I write this, we have 362 cells and a bunch of caged queens sitting on my kitchen counter. Oh! That's so unsatisfying, I am sure you are thinking. I feel that way too.

Keep your fingers crossed for me as I troubleshoot the hives and eke out the final queens in the next two days.

Hot Honey Glazed Salmon

This recipe will be much more satisfying for you.
The sweetness and spiciness of our Spicy Honey add so much flavor to a beautiful salmon or steelhead trout fillet in just a couple scoops!
2 tbsp Spicy Honey (or use pure honey with chili powder, paprika, and chili flakes!)
1/4 cup your favorite grainy mustard
1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 F.
  2. Whisk together the honey glaze. Set aside half of the glaze.
  3. Brush the other half over your salmon fillets and bake for 8-10 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and drizzle the remaining glaze over your fillets and enjoy!
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