Posts Tagged ‘Buckin’ Bee Honey’

I spent the afternoon with my bee mentor, Steve Wall who showed me how to begin to raise my own queen bees.   Queen bees can live 3  to 5 years, but they are the most productive in their first two years. The bees in the colony are sensitive to the strength of their queen and as she gets older or dies, they will naturally replace her. It is the worker bees that produce the queens. How do they do that?  Well, all fertilized eggs that the queen lays are female and therefore are potential queens. For the first 3 days after the egg hatches in to a tiny larva, it is fed a special substance called “royal jelly” . This stimulates the development of the larva. After three days, however, larva destined to become worker bees are no longer fed this royal jelly and instead are given a lower grade food of pollen and nectar. Their reproductive organs do not develop and they turn in to into sterile worker bees. .  Only those larvae that reside in specially built “queen cells” continue to get royal jelly . Being fed royal jelly will continue the development of their female reproductive organs and the result will be a fertile queen bee.

We can use this knowledge then to get the bees to make a number of queens for us.

And this is how to do it:

1. Select a comb that  has a lot of open brood ( larvae ) in it. This is where the queen has been actively laying eggs.

Comb with open brood

Comb with open brood

2. With a special tool…like a thin pen with a flexible blade at the end…. gently scoop up a very young larva…it must only be 1 or 2 days old. ( see how small it is?  This takes a lot of patience and good eyesight and practice!

Collected larva

Collected larva

Steve looking for larvae

Steve looking for larvae









3. Carefully place the larva into one of the “queen cups”.  This mimics the special “queen cell” that the workers make to hold the special egg that will develop into a queen. We used commercial plastic cups.

Plastic "queen cups"

Plastic “queen cups”

4. Once all the cups have been filled ( we transferred 60 larvae…. Steve did the first 40 and I followed with the other 20)  the bars are placed back in to a new  hive that has had the queen removed from it .  The workers now will sense that they have no queen and will begin to feed these new larvae royal jelly , as they are in what the workers think are “queen cells”in order to produce a new queen for their colony.

5. It takes 10 days for the larvae to develop and form a pupa( cocoon) . That will be May 3. At this time we will open up the hive and see how many of the 60 larvae have made it to this stage.  If we are lucky we may get 10 – 15 .  Fingers crossed!

I’ll report on our success and the next series of steps to take.  Stay tuned!

Good reference books to read if you are considering this:

“Successful Queen Rearing”: Dr. Marla Spivak and Gary S. Reuter. University of Minnesota Extension Service publication.

Queen Rearing Essentials. Lawrence John Conner

The Beekeepers Handbook, 4th Edition.  Diana Sammartaro and Alphonse Avitablile

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Almost bee time!

My two topbar bee hives

I have both my hives set out and ready for the bees. I have them facing Southeast so the  sun will warm them up in the morning and they can get an early start on foraging.  I also nestled them in against the pinons and junipers to protect them from the winds. I think this will be an ideal site for them.

This year I ordered early so I know I will be getting bees.  I purchased one nuc from Zia Queen Bee in Truchas, NM ….. about half way between Santa Fe and Taos.  The other nuc will be coming from Steve Wall, who has about 100 hives in and around town….and who lives just down the road from me. He sells honey at the Farmers’ Market as “Buckin’ Bee“.

Steve Wall at the Farmers' Market

It’s early spring here and the queen is busy building up brood.  As the trees and other spring flowers bloom, the bee population in the hives begins to expand rapidly and that is the time beekeepers make their divides. I should be getting my bees in May!

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A nucleus colony ( commonly referred to a a “nuc” ) is a starter colony that you can buy either from a local beekeeper or a commercial apiary. Last year I started too late to order my bees. Turns out you have to get your order in very early.  Local beekeepers usually have fewer nuc’s that they can spare, and so theirs go quickly…usually by late summer they will have received requests for next year’s bees.  And it all depends on how well the bees have overwintered.  A very severe winter could stress out the bees and there will be fewer to sell off.  A nuc usually consists of 4 combs, hundreds of worker bees, and a young egg-laying queen. One advantage to getting local bees is that they are adapted to the area and the sometimes crazy weather conditions we experience here in the high desert of Northern New Mexico.   There are three local beekeepers that I have met over the past year and I was able to secure a nuc from one of them for this Spring.

Steve Wall at the Santa Fe Farmers' Market

I met Steve Wall at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market, where he sells his honey, wax candles, and bee pollen.

He’s also going to teach basic beekeeping to beginners like me , so this will be great.  He’s local, his bees are from the ‘hood, and he will be easy to contact when I need help and support.  You can check out his website here. A great guy, and I’m looking forward to working with him this year.


There are two other beekeepers that also set up at the Market:

Les Crowder        http://www.fortheloveofbees.com/


Melanie Kirby and Mark Spitzig       http://www.ziaqueenbees.com/

All three are really friendly and full of information….and so eager to share their knowledge.

Check out their websites to learn more about their bees and what they offer.

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