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Reality Check – Nicot Round 1 Over

This weekend could have had the potential for being a fairly big event for me. Based on my calculations, the Queen Cells in the Nicot system would need to be moved to Nucs or Queen Castles on Monday. That meant that I would need to setup the receiver Nucs/Castle Banks on Sunday. Although I wasn’t really supposed to look at the Rearing Frame until Monday, I had to have a peak to get an idea of how many cells had been capped! If 20 were capped, that would mean that Sunday would be a busy day. If none were capped, it would mean that I could do my regular bee work on Sunday. I also was a bit paranoid that I had left a rogue queen cell in the Finishing Hive, which would mean she might get out and kill all of the queens on my rearing frame.

My expectations were high, even though I kept telling myself that I should expect the worst since this was my first go of the system. When I had moved the hive from the Starter to Finisher, I could see that all (or very close to all) of the cells were being started. Lots of bees were clustered over each cell. Seemed like a slam dunk.

Unfortunately, as mentioned previously, I found several rogue queen cells in the setup. The synopsis goes like so: The key to any queen rearing system is a queenless ‘Starter Hive’. Studies have shown that queen cells started by a queenless hive have a much higher rate of acceptance then those started otherwise. There are several ways to create a queenless hive – I chose the ‘Cloake Board’ method. Although there is more to it, you basically install a queen excluder between two hive bodies (your upper and lower deep, for instance) and make sure you queen is down below (I did this 5 days before the queen eggs would be ready – this is where the issue started). When you are ready to move your new eggs (on the Rearing Frame) into the ‘Starter Hive’, you install a divider (part of the ‘Cloake Board’) over the queen excluder (1 day before you put the rearing frame in). Basically, you make your upper hive body suddenly think they are queenless. They are supposed to do a stand-up job of starting your queen cells now.

Unfortunately, I purchased a Cloake Board that was about an inch and a half deep, with the queen excluder section at the bottom. For whatever reason, my bees thought they were queenless when I did this. I think that extra 1.5 inches between the two supers did it.

So, when I put my Rearing Frame in, I already had several rogue queen cells started. When I came back to open up the Cloake Board, I found 3 frames with capped queen cells on them. Being somewhat greedy (this could have been my big error), I used all three frames to create new Nucs. The problem is, I also took the nurse bees and resources that were on those frames (from the bees that were working on my queen cells.) In retrospect, I see now that I was being too cocky. It appeared that I had a ton of queen cells started and I figured ‘anyone can do this’. Taking those bees from the Queen Finisher didn’t seem like a big deal to me.

In the end, I have 5 capped queen cells (out of what should be closer to 20.) Several of them were definitely started and simply abandoned. There are a couple of lessons that I am taking from this first go of it:

  1. I will probably just use a regular queen excluder next time, and swap it with a bottom board when I need to. This will hopefully reduce the rogue queen cells in the Starter/Finisher hive body
  2. If I do find queen cells, I will either cut them out or destroy them. I will not take the whole frame of nurse bees from my finisher, which I believe is the primary reason for my low success rate this first time

I expect to give it another go Easter Weekend, so we’ll see if I learned anything then!



Basically, the open ‘Cloake Board’ made my bees think that they were in a queenless situation, even though they were not.


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