Queen Bee Rearing West Cork Style

The life of a drone is not a happy one, bee-keeper Noel Power told the Clonakilty audience of the South West Cork Bee Keepers' Association.  The poor fellow has half the chromosomes of the female workers, lives on the edge of the hive where he is the first to die of cold or go hungry if food is scarce, and when his moment of glory comes to mate with the queen, he dies soon afterwards. 

Noel with brother Adam
While many in the audience seemed to empathise with the drone, they learned that unusually bees are all equal at birth.  Chair Liam Hodnett introduced Noel, who had learned many of his queen rearing skills with the legendary brother Adam at Buckfast, England.  Noel told an audience of new and experienced bee-keepers how unfertilised eggs split to become male drones with 16 chromosomes each, but the fertilised eggs have 32 chromosomes and become female workers with the job of collecting nectar and nursing the young.  Of these a few are given larger, more comfortable accommodation in the hive and a diet of royal jelly.  These become queens.  How to assist in that process was what the audience had come to learn, in order to set up the societies' own queen rearing hives later in the year.

Noel Power demonstrates his queen rearing equipment
Noel brought along examples of his home made equipment and demonstrated special tools for placing young grubs into a royal jelly filled compartment.  Those were then placed in a closed box between frames of bees ready for nursing to adulthood. 

The young queens ready to go into the rearing hive
The first queen to hatch will often kill the others, so it is important to watch that the healthiest queens, not necessarily the first out, survive to be nursed by the rest of the swarm.  Noel explained that a hive will take its personality from the queen, so it is vital to have a queen that is industrious, fertile and healthy.  A lazy or weak swarm can be transformed by the introduction of a good queen, so the art of good queen rearing is the key to good bee-keeping and perhaps more importantly, to good honey!