- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
One of the highlights of Susan Cobey's class on "The Art of Queen Bee Rearing" is a visit to commercial queen bee breeders in Northern California.
Cobey is a bee breeder-geneticist at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, and Washington State University.
Thursday, March 23 was not a perfect day to tour Koehnen & Sons in Glenn and Strachan Apiaries in Yuba City.
It was raining. Did we say it was raining? It was pouring.
When it rains, the virgin queens and drones don't fly out to mate. During her maiden flight, each virgin queen will mate with 12 to 25 drones, and then she'll return to her hive, where she will spend the rest of her life laying eggs. She'll lay about 1000 eggs a day during the busy season, or about 2000 eggs a day during peak season.
Rain stops the mating. So do cold temperatures. The thermometer has to read at least 70 degrees for the mating flights. Otherwise, it's a no-go. A no-fly day.
The process from egg to larva to pupa to adult is almost miraculous. It involves using a grafting tool to remove the tiny, almost microscopic egg from the comb and transferring it to a queen cup. From there, it's back into the hive where the worker bees tend to the queen cells, feeding them royal jelly.
This month, however, proved to be one of the most rainy months on record. It rained nearly every day.
Many of the queens-to-be won't be.