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Flying of Mated Honey Bee Queens
Conventional wisdom is that:- once mated, a queen will not fly other than with a swarm, but there are a few exceptions of mated queens flying that mainly go un-noticed.
The occasions that it has happened to me would also have gone un-noticed if it were not that my queens were numbered rather than just marked.
These cases were manifested by queens swapping from nuc to nuc, or from nuc to full sized hive and sometimes a ‘three way’ swap.
Some of these swaps could have been achieved by the queens walking on wooden pallets that the nucs were placed on, but some occurred over distances of twenty feet or so between adjacent rows of pallets and one swap occurred over about sixty yards.
When I mentioned this on the Irish discussion group, one correspondent replied with complete disbelief. I cannot see a reason for this behaviour myself, but I can surmise that mated queens do sometimes fly (for reasons unknown). In full lay they would not be very agile and would not be able to reach a very high altitude. Any conditions that were conducive to such flying would explain the possibility of multiple queens being airborne in the same time frame. However the only way that I can see for queens returning to the wrong hive would be if they were accompanied by workers and got mixed up with the wrong bunch.
Allen Dicks Experience (Email)
There has been some discussion, including an article by self stating a mated marked breeder queen ($$$) stopped laying and disappeared for an entire week and was back in the hive laying when my wife finally went to replace her.
I have noticed on many occasions… Queens walking on hive woodwork or on fence rails that mating nucs are fixed to.
I have also noticed, that when the walking was observed the sky was overcast. The timing seems mainly in the evening about an hour before normal flying finishes.
The following few paragraphs are due to Murray McGregor and stem from some private Email on the subject of mated queens flying…
In one case we had a silver queen sitting on a pallet of normal colonies, and it was the only silver queen in the site.
She was a stormer, and gave two deeps and two shallows stuffed full of the winter rape, and none of the other colonies gave more than two supers. One visit we opened the colony up, after splitting it the previous visit by flight board, to find a tailing off brood pattern in the bottom where the old queen had been, so she had last laid about five days before. There were unsealed swarm cells and a pattern of early stage emergency cells.
Thoughts of course turn to queen death, or perhaps having run upstairs to join the split. No, the split was just fine and had cells within a day or two of hatching. So I rubbed out all the cells in the bottom, transferred a bar with a ripe cell down to the bottom and left them to get on with it, which they did, and duly ended up with two daughter colonies of good power for the heather.
About five yards away across the site we came on a colony, which had been pretty good, but had thrown a swarm. Somehow it had swarmed off and entered a bait hive on the wall at the other side of the site, filled the box and was going strong, with the queen from the swarmed hive. However, back at the colony where she came from there were no queen cells left, all were torn down without hatching and there were eggs and youngest larvae everywhere. You have already guessed it of course, there was the silver queen laying away like mad having taken over this other colony. There was no evidence that the colony from which she had originated had actually swarmed, no bee depletion and no cells even sealed. Figure that one out.
I have seen moved queens quite a few times, in various strains of bee, so it is not particularly an A.m.m. trait
Bees do nothing invariably! Murray is I think the Bee Farmer with the most colonies in the UK and also one of the most expert and thoughtful beekeepers I have the pleasure to know.