A colony creates its very best queens when preparing to swarm. The hive's population is high with workers of the appropriate age. A nectar flow is on-going and there is plenty of pollen for both queen and drone production. The workers are likely to select larva of the correct age for the maximum ovary size. It would seem that collecting swarm cells would be a good way of creating new queens.
There are some disadvantages using swarm cells to produce replacement queens. The first is genetic. Queens selected from swarming hives may have the tendency to swarm, and the genetics of the queens and drones may be suspect. Second, the workers may not select a larva of the correct age and the queen produced may be unsatisfactory. Allowing a hive to re-queen itself will cut into productivity. It takes sixteen days for a queen to emerge and perhaps two weeks for her to be properly mated and laying eggs. It is another six weeks for these eggs to become field bees.
This gap in production will most certainly effect honey production. Finally, most sadly, a quarter of virgin queens do not return from their mating flights. Birds and dragonflies take their portion.
At Hunter Apiaries, we replicate as closely as possible swarming conditions. The starter/finisher hives are heavily populated with young workers, and fed pollen and sugar constantly. The larva selected for grafting are of the proper age and are grown under the very best conditions. There are plenty of drones for mating. Our queen mothers are bred by the very best producers and instrumentally inseminated for the optimum genetics. The beekeeper receives a mated queen so there is no lost productivity waiting for a queen to start laying. Finally, the queen breeder accepts the loss of virgins during mating flights, therefore, you don’t have to.
At Hunter Apiaries, we strive to produce the highest quality mated and marked Virginia-bred honey bee queens.