I've been reading Bee-keeping at Buckfast Abbey, by Brother Adam - published 1975, reprinted 1980. This concise yet excellent book is worthwhile obtaining if you can manage to get hold of it. As this publication isn't the newest, I
I'm searching for any evidence or experience anyone is able to present to support or disprove any of the information below.
The beekeeping method developed by Brother Adam has many distinguishing factors to those I'm already acquainted with. A few differences I'd like to discuss are:
Queen substance or colony odour a fallacy. Queen maturity determining acceptance of new queen by colony.
There are a lot of variables here and note that Bro. Adam is making notations from the strain of Buckfast bees he was developing.
Queen maximum laying capacity not reached until second year of layin
This is true in my experience, the best results from a queen for brood production come during her 2nd and 3rd years.
Colony odour a fallacy, therefore, of no importance when uniting colonies
If we're talking the same subspecies, I'll buy that to a limited extent.
Here are a few quotes to give a taste of what I'm referring to:
"Put Briefly my contention is that the acceptance of a queen is not determined, as hitherto generally assumed, by "colony odour", but by her behaviour. A fully mature queen one, that has been laying for a considerable time, will have lost her original nervousness and will behave sedately and calmly. When in that condition, her acceptance is assured irrespective of the safeguards generally considered as essential. Odour, or "colony odour" - if there is such a thing, which I doubt - plays no role in the acceptance of a queen. The essential condition which ensures acceptance or rejection is in the final analysis determined by the behaviour of the queen. The behaviour of the queen is in turn dependent on her condition at the time of liberation."
Most books I've read on beekeeping, and most experienced beekeepers I've spoken to, have been of the opinion that "colony odour" or "queen substance" is the underlying factor which creates problems with the acceptance of new queens. The is also the case when uniting colonies. Br Adam's findings are completely different, arguing the main factors affecting acceptance of a queen are her maturity and behavior. In reference to a "fully mature queen", he adds:
"A virgin or newly mated queen is as a rule extremely nervous and easily frightened. The slightest disturbance, the mere opening of the hive, may place her life in jeopardy. In the course of a few weeks, after she has commenced to lay, a radical change in her behaviour will manifest itself. Her movements will be more deliberate and sedate. By the time she is surrounded by her own offspring, four or five weeks after she commenced to lay, she will have reached her first stage of maturity. Her maximum laying capacity however will not be attained until the following year.
Again, most books, and most experience beekeepers whom I associate with, are of the opinion that queens are of maximum potential in their first year. No doubt factors such as inclination to swarm and longevity with commercial practices.. In countries like Australia the season is quite long, especially considering the nature of commercial migratory beekeeping with many flows throughout the year and large colony size.
As a newly mated queen won't reach full maturity until her next laying year, queens raised at Buckfast are over-wintered in their nucleus hives. The following year when a hive needs to re-queened, the mature queens in the nucs are simply swapped with the old ones. This method claims complete acceptance.
".....I have used the conventional term "introduction" but in reality the procedure merely involves and "exchange" or "substitution" of one queen for another. There is no preliminary "getting used to" or an "acquiring of colony odour" entailed before a queen in liberated. A substituted queen will immediately on being freed resume her normal activities regardless of her new surrounding - just as a bee returning from the fields laden with nectar or pollen, on missing her own hive, carries on in her new surroundings as if she had entered her rightful home. A substituted queen is accepted as the rightful mother of a colony solely by virtue of her condition and behaviour."
If dealing with the same subspecies of bee, i.e. Apis M. I. this is true to an extent but when requeening between subspecies i.e. requeening an Apis M. I. hive with an Apis M. C. queen, queen condition or maturity is immaterial--there is a distinct odor difference that makes a difference in how the queen is accepted.
Again, most beekeepers I know employ a range of techniques to slowly introduce a queen to a hive. Anyone have any thoughts?
In regards to uniting colonies, if no "colony odour is present" than no precaution is needed to prevent colonies of different odours from fighting.
"Here again "colony odour" (if it exists) is of no significance in the uniting of bees of different colonies. The factor making for success is once more the behaviour of the bees. Every bee-keeper is aware that exposure to light has a calming affect on bees, and any that have this been exposed for some minutes will peaceably join with bees of other colonies without the need for any other precaution. During the whole of the season, when for any reason a transference of bees from one colony to another is necessary, we employ no other safeguard to prevent fighting than exposure to light."
Odor isn't the major hurtle in uniting different colonies of bees. What is important is hive security--protecting its stores. Placing a large quanity of bees atop another hive sets off a protective alarm to protect the stores and prevent usurption of the hive site. That is the main reason the newspaper method is necessary--to allow time to override the robber/usurption defense between the 2 colonies of bees.
However, it also states:
"When dealing with mongrels of races with exceptional nervous disposition extra care is called for."
Here again, we usually unite using the newspaper method and talcum powder to help disguise the "odour" and allow the bees to become gradually accustomed to it. Any thoughts?
Anyone unfamiliar with Buckfast Abbey, Brother Adam and the Buckfast bees he spent most of his life breeding, can visit the Abbey's website www.buckfast.org
Phew, that post took a while. All thoughts welcome ;)
Talcum powder? Who uses talcum powder when combining bees? I've been keeping bees for 50 years and have never used talcum powder to mask "odor" between hives--a single layer of newspaper has always been sufficient.