After selling the majority of my bees, I ended up with 5 large colonies and one small one. Wanting to avoid having my bees swarm, I divided the 5 large into 12 smaller colonies and inserted queen cells. This was on March 31. It takes about 5 days for the virgins to mature and get strong enough for their mating flight. Then it takes another 3-5 days for her to start laying eggs. Within 9 more days those first eggs will start to be capped. So 19 days after inserting a queen cell is a good time to both check for the laying queen, and give a dribble treatment of oxalic acid, since its effectiveness is much enhanced if there is no capped brood for the mites to lay into. When I checked on day 19, only two of the new queens were successfully laying- though I saw virgins in almost all the colonies.
I have learned over the years to not get too excited at this point, and will come back in another few days to check again. Looking back at the weather over those 19 days, there was only one day close to 70 deg., and it had some wind, which is not good for mating flights. If the virgin queen does not mate with 14 days, many commercial breeders destroy these queens as there is some evidence they will be inferior layers. Woyke and Jasinski (1976) found that #queens that were more than 14 days old stored only 1/3 the number of spermatazoa that queens 5-10 days old did, given the same amount of artificial insemination.
I was watching bees on my Hawthorne tree today (April 26). Hawthorne is a nice tree for bees and it was buzzing like a 30 ft tall rattlesnake. The downsides of this tree are A) the little prickles, and B) the smell of the flowers is very much like something died out in the yard! Watching the bees for a while I realized they weren’t getting any nectar, just bouncing from one flower to another to get the pollen onto their bodies. Hope you enjoy your bouncing bees this spring.
Grass Valley, CA