“Queen rearing at my out apiary” – by Malcolm Wilkie

For those interested in raising queens this is how I do it. Helen Hadley taught me, and I have read a lot of books. However, this is what works for me.

I am on 14*12 brood boxes. I build up a colony I like by adding a second brood box. I lift a frame of brood and stores into the top brood box and add a piece of foundation and a dummy board to help prevent the brood getting chilled. I place foundation below into the brood nest to make up for the frames I have lifted into the top box. The bees quickly draw out the frames of foundation particularly in the top box as there is heat rising from the brood in the bottom box. The next week I start adding frames of foundation to the top box. I may raise another frame of brood to encourage expansion. This process goes on for several weeks until I have two 14*12 brood boxes rammed with bees. I often have to give them a super as well to give them space.

Then when I feel it is the right moment, I find the queen and place her in a clip. I raise into the top box as much brood as I can and make sure there are eggs on which emergency queen cells can be made. Important that there are stores and,  if possible, a pollen bank.

I then turn the bottom brood box and entrance 180 degrees, so the entrance faces the woodland edge which all my hives back onto. I add a solid crown board. I add an eke with the entrance facing outwards in the same direction as the original entrance. I place an inspection board over where the original entrance would have been in order to prevent the bees going underneath the box. This encourages them to walk up and find the new top entrance. If I have a super I remove the queen excluder to encourage all these bees to collect me Spring honey.

After three days I go back and remove any sealed queen cell as it will probably have been made from a three-day old larva. I add a pollen pattie as shown me by Helen or any extra fondant/ food I have got. If there are cells in places too difficult to be harvested, I may remove them.

After 9 days (possibly 10 days) I go back and harvest cells.  My calculation is that there will be queens made from two-day old larvae. In a queenless box two-day old larvae are converted into emergency queens and sealed three days later. Then in 8 days’ time those cells will hatch. If I go in on day 9 then the queen cells will be ready to harvest and will no doubt hatch two or three days later.

This year I may harvest them all and put them in apideas. I will then do a second round of queen rearing using eggs from another hive or a frame of eggs taken from the queen in the bottom box. This will also mean these bees collect me more honey.

Once this second round of queen cells is complete, I will divide up the hive and make up nucs which will be taken to another apiary for the queens to get mated. One of these nucs will be used to requeen the original colony as the original queen will have produced a lot of brood and won’t make a strong colony going into winter.

Watch these videos. I have tried to be clear, but the process is complex, and I forget to mention certain things. However perhaps with the above written explanation plus the long videos showing the set up you will be able to work out how it is done.

Most of the queen cells from the first round I intend to harvest and put in apideas. Those from the second round will be used to make up nucs or add again to any apideas that destroyed the queen cell they were given.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

Malcolm Wilkie – May 2024

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