Topical Tips – “Exciting times for the High Weald Beekeeping Association” – by Malcolm Wilkie

Over the last few years more and more people have joined our association and there are now over 200 members.  In part the increase has been due to the number of people successfully completing the beginners course and who have understood how to overwinter colonies.

 However there has been a new development because one of our members, John Miller, has started to do some Queen rearing. As those of you who have been to Norman Beresford’s talk on Queen rearing and my own talk about the use of apidea mating hives, Queen rearing is difficult. You need strong colonies, healthy colonies and time. It is an activity that is difficult to fit around a regular job! I myself have tried several times and it has never really worked!

 John did our beginners course only a couple of years ago. From the outset he has been successful. From a couple of colonies, he soon had 18 and I believe he is still expanding! However when you have this many colonies it gives you options, and when you have options it makes it much easier to Queen rear.

 John accompanied us to France last August and stayed with Christophe Gauthier. Christophe is a master beekeeper and raises numerous queens every year. John came back enthused and this year decided he would graft (like Christophe) and try and get a colony to raise two batches of 20 queen cells (40 Queen cells in total). He has used a cloake board and I believe combined three colonies in order to be able to have a strong enough unit to raise the grafts that he gave them. His partner, Sue, did a lot of the grafting . All is going to plan and his sealed queen cells are now in an incubator and should be hatching on the 11th of June. This is fantastic. I am in awe that he has achieved this.

 As all of you know having virgin queens is only the start of the process. These virgin Queens will need to go into mating hives and if they successfully mate they will have to be introduced to a Queenless nucleus.

However the very fact that there are going to be a large number of virgin queens in cells that can be easily transferred into mating hives is a great start.  John is using an incubator and Queen cell protectors so if all goes to plan there will be piping virgins emerging soon. And of course John has chosen a calm colony which is also a good honey gatherer and this is the colony he has grafted from. This has never happened in the Association to my knowledge. Other associations in Sussex do not raise Queens in this way. It is going to be so useful to association members and help those who get themselves into difficulty over Swarming. I am thrilled and excited that one of our members has got to this level in his Beekeeping.

 John can be contacted at

 As of today I can confirm that John’s Queens have hatched. You can see from the pictures below that the Queens have carefully cut around their cells in order to get out. John’s pictures are of cells that were in his incubator. My picture is of one of the queen cells I removed from one of my apidea mating hives.

  1. Queen cells in Queen cell protectors in an incubator.
    Picture 1
  2. Sue grafting.
    Picture 2
  3. Successful grafts.
    Picture 3
  4. The triple hive set up that enabled John to raise queens.
    Picture 4
  5. Queen cells that have hatched in John’s incubator.
    Picture 5
  6. Grafted Queen cell (from John) that has hatched in one of my apidea mating hives.
    Picture 6
  7. Activity at the front of the mini mating nuc this morning.

 Malcolm Wilkie – 16th June 2020

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