Lots of nurse bees are needed and these should be queenless, or be gathered on combs
sufficiently remote from the queen that they consider themselves as such.
Plenty of stores should be available in combs of stored pollen and nectar.
When a comb of eggs or very young larvae is placed between pollen combs, the bees
will raise queen cells.
In temperate zones these conditions can only be met in mid to late spring and summer.
Setting up Queen Rearing Units
The colony must be really strong, with a good queen, preferably occupying two brood
chambers. So if starting in early spring in a single chamber, add a standard chamber
and feed steadily to build the colony. If the lower chamber is a Drawhive, this will
avoid breaking down the hive, after setting up for queen rearing. The aim is to have
a large amount of brood in both chambers by early May.
Brood can be added from other colonies, if required.
Queen-right unit for batches of up to a dozen cells
This unit consists of a brood chamber, containing the queen and brood, with a top
brood box containing more brood, separated from the bottom brood chamber by a super
The purpose of the unit is to arrange the bees, in a queen-right colony, to be conducive
to queen rearing and to allow the beekeeper to raise a succession of batches of queens.
The unit will both build and finish up to around a dozen queen cells at a time, until
the middle of July. All this with minimal labour and without spoiling the colony’s
honey gathering potential.
The queen is confined to the lower brood chamber, by a queen excluder and a top brood
box, with brood at all stages, is raised above a super, or two supers if really strong
in bees. A top entrance of some sort should be arranged, or any drones hatched in
the top chamber will get stuck and die in the queen excluder.
Queen cells will be raised in the top box and be quickly and lavishly filled with
royal jelly. If queens are not required from this parentage, it is best to wait four
days and cull the resultant cells, before introducing eggs and young larvae from
a breeder queen, as bees prefer to raise cells from their own brood. Grafted cells
will be sealed five days later. They can then be removed and another batch started.
Unless there is a good honey flow on, keep feeding the top chamber.
The number of cells should be limited to about a dozen, for each batch, but they
will go on building cells through May, June and early July.
To maintain the queen-rearing force of the right age, that is 5 to 15 days old, a
frame or two of young brood from the lower box, should be swapped periodically for
vacated combs in the top box. This is where a Drawhive is handy. Keep a watch for
rogue cells on these combs.
Should queen cells be required after the middle of July, it is usually necessary
to separate the queen-rearing bees from the main colony, with a screened board. In
this case a Snelgrove board is useful, so that bees can be switched to the main colony,
if the top box becomes crowded with foragers.
In some strains of bees, the swarming instinct is so suppressed, that they are reluctant
to raise queen cells and it may be necessary to use a screened board right at the
Queen-right unit for batches of around fifty cells