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Queen-rearing page 2


Queen-right unit for batches of around fifty cells


This unit is based on Harry Cloake’s system with some modification to save lifting and turning the lower Drawhive unit.


A special board is required, but it is very easy to make. Three strips of wood 18 mm thick, are pinned to the top side of a framed queen excluder, to match the back and sides of a brood box, leaving an open side to give an entrance above the excluder.

   A piece of sheet metal, rigid plastic, or thin ply, is cut to be a loose fit within this added frame and so block off the excluder. Two strips of wood are fixed to the edges of the sheet, to hold it flat and to project out  to form handles, to slide the sheet in and out. These strips should be greased with petroleum jelly.


A floor is adapted to give an entrance about 75 mm wide at the back, which can be opened or closed. This will save having to turn the hive round and could be as simple as a notch cut in the back edge, which is blocked with a bit of wood.















A strong colony is built up, as already described. If there is no natural honey flow, feeding should be continued as long as queens are raised. Ample pollen must be available.


Four or five days before any cells are raised, the lower brood box is arranged to have a full set of frames, of which three or four frames are brood, plus frames with pollen and honey. The queen is kept in this box, by the special excluder with the slide removed.


The top brood box is placed on this board. This gives another entrance below the top box, which should face the same way as the main entrance. The top box is filled with around four frames of brood, including young brood, and frames of pollen and honey to make one frame less than full capacity.


When the hive is rebuilt, the original entrance is closed. The smaller rear entrance is also closed.

If a standard floor is used, then bottom unit must be turned round, so the entrance is at the back.

The bees soon get used to using the upper entrance.


The day before cell raising is started, the slide is pushed in and the lower rear entrance is opened.

Bees flying from the lower box will now join those in the top box. This should end up boiling with bees and be an excellent queenless cell starter colony.   A frame of foundation, in the top box, will stimulate wax production, provide storage space for nectar or syrup, and help eliminate webbing between queen cells.


To start 50 or even 60 cells, is is best to remove the young brood from the top box, which can be given to another colony after shaking off the nurse bees. A space should be left in the centre of the box, to accept a frame of cells. This should be flanked by a good pollen comb. If two cell frames are needed then two spaces must be left, with a pollen comb between them. If the brood is left in, then the number of cells should be limited to two dozen or so and checks should be made for rogue cells.


The next day, open the top box without smoke. The spaces in the top box will be festooned with nurse bees full of brood food. Gently lower the cell frame/s into position and close up.


The following day, the rear entrance is closed and the slide removed. The unit is now a queen-right cell finisher colony.


The cells can be left until ready to be distributed to mating nuclei, or removed to a nursery colony as soon as the are sealed.  


If raising further batches of cells, provision must be made to provide nurse bees of the right age. Brood food is most readily produced by bees 5 to 15 days old. Frames of young brood should be moved from the lower box, to the top one, and replaced with empty combs.


Several batches can be raised during what would be the normal swarming season, with reasonable weather. Later on, fewer cells will be accepted, so reduce the number offered.


In a good honey flow, it is advisable to super above the excluder, to prevent brood combs being clogged with nectar.


When queen rearing is over, the bees can be returned to a normal honey-gathering colony. The strips of wood can be pried off the excluder and saved for another time.