I have written this article as a record of how two beekeepers in York raise about 200 queens
each year. We raise queens conforming to the standards of the Dark European Honeybee Apis mellifera mellifera and we hope these notes will be of help to other BIBBA members.
John Acheson and myself devote ourselves to the task from early May till about July. For
equipment we have about 60 colonies on Nationals, 150 Apideas, around 50 Nuc boxes mainly
five frame and four frame, and two Jenter kits.
In March when the weather is favourable, we commence to carry out our Spring inspections
and select those hives we will use for drone rearing. We give them an early feed to
stimulate brood raising on the basis that only strong colonies will produce sufficient
drones for our needs. We hold or transfer these colonies to a deeply wooded area away
from our other colonies.
In early May, on Mondays, we choose a strong colony on a double brood box, and prepare
what we refer to as a 'Day one' hive by confining the queen into a brood box beneath
an excluder. The top box is arranged to have frames of eggs, young larvae and sealed
brood, this may mean taking frames from other hives to complete this arrangement. We
start off a number of hives in succession with this arrangement depending on the time
of year and the number of sealed cells we wish to produce.
Having selected the queen we wish to use for laying the eggs from which the queen cells
will produced, we will put the queen into the Jenter on a Friday and leave for 24 hours,
releasing her on Saturday providing she has laid up the Jenter box.
On the following Monday, we return to the hives we prepared as 'Day one' hives, and
convert them to 'Day eight' hives. This consists of removing the bottom brood box
containing the queen, and after finding and removing the queen, throwing most of the
bees into the top box which is now on the floorboard leaving it with nine frames, space
being left for two frames to be inserted on the following day. We ensure that no eggs
or young larvae are left in these very strong colonies as the bees will of course raise
queen cells from them. The queen, and the remainder of the bees are moved to another
site or may be newspaper united to a queenright colony over a queen excluder as a temporary
measure to supplement her workers. We also need to commence more 'Day one' hives for the
On Tuesdays we take the day old larvae from the Jenter and prepare cell bars to place
into the 'Day Eight' hives which by then are crying out for larvae to raise into queen
cells. We find that we can get an average of 80% converted into queen cells.
After the cells have been sealed, we count the number of sealed cells and then prepare
enough Apideas or nucs to accommodate them. We over winter about two thirds of our drawn
Apidea comb in specially constructed boxes that take approximately 36 combs over queen
excluders on the tops of our colonies. We find that they clean the comb, and in Spring
will fill them with either nectar or sealed honey, and it saves the labour of cleaning
and preparing them.
Insofar as we can, the Apideas are made up with a comb of honey, an empty comb, and a comb
with a starter strip together with the feed box filled with bakers fondant. This is
completed on Wednesdays so we can fill each Apidea with bees and transfer the sealed
cells on Thursdays. The Apideas are strapped up in eights, and after leaving them in a
cool, place for 24 hours we transport them to the deeply wooded site where our drones
will now be flying. The nucs are placed in groups of four, facing different directions
Each batch prepared is recorded and in a season we may produce 12 batches. We tend to
devote Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays to queen raising tasks. Honey becomes an embarrassment
particularly when it is Oil Seed Rape and crystalised in the combs. We have not taken
hives to the Heather for some years, and our colonies over winter on crystalised honey.
As an indication of our queen rearing activities I include a table below of information
from our records showing the relationship between sealed cells and the mated queens
produced. In 1990, only 45% of sealed cells were converted to mated queens, and in 1991
and 1992 about 60%. I believe that with experience we are ensuring that each Apidea is
well stocked with provisions, that the entrances are marked with different colours and
many more drones are available at the mating site.
It can be seen that the conversion from day old larvae to sealed cells is about 80%, and
from sealed cell to mated queen 60%. Approximately 50% of the day old larvae will be
converted to mated queens.
Note that in 1990 more cells and queens were produced, but there was three of us working
Record of Apideas Used and re-celled (Excludes other Nucs).
Enter date of the 'Day One' hive is set 15/10/95.
In early March carry out Spring inspections, select colonies that
will be the Drone rearers and give stimulative feed.
Take Drone colonies to the mating site.
| Day ||Date|| Day of |
| Queen stage || Actions|
|1|| 15/05/95 ||Mon|| Prepare the Day One hive |
|5||19/05/95||Fri|| Put Queen Mother into Jenter|
|6||20/05/95||Sat|| Eggs Laid|| Remove Queen from Jenter if laid up|
|8||22/05/95||Mon|| Convert the Day 1 hives to Day 8 hives|
|9||23/05/95||Tue|| 18 hours Old Larvae from Jenter to Cell Raiser|
|14||28/05/95||Sun|| Cells sealed|
|17||31/05/95||Wed|| Prepare nucs|
|18||01/06/95||Thu|| Fill nucs with bees and add queen cell|
|21||04/06/95||Sun|| Queens emerge|| Keep nucs in a cool dark place
for 24 hours|
|22||05/06/95||Mon|| Take nucs to mating site|