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Queen Rearing

Margaret Wilson

his year I decided that, after attending the one- day queen rearing course at the BBKA Spring Convention at Harper Adams, I would like to have more practical experience of this fascinating skill.


Our branch had scheduled a course to start at the beginning of June this year, so, armed with nothing much more than my beesuit, I joined another dozen like-minded folk to see how it is all done.


The principles were explained, together with all the hazards that the queen had to face before we could get her into an established colony. It all sounded like an

obstacle race, but onwards and upwards as they say.

The first task was to choose the queens we wanted to rear from, preferably black bees, calm, disease free and good breeders.

Cupkit System

We were given a Cupkit system, which consisted of a shallow box with small cell cups where the queen could lay eggs. The front section is where we had to lock the queen in and where she had access to the cell cups, and the rear section is where we took out the cell cups after she had done all her hard work.

The Cupkit was fitted into a frame of old drawn comb, in the centre, as near the top as possible. It was fixed with screws so there

The Cupkit system installed in a frame of drawn comb

Nursery frame – the occupied cell cups are affixed into the cell blocks seen here

was no chance of it falling out, although, of course, the worker bees would also secure the Cupkit box with new wax and propolis.

Cupkits were given to association members John Hewitt, Margaret Murdin and Margaret Wilson, who have bees which were thought to be suitable, and their queens obliged by filling them with eggs, all ready for transfer. The queens were put into the Cupkits on a Monday and left in for 36 hours. They were then released, having laid eggs in the cell cups. On the following Saturday, the cell cups were taken from the Cupkit and inspected to see if larvae had hatched and if so, they were transferred into the nursery frame. Trying to see if there was a small larva in each cell cup proved difficult, mainly because of the rain (large umbrellas in use) and the low light level, but we managed to get some thirty-odd larvae in their cells on the first session, with a similar number for session two. All ready for the next stage.

Nursery Frame

The cell cups with their larvae were put onto a nursery frame which has two hinged shelves of cup holders, all facing down to encourage the bees to build them out as queen cells. The nursery frame was then put into a well-stocked queenless colony. We were also encouraged to try our hand at grafting larvae into the cell cups on another nursery frame. Everyone had a go, not all of us were successful, but we did manage to graft about 20 very young larvae which resulted in about half a dozen queen cells. We then had to wait until the bees had done their work, feeding the larvae with royal jelly to produce queens, building out the queen cells and sealing them. Then we had to protect the cells with plastic ‘hair- August 2013 Vol 95 No 8

Photographs by Rose Phillips

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