So you want another Queen?

Words by
Carole Finlay

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A few questions to ask first-
Why do you want another Queen? Do you want to expand your colonies and have more hives or is your present Queen not up to scratch:

  • Healthwise
  • temperament
  • bad traits.

If your present Queen is not satisfactory from your point-of-view you will need to either buy a Queen or obtain eggs from a reliable known source – ASK a few people. Our Queen is excellent, she produces bees that are docile, are good pollen and nectar gatherers and do not have a strong swarming gene. They do not come to greet us when we arrive at the apiary, neither do they chase us when we arrive at the apiary and they are well behaved and quiet when we close the hive. On opening the hive the bees carry on their normal activities and the Queen is a prolific egg layer. We want another like this please! I am sure there are many ways to do this but this is what I do:

  1. Check that you have plenty of eggs, larvae, sealed brood and stores in your parent hive.
  2. Prepare all your equipment. The nuc box, 5 brood frames, washing-up bowl.
  3. Prepare the site for your parent hive to move to.
  4. Move parent hive to the side and place nuc box in its position (the flying bees from the parent hive will all come into the nuc box).
  5. Remove the 5 frames that are in the nuc box and place to one side.
  6. From the parent hive select 1 frame which has eggs, they should be 3 days old or younger. Make sure that the Queen is not on the frame and put it in the middle of your nuc.
  7. Take 2 frames with as much sealed brood as possible from your parent hive. Remember, check her majesty is NOT on the frames – look carefully. Place them in the nuc box either side of the middle frame.
  8. Now they need some food. Select 2 frames with pollen and nectar and place on the outer edges of the hive. Again check that the queen is not there.
  9. Put a marker (drawing pin) in the frame with eggs. Place the crown board on and move the parent hive to its new site facing at a different angle to the nuc box.
  10. Now you need some nurse bees. Shake a couple of frames from the brood chamber into a bowl. The foragers will fly off and you will be left with the nurse bees and hopefully not the queen. Gently pour the nurse bees into the nuc box.
  11. Carefully push together the remaining frames in the parent hive. Put in the new frames that were in your nuc box right at the beginning. Put the parent hive back together, I usually put the new frames at each end of the hive.
  12. DO NOT LOOK INSIDE YOUR NUC BOX FOR 1 WEEK. Then, gently, carefully, remove an outside frame (to make space), move the 2nd frame to the outside and examine the middle frame where the eggs are. Hopefully you will have a brand new Queen cell. If not, just check on the other frames.
  13. Put everything back in the same order as it was and write up your notes.

Timescales

There are 16 days from the egg being laid to the Queen emerging and after 10-14 days the virgin queen should go out and get mated. Within a few days of mating the queen will commence egg laying.

Watch

Keep an eye on the hive entrance, is pollen being brought in? Are the bees going in and out with purpose. Don’t disturb the hive for 3 weeks after you have seen your queen cell. If you’re worried about stores and there is no nectar flow then feed them. Transfer your nucleus to a brood chamber when the bees are covering all the frames and the queen is laying. Good luck, I hope you have success and breed some really good queens.

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