BBKA Forum

British Beekeepers Association Official Forum 

  • Wanting to start queen rearing . . .

  • Queen breeding specialism discussion forum.
Queen breeding specialism discussion forum.
 #4995  by derekmroberts
 09 Oct 2019, 21:14

I have been keeping bees for three years, I have gone from one colony to 6 and doing OK. I would like to get more into queen rearing, to try a few more things beyond Pagden method splits and breed more selectively.

Where should I start - any recommendations for my winter reading as the range of books and websites is huge,

 #4996  by Chrisbarlow
 09 Oct 2019, 21:43
first decide how you want raise queen cells and how many queen cells you want to produce?

Some methods
Walk away split and then harvest queens cell into further mating boxes
damerea, then again harvest queen cells in to mating boxes
miller method , thats the cutting the foundation and then harvest cells
alley method - thats the put a frame on its side and let them draw lots of cells out and then harvest
comb strip method, thats cutting just a strip of larvae and hanging it on its side.
queen rearing kit like this one
punch cell method

It doesnt matter which way you use to create queen cells as long as its a way that works for you.

When you have queen cells that are sealed you can then put them in to mating boxes, mating boxes can be anything from 6 frame nucs to 1 frames nucs or mini mating nuc boxes.

As for a decent book on the subject, Ive got the AGGuide queen bee breeding by liz frost and doug somerville. Its quite good. I am sure there are many others.
 #5005  by NigelP
 10 Oct 2019, 20:48
It is...word of caution he is in New Zealand so you need to translate their seasons back to UK seasons.
Very good book IMHO, much sense talked.
 #5006  by AdamD
 11 Oct 2019, 09:38
I've picked up my queen rearing from a number of sources although Ruttners "Breeding and Selection" is worth getting.
I wouldn't recommend Eigil Holm's book (not sure if the spelling of his name is correct) as his translation into English is terrible and it's very confusing - even for stuff I already knew!
How many queens do you need? I assume just a few is all that's required rather than graft 60 per day or anything like that?
 #5009  by derekmroberts
 11 Oct 2019, 20:28
Thanks for the responses.

Numbers of queens - yes its a few - a bit of selective breeding and insurance. For example I have had two failures this autumn of 2019 queens - poorly mated in a shockingly cold and wet June. A couple of spare colonies for the local beginners wouldn't go amiss either.

Also, if i'm completely honest, just for personal interest and growing my knowledge in the art
 #5011  by AdamD
 12 Oct 2019, 10:05
Would you be happy with grafting - larval transfer - or using a cupkit perhaps?

I don't particularly like the idea of bouncing a colony into producing emergency queens with a walk-away split - although decent queen can be produced. I usually use a queenright queenraising method unless there's a colony that has swarmed, for example, who will therefore be queenless and ready to develop queencells fom my selected colony rather than allow them to produce a queen from their own (unless it's the colony you want to breed from of course).
 #5012  by Patrick
 12 Oct 2019, 10:57
No better reasons Derek!

I always think of queen rearing as a two part process. The first is rearing sealed queen cells and the second getting them mated and in their host colonies. You can concentrate on either or both parts.

I echo Adam’s lukewarm view on some methods which just make a colony queenless and let them raise cells, partly because they waste effort on lots of poorly made cells and you may only use the better ones. You will get serviceable queens as a get out of jail certainly, but it’s not aiming very high.

There is nothing to stop you making dipped beeswax grafting cups or practicing grafting without using the result. You may find a cheap pair of dedicated high magnification glasses or cheap loupe help to see larvae. If you are using a queenright method, clipping your host queen beforehand may reduce the potential for Sods Law to kick in if they try to swarm anyway whilst raising cells.

You could just use the queen cells produced naturally by your better colony by keeping them slightly congested in the spring and feeding gently. Simple. Let’s you concentrate on the mating and introduction part. Not convinced personally about the simplification that cells raised under the swarm impulse begat swarmy bees. The cell has no such intrinsic motivation - it’s the genetics of the queen and drones she mated with and those of the subsequent daughter and her partners. It would obviously be daft to choose to breed from your first to naturally swarm which produced dozens of cells and reswarmed the same season - so you would not do it. You are never going to go from a happy local bee to a Superbee in one generation even if you have fifty hives to choose from so don’t expect miraculous progeny.

A hugely satisfying process which, like most beekeeping, can be made wildly over complicated if you so choose! :lol:
 #5023  by AdamD
 13 Oct 2019, 19:21
"There is nothing to stop you making dipped beeswax grafting cups ."
I bought a piece of 3/8" doweling to make some but never got around to it. I first fixed some cupkit "brown cell cups" to a top bar with wax and grafted into those. That worked fine.
I then use some bases and cups as here:- and fixed 9 to a frame. (I though I would be bound to lose one so 9 it was - with a spare!). The brown square base is fixed to a top bar and the beige part push-fits into it with a brown cell cup pushed into that. OR you can buy a cheapie kit for £15.

For grafting I use poundland glasses and a small 00 or 000 paint brush. The last time I bought a couple in an artist shop the shop-keeper said "you must be a beekeeper then."