Queen Cell Production in a Single Brood Chamber Colony

Queen Cell Production in a Single Brood Chamber Colony

Taken from Breeding Better Bees

The following simple method was observed by BIBBA's Director, Ken Ibbotson, in Holland. It is suitable for a beekeeper with single brood chamber colonies wishing to rear a small number of queens. It should produce 7-10 very good queen cells.
For those with double brood chamber colonies, Method II, detailed in Ruttner (1988), p 26, is recommended. (Note that here the 'honey chamber' refers to the second brood chamber.)

There are three principles involved:

  1. A queenless colony will produce queen
  2. A queenright colony will complete 'started' queen cells, if these are protected from access by the queen.
  3. The colony used to produce the queen cells should not be making preparations to swarm.

Equipment required

1 nucleus box containing two dummy frames.

1 shallow comb with queen cell cups attached along the bottom edge.

1 'Dutch Cage'. This is a cage made of queen excluder which fits over the shallow comb and makes it up to the size of a brood comb.

Step 1

The comb on which the queen is found is transferred to a nucleus box, complete with the queen and the bees. It is placed between the two dummy frames.

A gap is left in the cell raising colony between two combs of unsealed brood.

Step 2

After 1 hour and up to a maximum of 3 hours after the queen has been removed, larvae from the desired breeder queen are grafted into the queen cell cups on the bottom of the shallow comb and this is inserted into the gap in the cell raising colony.

The timing here is fairly critical. If the grafted larvae are inserted too soon after the queen has been removed, the bees will eat them. If they are inserted too late, the bees will have started emergency queen cells on their own brood.

Step 3

Twenty-four hours after the queen was removed, the 'Dutch Cage' is fitted over the shallow frame and it is replaced in the cell raising colony. The queen and her comb of bees are then returned to the colony.

It should be noted that any queen cells that have been started by another queenless colony for 1-2 days can be inserted into a queenright colony if they are protected by a 'Dutch Cage'.


The Timetable

The timetable can be summarised as follows:

Day 1 - Remove the queen from the cell raising colony, and the frame of bees on which she is found, into a nucleus box.
Insert the shallow comb with larvae grafted into queen cups along the bottom of the frame.

Day 2 - Place the shallow comb and accepted larvae into the 'Dutch Cage' and
return it to the cell raising colony.
Return the queen and bees to the cell raising colony.

Day 6* - The queen cells are sealed.

Day 8 - Make up sufficient three-comb mating nuclei to take the sealed queen cells

Day 11 - Introduce the sealed queen cells into the mating nuclei in aluminium foil protectors, which have a hole at the tip of the cell to allow the queen to emerge.

Day 13* - The queens hatch.

Day 34 - Examine the mating nuclei for the presence of a properly mated queen.

* These timings may vary by 1 day, depending on the age of the larvae grafted.

The nuclei should not be disturbed between days 11 and 34 except to feed if required or to deal with robbing. Disturbance, especially around mid-day, could lead to the queen being lost when returning from her mating flight, or being balled by the disturbed bees in the hive.