20 to 30 Queens

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Drone Bee
Nov 14, 2008
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Warboys, CAMBS
Hive Type
Number of Hives
nil bees given away all colonies
In 2009 I intend to rear 20-30 queens for my use and if I have any spare to give them away.
The system I use is the Jenter cupkit system. With queen rearing its impossible to give days or dates when it is likely to be carried out, because we have to take into account the weather and most importantly are the bees ready.

My basic method is as follows.
Selcet breeder Q. (refer to records to see who's who in the queen ratings). Then I would amalgamate another good colony with the B C to produce a big colony on double brood boxes. Nearly forgot to mention do remove the other queen prior to amalgamation.

Three days before I intend to start my manipulations I would place the kit in the breeder colony for the workers to put their pheromonones all over it.
Next place he breeder queen into the kit and close the entrance hole.
I would leave her for 24-36 hours, as then that gives her plenty of time to top up the 'cups'.
Then I would check the number of cups with eggs in them and if enough remove the kit. Now we have the queen in the kit we can remove her into a Nuc with the relivant combs to lay and plenty of bees.
This has now left the breeder colony Q less.
Remove the cups onto a breeding frame and replace the frame into the position of where the kit was. Close up and let the bees do the work.
Check after a few days that the cups are being drawn into q cells, then prepare the amount of Nuc's, Api's, whernholtz or any other mini nuc's for the Q cells to be placed in.
Place two cup fulls of bees into the mini nuc's four days prior to the Q cells being ready to move, feed the bees and lock them in. If using standard Nuc then we wait untill the Qcells are to be moved.
Remove the Q cells before they hatch. I know that sound logical but I can assure you that some do not keep a record of the whole process.
Remove the Q cells to the respective mating hives and allow bees to fly.
If using a standard Nuc I will have in it two frames of foundation on the outside, two frames of bees with stores next, the place the Q cell in the centre of another frame of brood, and move away from location and open to allow the bees to fly.
I use a timetable similar to the one shown.

OK so you know what I will be trying how about you?


BIBBA queen rearing time table.
Enter start date queen to Jenter DD/MM/YY : 27/07/1995
Weekday : Thu
Day Date Wday Q stage Description
-28 29/06/1995 Thu Prepare brood frames to draw drone comb
-17 10/07/1995 Mon Stimulate feed queen nursing colony
-14 13/07/1995 Thu Cage paternal queen on drawn drone comb
-1 26/07/1995 Wed Place Jenter in mother colony
0 27/07/1995 Thu Start Queen to Jenter cage at 6pm
1 28/07/1995 Fri Eggs laid Queen removed from Jenter at noon
2 29/07/1995 Sat Eggs 24-42 hours Check finish colony queenright/young workers
3 30/07/1995 Sun Eggs 48 - 66 hours Feed if no nectar flow
4 31/07/1995 Mon Larvae 0-18 hours Graft and transfer larvae to starter/nurse colony
5 01/08/1995 Tue Larvae Transfer to finishing colony
6 02/08/1995 Wed Larvae
7 03/08/1995 Thu Larvae Drones should start to hatch
8 04/08/1995 Fri Larvae Gorging/ set incubator to 35C
9 05/08/1995 Sat Cells sealed Cells sealed - transfer to incubator
10 06/08/1995 Sun Pre pupae Pre-pupae
11 07/08/1995 Mon Pupae Pupae
12 08/08/1995 Tue Pupae Pupae
13 09/08/1995 Wed Pupae Pupae
14 10/08/1995 Thu Pupae Make up nucs to receive queen cells (Plan A)
15 11/08/1995 Fri Pupae Insert queen cells in nucs (Plan A) or fit cages if plan B is being used
16 12/08/1995 Sat Queens emerge Make up nucs and insert live queens if plan B is being used
17 13/08/1995 Sun Nucs confined. Spray 2x daily?
18 14/08/1995 Mon Nucs confined. Spray 2x daily?
19 15/08/1995 Tue Nucs confined. Spray 2x daily?
20 16/08/1995 Wed Nucs to mating site/release at dusk
21 17/08/1995 Thu Queens mature Drones should reach sexual maturity
28 24/08/1995 Thu Q mating complete Check nucs for laying

Note: Entering the start date in the second line as requested will automatically change all the other dates to suit the new
Nucs must be made up drone free. This can be achieved by fitting an empty brood box with two or three frames of open
brood on top of the queen excluder, brushing all bees from these combs beforehand and fit another queen excluder on
top before replacing supers. Leave overnight, then shake or brush bees from these frames into a box fitted with a mesh
bottom, first spraying the bees on the comb with a very fine spray to prevent flying.
With the Apidea nucs upside down and with the bottom slide 3 parts open, scoop up 250 ml of bees with a plastic
container and dump a measure into each box and at the same time drop a queen in if Plan B is being used. An assistant is
useful in having the queen ready for this operation.
In Plan B one must be aware that queens will quickly die if left in the incubator more than a few hours, and the cages that
are fitted must have a small amount of liquid honey in cavities in the base cap. Steele and Brodie sell these.

I look-forward to reading your progression on this project.

On reading it it sounds complicated, but then I am a practical person, and learn best from watching / doing.


PS I might even try and following your instructions and breed a few myself:cheers2:
Thanks Bcrazy I will be christening my new Jenta cupkit this year.

I have read that one of the most important steps that should never be skipped is like you say always place the kit in the hive 24 hours+ BEFORE placing the Queen in it so the bees can scrub it,I have also read about brushing a little warm wax around to get the bees cleaning?
Hi Bcrazy

Last year I tried queen rearing for the first time and managed to get mated queens in the end but only have 25% of these overwintering because I judged some of them to be too "puny" although they were laying.

My first attempts were grafting on top of a QR colony(super in between) but non of these took at all.
Next I made the top BB queenless by inserting a cover board without holes in between the boxes in a double BB colony. I managed about five cells from these with four of them getting mated in Warnholz minis.
After that I made a single BB queenless and added bees/sealed brood from another colony whilst removing eggs and uncapped brood. The grafts in this took well with about 75% success. Of the 75% some got torn down or the queens not mated in the minis.
Anyway it was all very interesting and this year I've been gifted about another 15 minis from a retiring beek so I'm hoping to have about 20/30 warnholz/apideas on the go to see how many I can raise. The retiring beek has offered his help and advice as well so hoping to get a better standard of raised queens this coming season. This is the main aim so that I can have all new queens throughout going into next Winter.

I have been hearing that many Queens last year ended up small even after taking mating flights and starting to lay?
I had one queen last year that started of very small, she was mated and laying well, but she grew bigger than normal by the end of the session.
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I bought some queens that were small and they said fully mated and they went on mating flights and got fat afterwards.

i wasn't happy. I was paying for controlled mating, not random South London mafia drones.
i wasn't happy. I was paying for controlled mating, not random South London mafia drones.

Ha ha, that made me chuckle! But, I know where you're coming from, we've decided not to "buy in" any queens this time round...
..the rate we're going, we wont have any left!

We will try to source local queens, I dont feel confident enough to start breeding queens - first things first, and thats get the basics right and keep those colonies alive!
Couple of issues here that need some rethinking.

why let the Q lay for 36 hours? There are how many cells in a Jenter? 150 odd and 90 plugs if I recall. She should easily lay that up over night. You are losing control of the timing here and that is the whole point of the cup system.

The colonies that are being amalgamated for the cell raising need more thought.

If you merely deQ and expect them to happily work on your offerings you are in for a shock. It just wont happen and the preceding work is wasted.

Try this. put all the young open brood into one box and put it above the excluder. Next day shake all the bees off into a nuc box. Give them a frame feeder, a stores comb and a pollen comb and leave a one frame gap. Next day offer the grafts to that nuc which does NOT have an open entrance. My best ever was 32 out of 36 accepted.

Once started they can be finished off in supers of any decent colony. I used to put a painted brick on the appropriate hives to keep track of what was going on. Green for grafts, yellow for finishing and blue for banked virgins or emerging cells which were caged by the way.

Anyway I am not writing a book here so I leave you with the above thoughts and suggestions aimed at saving some frustration.

Bear in mind that most Q rearing info is from VERY different climates to here. We do not have it easy and you have to FORCE the bees to do the business here. Q rearing is not for the faint hearted as some heavy handling is needed and the bees sting ferociously when q-. A good bee suit is not a nice to have but an essential.

Happy New Year

Hi Poly Hive
I take your remarks on board but...........

If you merely deQ and expect them to happily work on your offerings you are in for a shock.

I don't think so.

Why should I change a method I know that works and follow your method?
We all work in different ways but are all trying to produce healthy big colonies of Honey bees.

If it works for you then fine.

I am not suggesting you in person should change anything.

I write on forums from the perspective of what I know will work for most people most times.

Q lays the classic 1500 eggs a day. At any time there will be approx 4500 larvae available to the bees to make queens from in the event they are queenless. so form that crowd why should they pick out the grafts for using? Odds are what? 4500 + 30 grafts, 4530 divided by 30 = 1551to 1.

I prefer loading the odds in my favour by offering a broodless and queenless box of bees 36 chances.

I agree with poly hive on this,cell starter colony is the best way to get good queen cells as all the feeding goes into just these cells,by lots of young nurse bee's.and they have no other choice.This method is especially good for both early and late season raising of cells. Seems a shame to disrupt a perfectly good production colony of bee's by removing the queen,when there is no need.If you are only then raising a few queens and the starter box is not needed for more, you can use the bee's to form two or more,depending on strength,mating nucs to go with some of your cells.I also prefer full size frame mating nucs,much more adaptable.
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Great thread.

I just wonder, if your raising queens how many do you expect will be any good?

Ok, you start with your best queen (or a number of your best queens) and you may be attempting to flood your mating apiary with drones from other colonies you've selected for the task of mating as well. But, what proportion of queens raised do folks expect will be 'good' queens? I've heard respected breeders quote numbers like 10% to 20% will be good. So they must be evaluating queens at each stage of the breeding process and discarding those they see as sub-standard.

So, if we want to produce say 30 'good' queens. should we expect to aim for 200 good grafts and whittle them down to the best 30 mated queens?

Of course few of us will have scores of mating nucs to utilize at one time, however queen rearing can be an ongoing endeavor not just a one off hit or miss affair. Myself, I prefer to select for AMM traits and as such get a wider queen rearing season as AMM will happily mate a lower temps than non-AMM bees.

Whatever peoples views on this, I just hope this year is better than last year for queen rearing.

Cambridge UK
The biigest question in queen breeding is, what is the mother queen? What kind of selection you have?

Second is how many queen cells bees start to rear?
And the next most important question is,what are your best daughter queens,as these become your breeder queens.
With regards to queen rearing I am having to start from scratch this season as in Feb 08 my 10 colonies at my out apiary were vandalised and all colonies perished.
The colonies I have at present have been built up from swarms collected during the year, so for my purposes of queen rearing I have to start from the very beginning.
For the next three maybe four years I will asses the queens performance, her progeny, and the daughter queens that follow.
I do have hives at home from which I am considering starting off my breeding programme, but because of the shortage of foraging food around where I live I need to carry out queen rearing at my out apiary.
My intention is to have two batches of queens reared at different time throughout the season, thus giving me about 20-30 queens to decide which ones to breed from.
This is going to take at least three years just to find queens that have the traits I am wanting for my bees.
I am looking forward to the coming season for more than one reason.

I use to buy from professional beekeepers couple new queens and I take larvae from those. Their first generation is better than best from small yard.

Often the best is hybrid and the daughters what ever.

One way is ask from some good beekeeper an old queen which has been good but beekeepers is casting it away.
I am planning on taking one nuc each out of my hives this year and then watch them to prevent to much inbreeding the person who supplied my first nuc will also supply mated queens, so if i dont like what i have in the nuc i can requeen them if i want. as for bcrazy i have been there recently aswell thats why i am trying the bee shed idea. mine were not trashed but stolen to order for someone, they evan nicked the hive stands and the bee notices on the fencing. this time they are under lock and key