The Morris Board Method of Queen Rearing

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Queen Bee
Jul 15, 2009
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Has anybody on the forum used this method? (Be craft mag recently)

Seems an OK, steady, one queen a week from each set-up, sort of method which would likely suit my laid-back approach to beekeeping, more than having umpteen queens all at the same time. Less bees to rustle up (at any one time) for the nucs if they are spread out. Less chance of most not being properly mated due to some diabolical British weather for a couple of weeks.

I would envisage leaving a super over the bottom brood to leave loads of space for the bottom colony to get on with honey collecting, while having a space between the main brood and Q/C parts would be similar to artificially swarming.

That could mean the front and rear entrance/exits could be simple slots cut into the upper lip of the super and that would make the board so much simpler to make (and the super could easily be 'repaired').

My initial double brood colony would need to be made by uniting two 14 x 12 colonies, after first removing one queen (to a nucleus hive?) and with a young queen in the brood (plenty of queen pheromone).

Thoughts are:

Would the colony be too big and likely to swarm anyway?

Am I too optimistic using all 14 X12 frames?

Would it be sensible to use the bees in the top box for making up the nuc with the Q/C frame (to slightly weaken that bottom colony), say, every second 'queen cycle' (I could move the nuc away to another site)?

Are they likely to produce Q/Cs in the bottom if there are some in the top?

might wasps be a nuisance before all the nucs have built up strongly?

Any and all suggestions as to whether this would work OK, or not, would be appreciated as I am getting brain-ache thinking it all through!

Regards, RAB
That is a direct copy of said article.

But the whole thing hinges around a double National brood. Mine are on that 'odd-ball' Jumbo size.

Regards, RAB
A few points come to mind here.

The first is that the cells are not on plugs as they would be with grafting. So handling may well be an issue. Nor is there an attempt to organise separation of the larvae that may become cells. Handling becomes an issue again.

There is a degree of blurring here between cells and queens. The system produces cells, not queens.

Apart from that yes it should work but it seems time slow, and there are considerations with cell handling.

Poly Hive,

I don't have enough spare bees to make up dozens of nucs all at once, so for me one good Q/C a week would eventually give me more than enough nucs to keep my small outfit ticking over. I can spare enough brood bees and hatching brood for that rate without too much hassle or too much honey collection losses - I think.

It is the different size thing that is bugging me. Double 14 x 12 is three times a standard brood. Also possible issue of wasp aggravation for the later ones. Finding the flaws in the system when in operation might make things harder for me, especially if the season is not a good one, so asking now - before I make the board, before I put two whole (or nearly whole), strong 14 x 12 colonies together, before whatever else I may have not thought of...

Regards, RAB
I can't comment on the 14x12 issue as I have never used them.

My main concern is that there is going to be an issue with handling the cells. Unless the larvae are destroyed as in Miller or other knock thrm out systems then there are issues.

Or..... Use the system to start cells from grafts.

What bothers me slightly though is it is inflexible. If a starter box fails to "start" then it is no great loss, and one can just create another one, but this system is tying one down for a week at least before it is even tried in anger.

Hi Rab

I am no expert on this but have looked into this method previously for producing queen cells although it is a little vague on quantities to be expected, it does look very promising though.

looking at your point 14X12 brood boxs, would it not be possible to use 1 14X12 + 1 sstd brood on top this is less bees than 2x14x12?? ,and the frames are an issue as they need to be std brood to fit into modified split top box, after all the bees need the confinement to produce the cells so I would say 2X 14X12 would be too much space for the proceedure,,

Imho i think it will work better with 2std brood boxs if you are having to make or get kit anyway

Sounds like a good system to me- I thimk I'll try it if I find time to build the board. I dont see what this queencell handling issue is or why its confined to small numbers of cells- the introduced larva can be grafted on plugs ala Doolitle-and I would think you'd have a massive queenrearing colony on 20 14x12 frames capable of raising many fine virgins. Wether its more fuss than a starter box over time is debatable
All the best
Queen cells are vulnerable during the pupa stage. The frames shouldn't be shaken to remove bees for fear of causing damage. As it nears emergence, it is somewhat less fragile.

Practice may show that this is not the case, but I am of the opinion that is why handling queen cells is a potential problem area.

No problem with having standard broods, but all my frames are now 14 x 12s.

My nucs, the lot. Daresay there are a few standard side bars around to fit out a brood but all I really want is enough queens to satisfy my needs. I don't particularly want to go into the nuc business.

Maybe I should be satisfied with one full 14 x 12, but cramming the bees into the top half box would not be quite so quick and easy and deplete the bottom box (does that matter?)

Poly Hive,

You sem to be transfixed by the cell handling. I can manage that perfectly well if i were to need to, but this method just seems to offer a steady single Q/C about once a week and I would be quite happy to go along steadily with my few hives without depleting them seriously for nuc filling.

There may well be other cells come available (swarming) anyway. This method seems to offer a steady means of building nucs (14 x 12s) without losing too much honey production. My main concern are these huge colonies on double brood 14 x 12 and whether swarming is a serious concern.

Regards, RAB
Not transfixed at all but it is a real bu***r to have all your bonny cells welded together and thus unusable... seen it and sworn. Hence my highlighting it.

In queen rearing cell handling is a serious issue and if it is not accomplished easily can make a huge difference to the flexibility to ones system.

I suspect yes that on the scale you are talking about with the 12 x 14 size that the queen substance will become rather smaa dose and the integrity of the colony thus compromised.

It is not a route I would take myself.

I prefer to make up a nuc box of young shook bees, keep them broodless for 24 hours and fed, then offer them grafts. Once grafts accepted, known after 12 hours, then put accepted grafts in supers to be fed on to sealed cells. Starter bees can be given brood and made a nuc or put back into the donor hive. Then into cages and incubated in the supers until hatched. Then into mini nucs for mating.

Nice and easy and VERY flexible. Don't want too many cells? Don't graft too many larvae. Simple. This is where cell handling becomes the issue as I can move them about very easily as they are attached to plugs.

no reason you couldnt have cells grafted into cups on plugs with this Morris board method
None at all and probably the better way to go.

It's not very flexible though as a method.

My experience has been that no nethod is weather proof. YOu can have a text book set up and you will get zero results due to weather.

With a shook starter box that is not such an issue. You just start over. With a more fixed set up it becomes more an issue.

I agree natural mating is entirely weather dependant but cells can be started and finished whatever the weather so long as theres enough bees, pollen and necter/syrup.
I also agree starter box's are flexible- I made one following a design I saw on PO's beekeeping website with a queen excluder on the shaking bit and slidy seperators for the graffted frame- my only concern is confining the bees for so long
I am not referring to mating though of course weather is important then, I am referring to grafts being accepted.

One year I grafted for 13 days, and not a one was accepted, the weather changed and I had 32 of 36 accepted, so weather is very important when cell raising.

Mother nature knows best but you can increase acceptance when the weathers crap by feeding syrup and pollen
Sometimes theres no argueing with moma nature
zero results due to weather

Should not be a problem for either cells or mating at the rate I would be making up nucs - one every week or so. Still be enough for me even if one or two fail over the long time frame. May still be some artificial swarms on other colonies. Like I say, not in it as a commercial entity.

I can't comment on the 14x12 issue as I have never used them.

Thanks Poly Hive, you have changed your mind. That is a worry (no, not you changing your mind, I expected that!!). Would them underneath be less likely to build Q/Cs if there are some above? Any views/experience on that one?

Looks like I might be thinking only 'one and a half equivalent' of 14 x 12 broods might be a better strength to start with, with an empty super available in between as well, when the board is inserted. Queen could then lay in the super if the extra space is needed. I would not bother about that too much as long as they didn't swarm.

Young queen, little stores, enough space, nick some capped brood maybe after, say, third week, or change the super frames. I am wondering how likely swarming might be in that scenario.

All weather dependent, but these would be colonies in my garden, Morris board in one and the breeding queen in another. Nice and handy to keep a watch on, but just don't want too many swarms!

Still awaiting someone to really persuade me against trying it.

Regards, RAB