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Queen Rearing is Simple – Just Do It!

Prepare Queenright Cell Raiser Build up a double brood box or use “Ben Harden System”.

  • Contact feed 1 to 1 syrup, and pollen frames from other hives.
  • Gradually add extra capped brood from other hives.
  • Super over QX as and when required.
  • Colony is “ripe” for cell raising when adult drones present.
  • Day before grafting confine queen in bottom box with QX.
  • Rearrange frames in top broodbox as follows
  • One frame of young brood and frame of pollen in centre.
  • Leave space between them for cell-bar frame.
  • One or two frames of unsealed honey on either side.
  • Two frames of sealed stores on outside of broodbox.
  • Fill in with sealed brood and stores of honey and pollen.
  • Place prepared cell-bar in space overnight for familiarisation.


  • Select frame of young larvae from chosen breeder colony.
  • Cover with damp towel to maintain humidity.
  • Use magnifier e.g. jeweller’s visor or two pairs of glasses.
  • Use only very young larvae – less than one day old.
  • The youngest larvae are found nearest to unhatched eggs.
  • Cut back the side walls of cells with scalpel or sharp knife.
  • Jenter cups or other plastic queen cups with holders are ideal.
  • Some light source helps in identifying suitable larvae.
  • Chinese grafting tool or artist’s fine brush are suitable tools.
  • Always lift the larva from the rear of curve with grafting tool.
  • Use 18 to 22 cell cups on two cell – bars in a frame.
  • Complete grafting and place cell bar in hive as quickly as possible.
  • Check “take” after 24 hours and reduce to 15 best cells or less.
  • Check brood combs in upper box after two more days for wild cells.
  • Shake bees from combs and cut out these emergency cells if found.
  • Cage cells or transfer to prepared nuclei on 10th day after grafting.

Mating Queens

  • Ensure the presence of sufficient mature drones in breeder colonies.
  • Drone comb or shallow frames are placed in the broodnest area.
  • This is done in selected colonies in Autumn or early Spring.
  • Make up nuclei with young bees on day before cell transfer.
  • Bees for nucs are selected from supers or combs of young brood.
  • Virgin queens can be introduced to bees in making up the nucs.
  • Where cells are being introduced keep bees in shed previous night.
  • After cell introduction keep in shed for further three days.
  • Spray water through ventilators morning and evening.
  • Baker’s fondant in cut comb container is handy for first feeding.
  • Replace this with sugar syrup 2 to 1 when placed in permanent site.
  • Best to place in permanent position and open at dusk.
  • Examine for presence of eggs after 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Remove queen when laying and replace with another cell.
  • Established nucs will not readily accept a virgin queen.
  • Watch food reserve in nuclei and keep topped up always.

Queen Introduction

  • A new laying queen should be available one week after dequeening.
  • At that stage shake the bees off brood combs and kill emergency cells.
  • Introduce the queen in queencage between two brood frames.
  • A Butler or Worth cage is best but use travelling cage if necessary.
  • Cage entrance is best plugged with stiff candy (icing sugar/honey).
  • Check for eggs after six days, remove emergency cells if present.
  • Always make sure hive is queenless before introducing a queen.
  • Insert a “test frame” i.e. a frame of eggs and young larvae.
  • Inspect this frame after 2 to 3 days for presence of emergency cells.
  • If emergency cells are not raised a queen is probably present.

M. Mac Giolla Coda