Queens from Honey Mountain


In the natural course of our annual management programme, we rear new queens from our best stock. The main characters used in selecting queen and drone parents are: good temper; as near native as possible and signs of varroa reduction such as chewing pupae, grooming and damaging varroa. These are firstly to replace our poorest queens (on these criteria), to provide high quality Cornish queens for sale, both to local beekeepers and nationally and thirdly to supply members of the Cornwall Bee Improvement Group with replacement queens (as a last resort, since it is much better for members to get involved in the process of making nuclei and mating queens themselves). We recommend you purchase queens whose daughters have been seen to confirm them, though we can supply them once their laying pattern has been verified as good before their daughters have emerged in an emergency. We can also supply them in starter nuclei. These are particularly suitable for a new beekeeeper or a beekeeper new to West Cornwall as well as for experienced beekeepers wishing to improve their stock. Overwintered nuclei are particularly valuable to replace lost stock in the spring as they have proven themselves.

We will pass on your orders to members of CBIBBG.

We ensure that winter bees are as free of varroa as possible by treatment (with Apiguard) before the ivy flow when they are produced here in West Cornwall in great numbers. Additionally, we give an early spring treatment followed by copious feeding to build cell builder colonies and drone producing colonies and those from which bees will be taken for the mini-nucs. A beneficial treatment can be used to boost this at any time, containing a mixture of acids etc. It is an increasing and recommended practice in West Cornwall Beekeepers' Association to use oxalic acid in early January as higher winter survival rates seem to follow. I used to use HiveClean regularly but I am satisfied with one treatment with Apiguard.

One difficulty has been absconding from mini-nucs (particularly Swi-bines). This has been a national problem from time to time. In previous years there had been a small proportion of absconders, but in 2011, 80% absconded. This may have been triggered by late matings - others elsewhere in the U.K. did report late matings - even after 40 days! This would mean that at the time of mating all the bees in the mini-nuc were flying bees, in contrast to the quick mating scenario when few would have been flyers. Mating swarms have been seen from time to time. In 2012 we applied all the tricks to ensure minimal losses, particularly after mating has been accomplished and laying started - this is best done with a small queen excluder - as is normal with other mini-hives, such as the Apidea. Apideas are more flexible, allowing expansion to 5 frames, then 2 and even 3 boxes, particularly suitable for overwintering with top feeders. This is a process we are recommending to members of Cornwall Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Group.

However, 2012 was a near disaster, due to adverse mating conditions! Nevertheless several nucs and a small number of queens were made available after our own queen replacement programme was satisfied. In the nature of selling queens and nucs, we often find we have sold superior queens and superb nucs and are tempted to regret this! However, this proves our ability to produce excellent stock equal to our own! In one case, a nuc was found to have 3 queens and was split to make 3 colonies!!!

We moved from 3-5 frame wooden nuclei to Paynes Farm 6-frame polynucs and this seems to be highly successful, especially for overwintering. Indeed spring expansion is accomplished by putting a second extension box above, reorganizing the frames - 2 up and 2 down - and expansion is rapid woith feeding.

From 2015 we have been working with new members of CBIBBG to use our mating apiary with Apideas. In 2017 we concentrated on assisting members of CBIBBG to rear queens and a few nuclei for sale. All queens were reared and transferred to Paynes' polys on emergence to develop as nuclei.

sales in 2018

To discuss the possibility of acquiring a new queen email James or telephone 01736 602192 or 07980 486245 in the first instance to check availability. I will now pass your enquiry to members of CBIBBG.

Prices to be determined. This year I am working with Rodger Dewhurst who will be undertaking the principal work, firstly in Apideas, with which he has many years of successful experience, and Swi-Bines for quick queen production. Nick Jones has proven A.m.m. and expertise with both Apideas and Paynes' poly nucs. Other members of CBIBBG may also supply queens.

Cornwall beekeepers are invited to join Cornwall Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Group and commit to future selection of varroa tolerance characters. Members will be assisted to create nuclei with their own selection of queen larvae, larvae from a local group member, or one of ours free of charge. In the first two cases, members may use one of our apiaries to attract our drones. They may also be given our grafts or make their own from their own or our colonies free of charge.

Methods used

It is quite easy to split a colony and place the split above.

Over the years we have tried a number of methods to rear replacement queens. When a good colony makes its own queen cells, these were the natural choice to split into several new nucleus colonies. The picture left shows the split colony with queen cells above a mesh floored divider (and a 3-frame nuc box next to the stack). Waiting until the first queens are almost ready to emerge ensures that there are lots of recently emerged bees for the nucs which are made up in another apiary to keep the bees from returning to their old site. The youngest bees are used in mini-nucs after “filtering” them through a queen excluder into the dark. Once the queens are mated, these nuclei are either used to replace our poorest queens or fed steadily, growing them into nuclei for sale or further into full-sized production colonies, usually for the following year (unless made up with 5 frames of brood or given additional brood). Another method we have used, also good for beginners, is to make the higher box with 3 or 4 compartments so the nucs mate from the home apiary.

We progressed to punching out cells with larvae and putting them into a colony from which the queen had been removed (or into a non-breeder colony split after making swarm cells, (now culled once all cells have been sealed, including later emergency cells!) and later to grafting into plastic cell cups. Until this point, queen cells were added to nuclei made up from a frame of brood taken from a strong colony, a frame of stores and a frame of foundation together with enough young bees which would accept a queen cell. At least 3 of our CBIBBG members now use a Jenter or similar system.

Welding narrow strips of foundation to frames starts the process. Swienty mini-nucs are simple to use. Virgins can be allowed to hatch before being put into mini-nucs. A useful safeguard is a queen (cell) protector with fondant.
A more popular and versatile mating hive is the Apidea

We have used mini-mating nuclei, which are the most widely used approach to quantity rearing as they require only a cupful of bees to keep going and can be reused once the queen is proven and removed to a larger nucleus or full-sized colony or sold. Grafting into the New Zealand plastic cell cups given in 2006 by our friend Ben Baker became our primary method as these cell cups are easier to move around than those used hitherto. They fit (from above) into holes drilled into pre-drilled bars or better, into two wooden bars with short 12mm (1/2" better) waxed dowel pegs over which the cell cups fit. These bars fit inside standard frames placed into the starter colony the day before, primed with a drop of syrup to get the scent and temperature of the colony. The time-honoured method is to clear all bees from a suitable frame from the source colony (with larvae up to a day old available, whatever else is on the frame), take it to the car, graft inside the car (keeping it humid with water sprinkled around inside), then graft the larvae into cell cups. Charged cups are re-inserted one by one into the frame, then the frame replaced into the starter colony (and the source frame back into its colony). The Chinese grafting tool is flexible (literally), though the stainless steel tool is easy to use and rather more durable. It seems to be just taking the first steps that are the most challenging for the newcomer. It can seem daunting, which is why it is nice to start easy and work towards the more complex methods. We give our CBIBBG members and other local beekeepers practice in grafting - once done, they go off happily to d.i.y.!

Hopkins method

The frame is placed above the top bars of a strong queenless colony. The bees automatically make and feed queen cells on larvae pointing down. The bees automatically make and feed queen cells on larvae pointing down.

Intrigued by a method I had heard about some years before and reminded about on the BEE-L discussion group, I had the romantic idea of trying it out. Always at the back of my mind was the potential for teaching from experience, however slight. The pictures show how easy it is, though to remove cells is a messy business, The cells seem quite sturdy once sealed, instead of the thin-walled variety I was used to with cell cups at sealing time, which needed to be left with a strong colony of bees to increase the cell walls to normal thickness. In the reality, cells were capped over a period of 3 days or so and could not be left in the frame, because the only times you can handle a queen cell with little risk of damaging her as she goes through her metamorphosis into adult are just after sealing and a day or so before emergence. Accordingly all cells were removed just after being sealed, including the last one, which was still uncapped. Some went to full-3-framed nuclei, others to the polystyrene mini-nucs. It is a messy process! Full details of the method.

useful links

description and drawings of the Swienty bine mini-nucleus box on Dave Cushman's web pages
description and drawings of the Apidea mini-nucleus box on Dave Cushman's web pages
queen raising methods and links
I have used a variation of Ben Harden's queen raising method splitting a strong colony so half is above the queen excluder and half below - a frame of very young larvae next to the cells to be started as queens attracts the necessary young bees up and a frame of pollen on the other side provides the necessary food source.
timetable for queen rearing
simple methods of cell starting
Vince Cook promoted Harry Cloake’s queen rearing methods
a few bullet points on raising queens to help plan or revise your schedule
queen rearing by the York Method with a timetable and mininucs. This is one for 2014!

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