Queen Rearing

Rearing Colonies.

One of the joys of beekeeping is rearing queens. From late April, onwards we select the best queens and eggs/small larvae are taken from their hives for the production of queencells. This is generally referred to as grafting but the better term is 'larval transfer' as that's what we do. Our chosen technique is often queen-right queen-rearing. When the queens are ready to emerge from their queencell they are put into queenless mating hives or nucleus colonies where they are looked after by a small number of worker bees. Once the queen is mature - after a few days - the queen will fly and mate with drones but only in good weather.  A few days after that the queen will start to lay eggs. After 3 weeks the eggs will have hatched into larvae, been fed, sealed over to allow pupation and changed into a young worker honeybee.

It is only after this time that we can be sure that the queen has mated properly and can be transferred to a full sized hive. If the queen has not mated properly she will lay drone eggs and must be destroyed. A colony of drones will not survive. The queen mates for life and once mated the queen will not fly again unless to swarm.

Nucleus Colonies

Nucleus colonies are an ideal starter colony and one purchased early in the year will develop into a full-sized colony by autumn; it may even produce a little honey. 

The above picture shows a queencell. An egg was grafted (moved from elsewhere on a grafting tool) into the plastic queencup. A wax queencell was built around the cup in a cell raising colony by worker bees and 16 days after the egg was laid, the queen cuts her way out - you can see the hole in the bottom.

Mini-nuc on grass

Mating Hives

Small hives with just a cup-full of bees are used as mating hives. The queen doesn't mate in them; the small number of bees is just enough to look after her and once the queen has matured and flies from the small colony to mate on the wing, she will start to lay eggs in these small hives. Some refer to mating hives as Apideas - this is just one brand of hive. The hive in the photo is a Swi-Bine hive - similar - but from a different supplier. The brick on the top is to keep it put as the hives are not very heavy.

Queens for sale.

Norfolk Queen Bee

We aim to over-produce queens and often have some queens available and occasionally overwinter a few as spares. The above queen has a red dot denoting a 2013 queen.

Marking Queens

There is a standard colour code for marking queens which rotates on a 5 year cycle as below.

Year    Colour

2016    White

2017    Yellow    

2018    Red

2019    Green

2020    Blue

Contact us if required.

Subpages (1): Nucleus Colonies