Monday, April 11, 2011

Should I breed some queens?

I recently purchased a book called Queen Rearing Essentials by Larry Connor, who is one of the experts in the beekeeping community concerning queen bees and queen rearing. I've also been reading a lot of on-line articles on queen raising written by other beekeepers.

Last year, when I was dealing with a hive which was looking to swarm, I split off some frames and made "walk-away splits." This is where you take the frame(s) with the queen cell (which the bees made as a result of an urge to swarm) and separate it into a nucleus hive, to hatch and mate. I had some good success, but it is a reactionary process.

When you set out to raise some queen bees specifically, you take action by grafting some 2-day-old larvae into special cell cups, and then induce the bees to make them into queens. You can do this and make a lot more queens than the swarm cells generally produce. Then you can set up the queens into a Queen Castle (basically a beehive condo) while she matures and goes on a mating flight.

This is a natural progression for beekeepers - they begin with hives and after they get comfortable keeping those, they make increase via splits. Eventually they try their hand at grafting. You can either sell the new queens, or use them for re-queening your own hives.

I know I have a few hobbyist beekeeper friends who follow this blog. What do you think? Should I do some queen rearing this season?


  1. I do it in conjunction with another beekeeper friend of mine. It is a LOT of work and very time consuming. You also have to plan very carefully to get the timing right. It can be quite expensive as well (due to the special equipment you would need). It is not cost effective unless you have quite a few hives and are making a bunch to sell.

    You could get the same results with 1/4 of the work and expense by taking the queen castle and place a frame of eggs, a frame of honey and a frame of pollen in there with plenty of nurse bees and let them make one themselves. It will keep your primary hives a little more open to keep them from swarming, and you will get really good quality queens.

    Just my 2 cents.

  2. This is quite a project to undertake. I hope you dive in and raise some quality queens. VSH queens perhaps? In talking to the Plymouth County Beekeepers association president, he said it was a ton of work but he ended up selling some for a profit. I bought one from him.

    Good Luck and keep us updated!

  3. I think you should have a go if you have the time for it. Don't forget to blog about your experiences, those that worked and those that didn't.


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