Alley method of queen Rearing

The Alley method (sometimes referred to as the Alley plan is one of a number of simple ways of producing queen cells in small quantities suitable for the ordinary amateur beekeeper. I think over the years there have been modifications and to avoid confusion I will refer to them all as the Alley method.

Before the more sophisticated methods of raising queen cells were introduced, many beekeepers cut up comb with worker larvae in it that were the correct age for the bees to convert into queen cells.

Henry Alley was an American beekeeper and successful queen rearer who wrote about this method in his book that was published in 1883.

I won’t bother too much with all the variations here, but will concentrate on the method I have used on a number of occasions, which differs from the way Alley did it. There is also a great video done by the famous “Fat bee man”. You can look it up on YouTube to get a better idea of what is written here.

If a new comb is placed in the brood area of a colony the queen will usually lay in it quite quickly. Strips of comb with larvae of the correct age are cut out and mounted in to the underside of the top of a frame. I have used two methods quite successfully.

Lay the strip of comb on a flat board and cut almost to the midrib on the opposite side to where you want the queen cells to be built with a sharp knife. Fix the comb (or several pieces) to a strip of wood that is nailed to a frame. I first used molten beeswax, but then wrapped wool or narrow cotton tape around it.
Either pinch the comb between the bottom bars of a shallow frame or in the wedge of a top bar. This is very simple and preferable to the above.
Queen cells will be built at random and often joined, so it is better to destroy 2-3 larvae between the selected ones before placing the frame in the cell raising colony. Alley used a match, but a cotton bud or small kids paintbrush that is fairly stiff will do.

When the Q/Cs are ready to be distributed they can simply be cut out.

I find the Alley method, or the fat bee man method produces very good queens with minimal equipment and is well suited to the smaller beekeeper who only wants a small number of queens, but it is a bit of a pain and overall I prefer the Miller method.

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