Types of queen cell building colonies

If you rely on “natural” queen cells the bees build them for you and there is little to do. Any form of “artificial” queen cells using prepared larvae will need colonies that are set up for cell building. These can take three forms:-

Queenless colony

This is probably the simplest option for the small beekeeper. A honey producing colony can be used, especially one that you intend to requeen, as a Q/C can be left for the colony. There is not likely to be any loss of honey.

There are several further options that can result from a queenless colony that is used for rearing Q/Cs.

Little or no extra equipment is required.

Queenright colony

There are usually two colonies involved in this situation – a queenless “starter” colony that starts the Q/Cs under the emergency impulse, then after around 24 hours, they are transferred to a queenright “finisher” colony, where they are placed some distance from the queen to be finished under the supersedure impulse.

In my experience bees won’t start many Q/Cs in a queenright colony, but they will finish off what are started in another colony much better, hence the need for two colonies if you want a reasonable amount of Q/Cs.

Combined “Starter” and “Finisher” colony

This is the method I use most often, but it does require some specialized equipment. I use a cloak board. I will post a detailed blog on how to use this board in the future. This is where the same colony performs the tasks two colonies perform as in 2. above. The bees that are starting to build the Q/Cs are divorced from the queen in some way, so the Q/Cs are started under the emergency impulse. This could be by temporarily splitting the colony to make one part queenless, or having some form of physical barrier, such as a board with access that can be closed off. After about 24 hours the colony is returned to the queenright condition, but the Q/Cs are in a separate box from the queen, so they are finished off under the supersedure impulse. There are several methods, but the principles are usually the same. I will post detailed blogs about each in the future.

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