Once cells have been started there is no reason why a
cell raising colony should be queenless, and it is often easier for the beekeeper
to provide a seperate queenright stock to finish the cells to the
In UK conditions a strong stock that is occupying two
deep brood boxes is capable of "finishing" one or two frames of cells.
If more cells than this are available, then rather than overloading
one stock, use two or more... The reason being that a stock that
attempts to feed more than it can really handle will inevitably
undernourish, or abort, some of the developing queens.
Cells only need 24 hours in the "starter" colony and
another frame of grafts can be put in the starter at the same time
that the first frame(s) are transferred to the finisher.
When feeding finishing colonies to bring them up to strength,
and whilst they are feeding cells, I like to use honey diluted with an
equal quantity of water which I provide in a Brother Adam (link) type
feeder or a Miller (link)type feeder. If I am raising a batch of
cells very early in the season (or very late) I will use two frame
feeders in the uppermost box instead of an overall feeder (this
allows the insulated and un-ventilated
roofs that I use to be immediately above the "activity" in
the upper box).
When handling cell frames that have developing queens
ensure that they are kept upright and free from vibration or physical
shock so that larvae are not displaced from the bed of royal jelly
that they are lying in.
I like to set out my finishing colonies with the uppermost
box having a central frame of developing brood that is not young
enough for them to make queens from. Flanking this will be two frames
of cells from the starter colony the frames that are to either side
of this central group should contain as much fresh pollen as possible
and developing brood. The carbohydrate content of the diet is provided
by a Bro. Adam feeder on the top. The lower box, which is separated by
a queen exluder, contains the queen and the rest of the colony's brood.
Pollen provision is much more important than most texts
indicate and frames or trays of Taber troughs(link) will
enable the pollen to be provided within easy reach of where it is
needed. I have done some experiments whereby I raised a small number
of queen cells in mating nucs(link)... the special frames
that I used contain troughs for both pollen and liquid feed both
above and below the queencells so that the distance between point of
use and point of collection was an absdolute minimum.
If the colony is to be used for several successive batches
the central frame of open, but not young, brood should be replaced,
every three or four days, either from the bottom brood box or from
another colony. Similarly frames in the upper box that have had bees
emerge, and are now empty of brood, should be replaced on the same
three or four day cycle with frames containing sealed brood from the
bottom brood box or any other source.
The cells may be removed any time after sealing and in a
"production line" arrangement placed in individual cages for
emergence in an incubator. I have not tried this personally, as I
prefer to leave them in situ and put them in the mating nucs 24 to 48
hour prior to expected emergence. One reason for leaving the sealed
cells in the finishing colony is that the break form intense feeding
of cells allows the brood in the rest of the colony to be adequately
fed looked after, because they are going to be "looking after"
subsequent batches of cells.
Revised... 30 November 2001