This method has many slight
variants but is mainly the one promoted by BIBBA. (The circular
distribution of the nucs is due to Vince Cook.)
A few preparations are needed and we have to make a Cloake Board. We also need
enough 5 frame (or similar) nuc boxes for the number of Nucs that
we finally split the colony into (between six and ten according
Note... all the illustrations are of top bee space equipment
and are of the type that I use personally. If you use bottom bee
space there is no difference to the method.
Our first requirement is a colony on two brood chambers,
headed by the queen we wish to breed from. The colony should have
plenty of bees, honey and pollen.
This colony may be "constructed" by uniting smaller ones or could have
been deliberately produced at the end of the previous season.
The colony should be in such a position that it can have a circle of
nucs formed around it (not against a fence).
The bees will be fed throughout the operation, as often as
needed, so that they never run out of feed... Sugar syrup at a
strength of 1 kilo cane sugar to 1 litre of water may be used, I
prefer to use honey diluted with an equal part of water but this
may induce robbing. Pollen is required in large quantities... If the
bees have not stored enough themselves it will need suplementing with
freshly trapped pollen from another colony, pollen substitute is not
as good as pollen but it is better than nothing.
The diagram at left shows the conditions that we require at the start
of our process. Due care should be exercised to ensure that drones
will be available at the time we expect mating. See
Grafting Timetable for
Stage one (Day 1)
Initial Preparation... Turn the hive through 180 degrees so that the entrance faces the oposite direction. Close this entrance with a solid block of wood.
Ensure the queen is in the bottom broodbox with most of the sealed brood.
Place the cloake board, without slide, on the bottom brood box with
the entrance facing the original flight line.
Place the second broodchamber on top of the cloake board, this should
contain frames with unsealed brood, honey and pollen (from other
hives if needed).
Put a full sized feeder on the top of the second broodbox.
And finally a roof on the top of the stack.
An entrance block can be fitted in the mouth of the cloake board
during this stage, which may help with possible robbing. The biggest
defence against robbing is the high strength of the colony.
The entrance is a little higher than before and the queen is confined
to the bottom box by the excluder that is part of the cloake board.
Stage two(Day 7)
Illustrated left. Seven days later... Insert the slide, there
is still an entrance for the top box after doing this but the lower
box is shut off.
Remove the block from the lower entrance thus allowing the confined
bees in the lower box to fly.
These bees will return to the top box, which has mostly sealed brood.
Replace an empty or partly stored frame in the top box with the
cellframe that will be used for grafting. This is so that it will be
at the right temperature and will be freshly cleaned up.
Stage three (Day 8)... Shown right.
After twenty four hours the bees in the top box realise that they are
queenless and our cellframe will have aquired the "right" smell.
Retrieve the cellframe.
Remove a frame containing young larvae from the bottom box. Graft the larvae into the
cellframe and place the cellframe in the top box, between two frames
with stores and pollen.
Check for queencells and destroy any found. (They would have the
"right" genes but we would be unsure of the timing.)
Return the source frame to the bottom box.
Stage four (Day 9)(left) After a further twenty four hours has
elapsed we can return our colony to a queenright unit.
Remove the slide.
Replace the wooden blocker in the lower entrance.
Stage five (Day 13) After four more days our cells are sealed. We
now have seven days until the queens emerge (Day 20).
Stage Six (Day 16) Remove the queen and the frame that
she is found on. Place this frame, and any others that can be robbed
from colonies not involved in queen rearing, in a nuc and remove to
Stage Seven (Day 17) We know from the work we did on
the previous day roughly how many frames are available and at what
stage they are.
This allows us to estimate the number of nucs that we can deploy by
splitting the now queenless stock.
We should aim for one frame of brood for each and one frame of stores.
So we are likely to get about 8 nucs out of our colony. Drawn comb
and stores from other colonies will all help to bolster these mating
Each nuc should be given a queencell and the group should be set out
centered on the site of the now empty hive, the circle can be
anything from 2 to 3 metres in diameter.
Such a scheme results in roughly equal distribution of bees among
the nucs, which are free to fly at all times.
Reliability is a strong feature of this method.
The quality of queencells is high and they are all of the
strain that we have selected.
There is very little "messing about" with the bees and so
stress is kept to a minimum.
Versatility... The number of queens produced is adjustable
between twelve and forty, so as well as producing a number of nucs for
increase there can be some other queens for requeening other stocks.
Other colonies may be split into nucs, by the circle method described,
to take such excess queens if further increase is desired. The number
of queencells that can successfully be raised will depend on the
weather, the strength of your colony and the amount of pollen that
you feed... 25 is about the maximum for normal British conditions.
In areas with better weather and using larger framed equipment then
you may achieve the forty that are claimed by some. (My best effort
was 28 cells grafted, 23 queencells, 22 virgins, 17 mated with 1 quickly
If the queens are only required for requeening other
colonies the queen producing colony is a strong unit capable of
honey production after it has done our queen raising for us.
The two brood boxes that are used in the queen rearing
operation can be utilised to take two of the nucs (the empty spaces being
filled by spare comb or frames of foundation).
If the queencells are intended for mating nucs produced by other
means then the whole process may be repeated, after a few days for
recovery, with a batch of sealed cells being available every
fortnight or so. However prolonged use will result in a certain
amount of brace comb developing in the space within the
This method may seem complex but it is actually one of the
simplest and least labour intensive that I have used. The only
failures that I have had were as a result of poor weather not
allowing good mating.