Northants Bee Keepers Association

Northamptonshire Beekeepers' Association (NBKA) Registered Charity No. 295593


Northants Bee Keepers Association

Copyright © NBKA 2007-2018

Northants Bee Keepers Association

A member organisation representing beekeepers in the County of Northamptonshire

August 2007

Queen rearing using Wilson's method

Donald Sims in "Sixty Years with Bees" recommends Wilson's system of raising young queens. This was described in BEEKEEPING in May 1948 and an extract is reproduced here from both sources.

The following equipment will be required

(a) A spare brood-box.

(b) A cover board in which entrances have been cut in the upper rim on the two sides of about 40 mm.

(c) A queen excluder.

(d) Some thick sugar syrup.

(e) Six empty combs. These are to be filled with syrup. This is easily done if the syrup is poured from an ordinary garden water can fitted with a rose.

(f) a syrup feeder,

(g) a division board to divide the brood box into two equal parts.


When the date is decided, the beekeeper opens the hive on a fine morning and takes out 4 combs, two with young brood and two with riper brood. With a half shake most of the adhering bees will be thrown back into the hive. Should the queen be on any of these combs, which is quite likely, she will fall back into the hive when the combs are shaken. Place these four combs in the centre of the spare brood-box and on either side place two of the syrup-filled combs. Rebuild the hive, placing the queen excluder on, and over it the new brood-box. The whole manipulation can be done in a matter of minutes. The nurse bees will stream through the queen excluder and cover the combs of the young brood. and many of the other bees will come to feed on the syrup in the combs. About 2 to 3 hours later re-open the hive. The combs in the top box will be found well covered with bees. All that is now required is to reverse the position of the two boxes. The top box is placed upon the floor-board and the bottom box now goes on top. In building up on this occasion. the excluder is removed and the hive board is substituted with entrance open on either side. The flying bees will now all enter the bottom box which is queen-less. This box will have eggs, young and ripe brood, nurse bees and flying bees and with the exception of the queen is a balanced colony. This lack is quickly remedied, as the bees immediately start building queen cells. The top box will contain most of the brood, plenty of house bees and the queen. It will, however, be short of flying bees. When re-building, place the two remaining syrup filled combs among the brood combs. For the first two days, but few flying bees will be using the entrances; within a week, however, bees will be actively using both entrances. When this is observed, the colony is balanced. If the colony is examined it will be found that the queen is laying.

It has already been mentioned that in order to maintain and improve quality among bees, selective breeding from proved queens is highly desirable. Young queens should therefore be reared from the best of the previous year's queens. This is not difficult. At the time of carrying out the second manipulation, go to a selected colony, remove a comb and shake off the bees. This can be placed among the other combs in the top box of the original colony. Re-arrange the combs in the selected colony so as to leave space for the insertion of a frame of foundation or a frame half-filled with foundation in the centre of the brood nest. This frame should be marked with a drawing pin so that it can be easily recognised. Then close down. In six or seven days it will usually be found that this comb is now well filled with eggs and some young grubs. The intention is to destroy the first batch of queen cells in the lower box of the original colony and introduce the comb from the selected colony.

A good way is to use another spare brood-box with a couple of empty combs. The bottom box is removed and the temporary box substituted. The flying bees w ill enter this new box, while the original box is removed alongside the selected hive. This done, the beekeeper goes through this box and destroys the first batch of queen cells.

As the flying bees will have returned to the original site this manipulation can be the more readily done, but it may still be advisable to shake the bees off the two combs of young brood to make sure that no queen cells are missed. It must be remembered that this first batch of cells were built in what is sometimes called panic conditions, and queens from such cells are not considered equal to swarm cells, or supersedure cells. The building of these queen cells has been as it were sprung upon the economy of the colony so it is probable there would be at first insufficient royal jelly. It usually happens that only a few cells are built and probably the larvae are not well nurtured.

After destroying these queen cells leave a space in the centre of the brood nest for the comb of selected eggs. Remove the marked comb from the selected colony and shake off most of the bees, not too violently. Have a. quick overall examination to make sure the queen is not upon the comb and then insert it in the space left in the centre brood nest of the new box.

Before removing the temporary box and replacing this box on the original site, remember to refill all the brood combs with strong syrup. It is important to transfer the comb of eggs quickly to avoid the possibility of chilling the young larvae. The second batch of queen cells are likely to be better nurtured, and it is probable there will be more of them, largely due to an increased supply of royal jelly. It can be truly said that in the economy of a bee colony, demand creates the supply in other words more bees will become engaged upon the production of royal jelly.
The beekeeper must accurately record the date of this manipulation. All the queen cells now being built will be due to emerge upon the same date. i.e.. in 16 days. There is risk that the weather may be unfavourable, and that the bees may have but little opportunity of foraging, and it is advisable, therefore, to refill the brood combs again with syrup after about a week. The top box, meanwhile, can be fed with an ordinary rapid feeder. The feeding of nuclei with sugar syrup should never be neglected.

The new batch of queens will be expected to emerge in 16 days. The third manipulation can be carried out therefore on the 12th, 13th or 14th day. This consists simply of again reversing the two boxes. The box with the queen goes below. while the box with queen cells is placed upon the board above. In building up on this occasion place supers over the bottom box. This box now will have collected most of the flying bees.

It will be strong in bees and brood and generally in good fettle for a honey flow'.

This manipulation is completed by dividing this top box into two by the insertion of a division board. A number of queen cells will be found upon the marked comb, and one cell at least must be placed in each compartment. As these cells are from selected eggs, the beekeeper will wish to use the remaining cells which can be cut from the comb. If there are sufficient cells two can be safely inserted in each compartment.

Downstairs is now a strong colony. with the queen. plenty of flying bees, brood. etc.. so it is well balanced. Upstairs, there will be two nuclei each using a side entrance. It has already been noticed that the flying bees belonging to this box will have gone to augment the strength of the downstairs box; in place of these the nuclei will have gained the flying bees that previously were using both entrances while the queen right colony was upstairs. This is important. In the North beekeepers find that the most frequent cause of failure in making nuclei is robbing. This is due to the fact that when newly-made the flying bees leave to return from whence they came. Without flying bees. there is but little protection for the entrances of the nuclei. The honey and syrup within is an invitation to rob. The flying bees now acquired give the necessary protection while at the same time each nucleus is a complete balanced little colony.

In a few days the queens emerge and become mated and the beekeeper will have three colonies under one roof. This is a great economy in equipment. The beekeeper who is fortunate enough to get nuclei fairly early in the season finds that he is in a strong position for dealing with any eventualities. He has his increase with sufficient time to build up strength before the winter.

"Sixty years with Bees" by Donald Sims can be obtained from Northern Bee Books



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