Honey bee queens

The prosperity of a colony depends much on the age of the queen it contains. After the second summer, the laying of the queen decreases, and though she may live two seasons more, it is better to replace her with a young one. With these frames this can easily be done.


If you wish to rear queens on an extensive scale it is best to have one or more small hives to do it in, as it saves the time of a full colony. A pint, or less, of bees will rear as many and as perfect queens as a large swarm. To induce bees to rear queens, it is necessary to have them queenless, and supplied with the means of raising another.

Some use small boxes, such as those in which queens are transported, to rear queens in, but I prefer small hives,--just large enough to contain two frames, of the same size as I use in my large hives.

When wishing to rear queens, take a frame from the hive which contains your pure Italian queen, and be sure that the comb has in it eggs, young larvae, and hatching bees. Put this into a small hive, and with it another frame filled with comb and a supply of honey and bee-bread. Then move some strong hive, which can spare a few bees, a yard away from its stand, and put your small one then in its place. This should be done at a time when young bees are flying freely, as they are about noon of any bright warm day. many of these young bees will enter the new hive, and finding it supplied with honey and brood, enough will remain and start queen cells. If it is dry weather, a wet sponge should be placed at the entrance, which is all the care they will need for eight or ten days.

About that time it will be necessary to open the hive, and cut out all the cells but one, for when the first queen hatches, the others will surely be destroyed. These surplus cells should be cut out carefully, and may be made useful by inserting them in the brood combs of hives from which the black queens have been taken. They will hatch there as well.

As in swarming, so in rearing queens, certain principles must be borne in mind in order to succeed, but when these are well understood, thoughtful persons can vary the operations as they please, if they do not go contrary to these principles.

1st. The queen rearing or nucleus hive must always be well stocked with young bees, since these are the ones that build cells or work wax in any way.

2d. As these young bees do not at first gather honey or bring water, the little hive should be supplied with these necessaries.

3d. No eggs from any queen but a pure one should be allowed in the small hive, for bees can move eggs from one coil to another.

4th. When you leave a young queen in these small hives until she commences to lay, you should about the time she hatches, give that hive a comb with a little brood in it. Unless this precaution is taken, the whole of the bees may leave the hive with the queen, when she goes out to meet the drones, and so all be lost; but if brood be given them, they will remain in the hive; bees never desert young brood.

If these directions are followed, it will be found very easy and simple to rear queens for any number of colonies.

If these young queens are impregnated by black drones, they will produce only what is called "hybrid" progeny. This, for purposes of honey storing, is equally good with the pure Italian stock, but it soon degenerates. To secure pure stock, queens should be reared in early spring, for then Italian drones appear several weeks before black ones are reared, and the young queens are sure to be impregnated by them.


Return to The Household Cyclopedia of General Information