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natural queen cells

Queen Rearing

The Liberty 4-H Beekeepers decided this was the year they would learn to breed their own queens. They will select from their best queens to make daughters like them. Here in California resistance to Varroa mites is a characteristic we want. We also want gentle bees that make lots of honey!

frame with marked queen
This queen is marked with a red dot because she was born in 2003. The queens we make in 2006 will be marked with white. We hope to use the numerals we were given as a present from our English beekeeping friends. To remember the color sequence from years ending in 1 or 6 to years ending in 5 or 0 say "Will you raise great bees?" That will remind you it is white, yellow, red, green, then blue.

Naturally made queen cells look like this.


For the January meeting we invited Mark Hohman, a commercial beekeeper to give us an introductory talk on how he raises queens. Mr. Hohman's father learned from Harry H. Laidlaw, Jr. whose book Contemporary Queen Rearing published by Dadant he highly recommends. Mark Holman
Chinese grafting tool close up of queen cup bar
This is a Chinese grafting tool used to lift the young larvae with royal jelly and move it to the queen cups. The spring pushes the larvae very gently off the tool by lowering a bamboo plunger. Mr. Hohman gave us two. Brushy Mt. Bee Farm sells them. Here Mr. Hohman is showing us the bar holding the queen cups. He emphasized the importance of the age of the larvae to be grafted. It has to have been hatched not more than a day or a day and a half old. He explained that is because after the larvae is older, the nurse bees change its diet to beebread instead of royal jelly if it is in a worker cell.
frame with queen cups Sean with queen cell bar
This is a frame with the queen cups on it. You can see three bars of queen cells will fit on it.
Laidlaw's Contemporary Queen Raising book is in the corner.
Sean is holding the bar of queen cups that he made with his father. Their first attempts at queen rearing were ruined by ants. This year we will guard against ants.

Glenn Apiaries in California has a very helpful web site with queen rearing directions.
They also sell hybrid queens if you want to invest in a superior queen for breeding.

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