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The idea of raising your own queen isn't one that comes to mind early for the new beekeeper. But as your experience grows it will soon become evident that there are many benefits to doing so. You’ll be able to build your own hives, sell queens as a side business and requeen your own hives when necessary.
So how exactly do you go about this? Let's discuss!
There are actually a number of different ways to raise queens. I am aware of 5 of these so I wanted to share each of those with you. Then you can choose which method you like best and hopefully have great success with raising your own queens in the future. Let’s get started.
Grafting is one option to raise your own queens. First, you wait until after larvae hatches. Then you’ll use a grafting tool to scoop out the freshly hatched larvae.
An important part to this step is to be sure that you don’t flip the larvae. It may actually be drowned in its own fluid. If by some chance you do this, just move on to the next larvae.
Next, you’ll want to place the larvae in a cell starter or a queenless hive. The bees will draw the queen cells out for you. Then they’ll cap them. After the queen cells have been capped you will place the grafted cells into a really strong hive. The bees in this hive will keep the cells warm.
Now, during this whole process you are counting 16 days from an egg to the finished hatched queen. So that way you will know exactly when the queen will hatch. This is important so she doesn’t get killed by the bees that were once keeping her warm.
So when you reach day 16 you’ll want to place a queen cage over her to keep her safe until you are ready to move her into a nuc or mating box. But if you choose to sell her off as a virgin queen then you’ll just leave her be until she is sold. And that, my friends, is all there is to grafting.
Cell punch is my husband’s favorite way to raise queens. We actually do raise our own queens but truthfully it is probably his favorite part to raising bees.
So when I told him I was going to write an article about this very topic he was very eager to share all of the information he gathered during his time of learning how to raise queens. Needless to say, when we got to cell punch, he was very excited! But I digress...
If you choose to use the cell punch method in raising queens you have to use foundationless frames or wax frames. The reason is because you are going to punch a hole through a brood frame. Therefore, plastic just simply will not work for this method.
When using this method, you will have to make a tool called a cell punch. Here is how you make one. As of yet, they are not being sold anywhere to the best of my knowledge.
After making your cell punch tool, you will find the specific cell that you want. It has to have very young larvae in it. Place the ring of the cell punch directly over the larvae and punch it out.
This kind of reminds me of paper and a handheld hole punch. If you’ve never seen this done before, hopefully that will give you a decent visual.
Then you’ll pull out the plug. And then you will finish the process out in the same fashion as you did with grafting.
A great thing about this method (and why my husband loves it so) is because bees are more likely to make queens with this method because it smells natural to them.
So from our experience, you are more likely to have success in queen raising with this process.
This method is another simple option. You will basically allow a nuc to get overcrowded.
However, before you do be sure to place a queen excluder on the entrance of the nuc. As you probably know, when bees begin to get crowded they prepare to swarm. What this means, is the bees begin making queen cells so half of the hive will leave with her.
Then you will have natural queen cells that you can cut out plugs and place in a queenless hive. The bees will take care of her and hopefully accept her once she hatches so they will have a queen.
This method requires a purchase of a queen castle. Some friends of ours had one and allowed us to use it. Needless to say, my husband fell in love with this method as well, because he is able to raise so many queens simultaneously.
So this special hive body has four entrances and four sealed off compartments. You are virtually making four miniature splits.
Now, each section will usually hold two frames. There will be one frame of brood, young larvae, and eggs. The other frame should have lots of pollen and honey.
Then you’ll add as many bees as you can shake into the queen castle. The bees will then find the viable eggs that they can make queens from.
On average, the brood frame will have anywhere from one to ten queen cells on it. So after the queen cells are developed, you’ll then cut them out or leave them be and automatically have a split. Our experiences with a queen castle have been pleasant.
I wrote an article here on PerfectBee not too long ago about how to perform a split. You can read it here.
But you have many reasons to perform a split. It can up your numbers which increases your productivity and honey production.
Another great reason to perform a split is to keep your bees from swarming. However, when you perform a split you can encourage your bees to raise another queen in the process.
All you do, is place brood frames within the split that have queen cells on them. Bees are very smart creatures. They know they need a queen and will usually raise one.
Once she is born and accepted by the hive, you will hopefully have a new and thriving hive.
So as you can tell there are many options in raising queens. My husband is the ‘queen raiser’ between the two of us, but I’ve watched closely as he has attempted all of these methods.
They will work but some just happen to be easier than others. You just have to decide which method works best for you.
Now that I’ve gone over all of the methods that we’ve tried in raising queens, do you have another method? What has your experience been in raising your own queens?
If you’ve never raised queens before, what is holding you back? Do you have certain questions that if answered could help you get over that hump so you can embrace raising your own queens?
Well, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments in the designated space below.