How To Make A Queen Bee Honey Bee Raising Queens Queenright Queenless Starter Finisher Grafting

How To Make Queen Bees Using The Keeper's Hive

Making Queens: The Basics

In nature, honey bee colonies create new queens under three circumstances:

  • In preparation to swarm
  • In preparation to supersede the queen
  • In an emergency due to queen death

The best queens are believed to come from swarm cells, produced during conditions of food abundance by a colony full of young nurse bees. If you need only a few queens, using swarm cells is the optimal method.

However, if your goal is to raise more queens or be selective with genetics, creating a queenless colony and providing day-old larvae for queen cell formation is preferable.


What is a cell starter?

To make queens, you need to establish a group of queenless bees to initiate queen cell production.

Take a super (5, 8, or 10 frames), add frames of emerging capped brood and introduce a large population of nurse bees. This queenless colony is ready for you to add larvae for queen cell development.

Alternatively, you can use a double screen board or Cloake board to make part of an existing queenright colony queenless by isolating the queen and her pheromone.

Regardless of the method, the cell starter must:

  • Be hopelessly queenless
  • Have a large population of nurse bees
  • Have plenty of food for royal jelly production

Creating a cell starter, not grafting, is actually the most challenging part of raising queens, requiring meticulous attention to these three factors.  


Using The Keeper’s Hive to Make New Queens

Both the One Queen Keeper and the Two Queen Keeper can serve as queenright cell starter/finishers. The Two Queen Keeper is preferred because of its potential for a higher population of nurse bees.  When using the Two Queen Keeper as a cell starter, replace the ten frame queen excluder with a Cloake board. 

About a week before making queens, aggressively feed both brood chambers with pollen substitute in the form of patty or liquid (1:1 sugar syrup mixed with pollen substitute to form a pancake batter consistency). Move frames of capped brood from each brood chamber above the Cloake board. 

One day before grafting, put the divider into the Cloake board, close off hive entrances above it, and transfer nurse bees from the brood chambers to the exchange box above the Cloake board.

On grafting day, inspect frames in the exchange box to ensure that there are no eggs, larvae, or queen cells on them.  Then graft up to 45 one-day-old larvae (DOL#4: three days as egg and one day as larvae). Appropriate sized larvae to graft are comma or ‘c’ shaped who are sitting in a small pool of royal jelly. Place the grafting frame between frames of pollen/nectar and empty comb or emerging brood. Feed daily.

Twenty-four hours after grafting, remove the divider. Check grafts 48 hours post grafting; if done correctly, 70-90% of grafted larvae will be on their way to becoming queen cells.

Continue feeding until DOL#8-9 when queen cells are capped. Queens will emerge on DOL#15-16. On DOL#14, pull the cells and move them to colonies, mating boxes, or give them to other beekeepers.  

If you have been very careful about all the steps involved in raising queens, your fellow beekeepers will be impressed with how big the queens are that come out of these cells. Well made virgins on emergence weigh between 200 and 220 milligrams and mated queens will be between 270 and 300 milligrams.

We plan to make a video(s) on using The Keeper’s Hive to make queens this season. After watching the video, you will gain a more comprehensive understanding of the myriad features that make the Two Queen Keeper an excellent choice for producing high-quality queen cells. This blog, along with additional guides and future videos, will ensure your success in raising queens.

As always, get in touch with us if you have any questions!


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Our Two Queen Hive Is AWESOME For Raising Queens