This page is credited in full to Dave Cushman who created it. His voice is expressed in black colour text and any additions or comments in blue belong to myself. Credit: Dave Cushman’s website.
Queen Cell Starting Methods
There are many methods of inducing honey bees to produce queencells by utilising the natural impulses inherent in the bees themselves.
Skep beekeeping would seem to have propagated the swarming impulse at the expense of the others. It has also been common for beekeepers to use swarm cells to make nuclei with or to re-queen stocks. There is a difference between using swarm cells and using the swarming impulse in a deliberate queen rearing system.
Miller method… this involves a comb that has a zig-zag edge at the bottom of the comb portion. The comb can be produced from scratch by mounting triangular portions of foundation in a frame to produce the zig-zag effect. The gaps between the strips will be enlarged in a ragged fashion and also utilised for queencells. The hive that the frame will be placed in should be level in order that the strips of foundation can hang vertically and not get bridged across to the flanking frames.
Miller foundation frame
Or a used comb can be cut to shape with a sharp knife. The comb will be recycled anyway so it matters little, which way is actually chosen. A comb that has only been bred in for a few cycles will cut easier and with less tearing.
Miller frame produced from an old comb
Alley Method… also known as the ‘Alley Plan’ whereby a strip of cells containing one day old larvae, is removed from a comb and placed with the cells pointing downwards and every 2nd and 3rd larva is destroyed, leaving adequate spacing for queencells to be started and finished without surgical skills being needed to separate the sealed cells.
The queencells in this illustration are exaggerated in size, but the positions that they are shown in were taken from an actual comb.
Miller frame with queencells
The queencells in this illustration are also exaggerated in size, but the illustration has been synthesised rather than depicting an actual ragged old comb. ?? ? ?? ?Miller frame from old comb with queencells
This is the most promising feature to be cultivated for future bee improvement as it may help redress the balance. Skep beekeeping methods tend to select for swarming propensity simply due to constantly re-hiving early swarms (swarm of bees in May Etc. Etc.). Thus many of the strains of bee we have today are derived from these “swarmy” stocks.
Emergency Impulse.? A last resort for the bees, and should be considered so by the beekeeper. The practice of splitting or artificial swarming utilises this impulse which may be OK for the odd increase or re-queening, but should not be considered seriously for a deliberate breeding program.
The best colony to breed from given it is productive and calm is one that has superseded for the previous two seasons. A queen that has those traits is the one you want to use so that the swarming occurrence in your apiary goes down year on year.