Queen Rearing using the Cloake Board

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

I have heard quite a a lot of talk about queen rearing this season. This device for queen rearing was invented by a New Zealand beekeeper named Harry Cloake (probably a good thing he wasn't called Harry Ironing Ed).

Step 1: A double brood colony is selected and the bottom box with the queen is put back onto the floor reversed, so that the entrance is at the opposite side of the hive. This entrance is then closed. The Cloake board is placed on top of the lower brood box without the slide in place. It acts as a queen excluder, confining the queen to the bottom box. The bees from both boxes now use the upper entrance.

Step 2: The floor slide is slid into the board separating the two brood boxes. The lower rear entrance is opened. This causes all the flying bees to return to and populate the upper box. The upper box is left for 24 hours so they can determine that they are queenless and prepare to raise new queen. A gap is left in the centre between the frames ready to accept the grafted larvae. The queen in the lower chamber can be used with a Jenter or Cupkit frame to supply eggs of known age for the next step.

Step 3: Grafted larvae (20 or more depending on the strength of the colony) are installed in the upper box in the gap between the frames, which will now be filled with young bees. DO NOT USE SMOKE. Any emergency queen cells are removed. Within 24 hours the grafted larvae are “started” as queen cells and are then built up.

A Cloake BoardStep 4: The colony is then reunited into a “finisher” colony by removing the floor slider from the Cloake board. The queen excluder will prevent the queen from interfering with the new queen cells. Once the bees have started the queen cells they will continue to maturity even in a queen-right colony. The queen cells can be removed to an incubator when they are sealed. If they are left in the “finisher” colony they must be removed into nuc boxes two days before they are due to emerge. If they emerge in the colony the first out will probably destroy the others or the virgin queens will fight. Hair roller type cages can be put over the cells to contain the new queens.

Important points:

• The larvae used should be as young as possible i.e. 24 hours old. Using the Jenter or Cupkit system means that the age of the larvae is known. If grafting by other methods then use the smallest larvae possible.

• Timing is very important. A timetable needs to be drawn up to allow the beekeeper to plan when the cells need to be transferred to the mating nucs. There is a timetable that can be downloaded from the BIBBA website,“ Tom’s Table”. http://www.bibba.com/downloads.php

• The “starter” situation is a box crammed full of bees and no queen.

• The “finisher” colony is a queen-right colony that has an abundance of bees and food.

• Use a nice tempered, well fed colony both for the grafts and for the Cloake board colony.

See also this site.

Reproduced courtesy of Nottinghamshire BKA and eBees