Queen Rearing – Wilson Technique

Split Board made from solid floor

Split board with two entrances

One of my colonies has reached the stage where I expect it might begin its own swarming activities if I don’t intervene. The colony, Aqua, was on a double brood box with 12 frames of brood and 1 super. So I decided to carry out a variation of the Wilson technique (see for the full description).
The only extra piece of equipment I need at this stage is the solid floor that I have modified to act as a split board. The photo on the right shows the 2 slots covered with mesh and the entrance cut into the back of the floor with the normal entrance block narrowed down slightly. This technique is similar to one using a Snelgrove board, but it’s simpler with less manipulations required.

Modified brood box

Queen raiser box with division board

The brood box for the queen raiser portion has also been modified so that it can be split into two halves if a division board is inserted enabling me to raise 2 nucleus size colonies (my current plan).The split board and the modified brood box can be clipped together with toggle clamps to make subsequent inspections of the parent colony easier. I can just lift the queen raiser box and floor off in one go.




Wilson - Day 1 a.m.

1st manipulation on Day 1

Manipulation 1 – On Sunday a.m. 13th May – I split the colony up as follows:
1) Queen raiser – 8 frames of brood with as much unsealed brood as possible. 2 frames of drawn comb “filled” with syrup and placed at each end.
2) Parent colony – 4 frames of brood, 6 frames of stores and drawn comb
I built the colony up as follows: the parent colony (with the queen) on the existing floor, queen excluder, queen raiser, super.

The purpose of this manipulation is to get as many bees as possible to cover the brood in the upper box as this will become the queen rearing one.



Wilson - Day 1 p.m.

2nd manipulation with queen raiser on floor


Manipulation 2 – On Sunday p.m. 13th May – I swapped the positions of the 2 brood boxes around and replaced the queen excluder with the split board. The bees without the queen should start to raise queen cells from the eggs and larvae. The top box with the queen is now on the split board with the 2 side entrances open. The majority of the flying bees from the queen-right top box will return back to the original entrance and boost the queen raiser colony.





I will inspect the colony in a week to check that the queen is continuing to lay and that the queen raiser has built queen cells. I only need to perform one further manipulation in 10 days time before the queens emerge in the queen raiser. I will split the box into 2 halves with the division board and take out any excess queen cells leaving just one sealed cell in each half.

So as you can see it’s a fairly easy technique to use to raise one or two queens with no interruption to the colony’s foraging activities.

Swarm Control – Using a Modified Snelgrove Board Part 2

The split seems to be doing well. The colony looks to be balanced with more bees in the queen rearing half. This is to be expected as the flying bees are returning to this colony. Both entrances are being used.

  1. There are no queen cells in the lower parent, didn’t spot the queen but there were about 3 frames of eggs out of the 6 brood frames.
  2. In the queen raiser half there were about 6 unsealed queen cells, none on the frame I gave them from the lower box. I will go back in 3 days to select one cell to remain and take 2 for my apideas.

The apidea frames that I put into the super hadn’t been drawn any further than when I visited on Tuesday. So I just took them out and stocked the apideas with bees from the other 2 colonies. As I hadn’t added any feed I was able to use the bottom slide and it’s certainly easier than trying to get them in past the frames and push the lid on quickly.

I brought the apideas home and fed with syrup. Normally I find this to be very messy and lose a lot of bees taking the lid and cover off. But this time I drilled a small 4mm hole in the acrylic cover and used a syringe to squirt the syrup into the feeder. Certainly a lot easier than my past experiences. Finally I sprayed some water in through the front grill and put in a quiet spot to acclimatise and hopefully draw out the wax in the next few days.

Swarm Control – Using a Modified Snelgrove Board

My largest colony is on two 14 x 12 brood boxes and at the week-end showed signs of swarming with a number of charged queen cells and 2 additional ones with eggs in. The colony has plenty of space but as it is very big , 13 frames of brood, it seems to have decided to make preparations for swarming. Not being prepared I went back 2 days later to perform a split with a modified Snelgrove board. The technique was described by Ken Basterfield in Beecraft (April 2012).

It’s similar to the technique I normally use to raise 2 nucs above a brood box in a single stack system, but looks simpler and involves less manipulations. My usual split board is a solid floor with 2 entrances on opposite sides of the same face. So I made up a new Snelgrove type split board by cutting 2 entrances on opposite edges of a crownboard with one on the upper side and the other on the lower side. I then covered the porter escape slots with wire mesh on both faces.

Modified Split Board

Modified Crownboard

At the last inspection I used a queen excluder to confine the queen to the bottom box. Fist step was to take off the super and the top brood box and set to one side. I found the queen and put her in a clip cage whilst I went through the bottom box. The bottom box and floor were turned through 180 degrees and the entrance block closed off. I shook the bees off the frames to make sure I didn’t miss any queen cells knocking down the queen cells the bees had started in the last 48 hours since my last inspection – 3 charged ones and 2 with eggs in. I took a frames with mainly eggs from the bottom box and swapped this with a frame of stores from the top brood box. The modified split board came next with the upper entrance open for the top brood box in the same orientation as the original lower entrance. The entrance at the rear was opened up for the lower brood box.

The theory being the flying bees from the lower box will return to the front of the hive where the old entrance was and crawl up to the new entrance boosting the bees in the top box. This is different from most other methods using a split board as they normally ensure that the flying bees return to the parent colony, i.e. bottom box. But as the 2 brood boxes have a similar amount of brood combs it means that they should both be strong enough to rear the brood and the foragers can still access the super above the top box.

The frames with the open queen cells could have been moved into the top box, but as I had shaken them I decided to let the bees draw their own queen cells from one of the existing brood frames or even from the transferred frames of eggs and larvae.

I will inspect in 5 days to select just one queen cell for the top brood box and if there are any spare ones transfer them to Apideas. It will also give me a chance to inspect the lower box and check that it has no queen cells and enough bees. If there aren’t enough bees in the bottom box I can reverse the split board and boost it with the flying bees from the top box. The bees had started to draw the comb on the Apidea frames that I mounted on a top bar and put into the super at the week-end.

It will be interesting to see how the technique works.