2.1.2. Basic principles of queen rearing

A honey bee colony can produce a new queen without human intervention as long as fertilized eggs are present. Beekeepers have developed techniques to rear large numbers of queen bees to requeen colonies regularly (every year or two), to reduce swarming, to increase brood and honey production, to start new colonies, and to change certain genetic characteristics (Laidlaw and Page, 1997; Ruttner, 1983). Many US beekeepers requeen as often as twice a year.

The key in queen rearing is to take a young (12-24 hours old) larva from a worker cell and place (“graft”) it into a queen cell cup suspended vertically in a hive. The larva is fed on a special royal jelly diet by the nurse bees. After 10-11 days, the queen cells, which are ready to emerge, can be transferred to queenless hives or mating nuclei (“nucs”) (Woodward, 2007). The success and quality of queen production depends on strong, well fed and healthy nurse colonies and on suitable equipment and colony management.