Beekeeping & Wildlife Supplies, Cornwall, South West UK

Queen Bee Mating Hive

Queen bee mating hive mini nucs

Queen bee mating hives are miniature nucleus bee hives, sometimes known as mini nucs used solely for the purpose of providing a miniature colony from which a queen can fly to mate and commence laying.
They are a very useful piece of equipment to have so the most can be made of spare queen cells.
Available here - Queen Bee Mating Hive
Not many bees are required to populate them so they use the minimum of resources to produce a newly mated queen bee ready to head a colony.
The wooden 'bracket holders' in the image above allow them to be conveniently attached and sited almost anywhere and also prevent them from being blown or knocked over.

Suggested method for use:

  1. Assemble the frames and fit a starter strip securing it with some molten wax (using a beeswax candle is easiest).
  2. Insert the frames so the semi-circular notches align to form holes for the insertion of a queen cell.
  3. Fill the feeder with fondant now or fill with 50% syrup after populating the hive.
  4. Ensure the top entrance is swivelled to the ventilation panel and the bottom entrance is closed.
  5. Invert the hive and slide out the floor panel to allow approximately a mug-full (approx. 1000) worker bees to be poured in.
  6. Brush or shake worker bees from frames into a container.
  7. Spray the bees lightly with water or weak (5%) syrup to keep them clustered.
  8. Pour a mug-full of the bees into the hive. At this point, a virgin bee could also be put in.
  9. Close the floor slide and invert so right way up.
  10. Keep the hive in a cool, dark place for 24 hours. Spray water through the vent panel twice in this 24 hours. Then introduce a queen cell.
  11. Keep the hive in a cool, dark place for another 24 hours. Spray water through the vent panel twice in this 24 hours.
  12. Place mating hive on site, above ground.
  13. Open either or both entrances.
  14. If a virgin queen bee was included, check in 2 weeks.
  15. If a queen cell was included, check in 3 weeks.
  16. There should be eggs after 4 weeks.
  17. Check and fill feeder during these weeks.
  18. When eggs are seen, adjust entrances to queen excluder panel.

Notes to the above:

1. An assembled frame with a secured starter strip of foundation.

Queen bee mating hive mini nuc frame
6. Worker bees can be taken from frames from different hives but ensure the queen is not taken and preferably avoid taking drones which would be of no use.

Ideally mating nuclei would be prepared and populated in advance of use, usually timed with the managed production of queen cells.
However, they can be populated for ad hoc use for spare virgin queen bees or ripe queen cells (less than 36 hours before expected emergence) found when inspecting a colony.
A virgin queen bee could be inserted at stage 10 or 11.
A 'ripe' queen cell  could be inserted at stage 8, 10 or 11.

10. & 11. The period of confinement is necessary to allow the workers to become a cohesive colony. Cool and dark (like non-flying conditions) is best to encourage the bees to cluster.

12. It is best to open the hive in non-flying conditions.

16. The timings are variable. We have introduced a ripe queen cell on Day 1 and seen first eggs laid on Day 12!

18. If the new laying queen is not removed, she can run out of space for egg laying and sometimes the colony will then abandon the hive, known as 'absconding'.
The queen excluder panel can help prevent this. Extending the hive with an additional hive box and frames to provide extra space also helps.
After eggs are found, it is best to wait until the brood is sealed before using the new queen.
This ensures the queen is not a drone layer and also provides some new bees to keep the mating hive populated.
Another virgin queen bee or ripe queen cell can be inserted to produce another mated queen when the new queen is removed.
The mating hive, complete with a new queen could be united with a queenless colony in the usual way (uniting screen) by unclipping and removing the floor and placing over the queenless colony in an empty box.
These mating hives can also 
be extended with additional hive boxes and be overwintered.

Queen bee and brood on mating hive mini nuc frame

Queen bee and brood on mating hive mini nuc frame
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