Preparing now for the 2024 SEASON. Begin ordering your Nucs and 3 lb Packages - Fall of 2023!
Your source for honey bees & supplies in S.E. Tennessee

Honey Bee Queen Production Methods

The quality of the queen bee is very important for successful beekeeping. Harvesting the genetic male up from your best colonies is vital for genetic improvements. You need to consider each colonies characteristic, such as population growth, pollen and nectar collection, storage capacity, disease resistance, parasite eradication and gentleness when you are trying to choose the genetic line for your newest queens.


What you have to remember is the Queen is the only bee in a colony to pass its genetic traits. Remember the male drones in the colony are also the offspring of the queen in a colony so they can offer no genetics other than what already exists within the colony. Requeuing colonies annually helps to keep them strong and healthy.


Queen production is carried out for the following reasons:

  1. ƒƒ requeuing of a queenright colony or queening of a queenless colony
  2. ƒƒ requeuing to replace the queen in a non-productive colony
  3. ƒƒ Sale of queens to others
  4. ƒƒ Sale of colonies through colony multiplication

A queen cell is one that is specifically developed by the bees in a colony to produce a queen. A queen cell is larger and longer than any worker and/or drone cell. Queen cell on the comb do at times resemble a cow’s teat and/or even a peanut.

There are only 2 real methods that can be used for queen production: natural and artificial.


Natural Queen Production


Honeybees produce queens naturally for three different reasons:

  1. ƒƒ Swarming
  2. ƒƒ Supersede
  3. ƒƒ Emergency

Beekeepers can encourage natural production of queens by creating a queen-producing environment in a
colony at a favorable time of year.


Swarming queen cell

During the favorable honey flow season, honey bees have an impulse to swarm with the purpose sole of multiplying. Queen cells that develop at the edges of the brood comb are swarming cells and are generally accepted by the reigning queen and workers. Preparation for swarming begins with the development of many swarming cells. These swarm cells produce good quality queens and can be used in requeening and when dividing colonies.

Supersede queen cell

Supersede is the intentional replacement of a queen in a queenright colony usually because she is underperforming (old, injured, diseased, laying unfertilized eggs, has diminished pheromone production).

Usually one or more queen cells are prepared in the center or at the side of the face of the brood comb and the queen is forced to lay eggs in these cells.

After the new queen emerges, she mates with drones and starts laying eggs. The workers usually kill the old queen. In general, a colony practicing supersede does not swarm.

Older queens are superseded more frequently than younger ones because of the diminished performance and pheromone production. These queen cells can also be used for requeening other colonies or for colony division.

Emergency queen cell

If the colony accidently becomes queen less, the worker bees start developing many queen cells from fertilized eggs or from young larvae, frequently within 24 hours. These queen cells are called emergency queen cells. These emergency queen cells can be scattered in any part of the brood comb. Queen cells developed in an emergency are smaller and not all are of good quality. Swarming may also take place from emergency queen cells.


Artificial Queen Production

Queen bees can be produced artificially from a selected colony at a favorable time.

The beekeeper prepares artificial queen cells using beeswax and he then grafts 1–2-day-old larvae, not eggs, from the worker cells into these queen cells with the help of a grafting needle.

Nurse bees feed royal jelly to the grafted larvae that they accept. The nurse bees take care of the cells, and prepare mature queen cells, which can then be separated and transplanted to a queen less colony or nucleus colony.

The ideal time for queen rearing is different in different parts of the region depending on the specific geography and climatic situation.

Ideally it should be carried out during the honey flow period and under favorable weather conditions (warm and dry). This means March to April and September to October in plains, hills, and mid-hills areas, and around June in mountain areas.


Colony selection for queen production

Numbering each colony in an apiary is important for easy and accurate record keeping. These records should be maintained throughout the season any time you may be interacting with your hives. This is so that the genetic characteristics can more easily and accurately be evaluated.

Selection of colonies to produce queens and drones should be based on the following qualities.

  1. ƒƒ Strong and healthy
  2. ƒƒ Gentle
  3. ƒƒ Low tendency to swarm and abscond
  4. ƒƒ Population grows even in the dearth period
  5. ƒƒ Good nesting behavior, cover brood combs even in unfavorable seasons
  6. ƒƒ Resistant against pests and diseases
  7. ƒƒ High capacity for honey and pollen collection and storage

Selection of a queen cell

Your honey bee colony may have several queen cells of different types, sizes and quality. Always try to considered the following when selecting a queen cell:

  1. ƒƒ Choose a queen cell that is being attended and protected by a large number of workers.
  2. ƒƒ Choose a cell that is long and cylindrical (bigger cells generally have better quality queens).
  3. ƒƒ Retain two queen cells of different maturity.
  4. ƒƒ Remove any other queen cells to control swarming.

Requeening, queen release and replacement

Requeening is as not as easy as just placing a queen inside of a queen less hive, closing the top and walking away. When you place a new queen directly in a colony she could be balled (attacked) and killed by the workers. You can use the following methods and avoid this.

Queening using a queen cage

  1. ƒƒ Remove all the queen cells from all the combs in a queen less colony.
  2. ƒƒ Make a queenright colony queenless a minimum 24 hours before requeening.
  3. ƒƒ A queen that is going to be used for requeening should be kept in a queen cage with 5–6 attendant nurse bees you can feed them a drop or two of honey and water daily until you can get them into your hive.
  4. ƒƒ Place the queen cage with queen between brood frames in the colony (place in a position so as not to block the exit in case any of the attendants dies while waiting for the queen to be released).
  5. ƒƒ After 3 days in the colony if you find the queen has not been released, give a few puffs of smoke and then release the queen from the queen cage.
  6. If the released queen is covered by worker bees or they start climbing on the queen or teasing the queen wings, then re-cage the queen for a further 24 hours.

Grafting a queen cell

ƒƒUse a knife to carefully cut out a selected queen cell together with a small piece of comb surrounding the cell. This is most easily accomplished when done on a frame with wax foundation.

Remove a frame from the center of the brood chamber of the queenless colony and cut a space large enough so as to be able to insert the section that was removed from the donor frame.

Insert the donor cell and comb piece at the edge of the comb or into the space you made for it in the queenless hive. If you need too you can use a toothpick to hold the comb in place in the space in the frame.


ƒƒInspect the colony every 2–3 days to check and see if the queen has emerged and began laying. Egg laying should start within 15 days. If after 15 days you do not see new eggs or brood then you can remove the queen and either introduce a new queen, graft a new queen cell, or unite the colony with a queenright colony.


If drones are not available to mate with the new queen on her mating flights she may lay unfertilized eggs. As a result, drones will start developing in the worker cells. When this happens, you should remove the queen and introduce another queen or queen cell, or the colony should be united with a queenright colony.


Your IP Address is:

Begin ordering your
Nucs & 3lb Packages
Fall of 2023

Tennessee's Honey Bees