After coffee, I headed across the way to a workshop (we didn’t do any work!) on Queen Rearing Using a Cloake Board by Mark Newenham.
A Cloake Board is a rim the size of a crown board into which you can slide in or out a sheet of metal or plastic. It has an upper entrance and sits on a queen excluder. To use it you’ll need a strong, congested colony (may need feeding), a queenless colony then also queenright supersedure queen cell protectors.
A queen’s incubation period is 16 days of which 8 are open and 8 sealed. Graft on day 4, take out cells on day 14. The queen will mate around day 22 and will be laying about day 27.
Why use a Cloake Board? It takes advantage of both queenright and queenless systems. Method: place the queen in a brood box with the sealed brood. This goes on the floor which has been rotated 180 degrees so that the entrance is now at the rear. Add the queen excluder, the Cloake board with the sheeting removed and the entrance facing the front of the hive, then the top brood box containing open brood and pollen and stores. The flying bees will soon find and get used to using the Cloake Board entrance.
Wait 7 days to ensure that all the brood in the top box has been sealed so there is no opportunity to make queen cells. Insert the slider to make the top half queenless. Insert a bar with plastic queen cups for a day to acquire the scent of the hive.
On day 8 graft into the cell cups from your chosen hive. Check for any queen cells (unlikely) in the hive and add the frame with the bar of grafts. On day 9 remove the slider from the Cloake Board, making the top box once again queen right so that the workers will continue to treat the grafted cells as supersedure cells.
Wait 10 days. On day 18 remove the frame with the cells, the baby queens within which are now 14 days old. Transfer them to apideas, mating nuclei or an incubator.
To introduce a queen to a nucleus, spray the bees with dilute syrup, spray the queen with the same syrup and drop her in.
From which hives should you graft? Select for docility, honey production, brood pattern, overwintering, pest and disease resistance/tolerance. Check for Varroa resistance/hygiene by the pin prick test. Breed from locally adapted strains. Work with local beekeepers in your BKA or form a breeding group.
Expect a success rate of around 50% so rear twice as many as you’ll need. Weather is a great factor in success or failure.