Queen Raising Short Course

A two-day intensive course for beekeepers covering practical and theoretical aspects of queen rearing, queen breeding, and stock improvement.

The course has been developed by the National Diploma in Beekeeping Board as part of its series of Train-the-Trainer courses. It is part-funded by Fera as part of the Defra Healthy Bees Plan.

Course Content

In the climate of the British Isles, the honey bee faces a cyclical challenge: survival, build-up, harvest, decline, and survival once more. After a long winter confinement, colonies are stretched and stressed by the demands of brood raising in order to provide a foraging force for the relatively short window of forage abundance. Vigorous and viable queens are the keystone to this cycle of survival.

By selectively breeding queens from our best stocks, we can improve the health and resilience of our honey bees, their suitability and adaptation to local climate and forage, and other desirable characteristics.

As beekeepers we need to have an understanding of the potential for stock improvement, and the skills with which to achieve this so that our bees can become healthy, productive, and pleasurable to work with.

During this two day course, we will develop an understanding of the processes of stock selection and queen raising, utilising a mix of classroom and apiary tuition and exercises. Students will participate in all the key practical elements of a queen raising programme.

Topics covered will include:

  • The structure and function of the sexual organs of the queen and drone
  • How simple selection can improve honey bee colony viability
  • Information and records required to inform on selection of breeding stock
  • The different systems of queen raising
  • Grafting young worker larvae into queen cells
  • Preparing and maintaining a queen right colony for successive queen cell raising cycles
  • The different systems for mating virgin queens
  • Preparing, stocking, maintaining and re-using Apidea style mating nucs
  • The requirements for transporting  queen cells
  • Clipping, marking and packaging mated queens for sale or introduction
  • Set up multiple nuclei using the ‘Vince Cook ring’ method
  • An awareness of how to train others in these practices

The course will be limited to no more than 10 students at a time.  This classroom- and apiary-based course is intended to provide attendees with sufficient information and insight to establish or expand queen mating operations for an Association. Handouts will be provided to be used as tutor notes by attendees if they will be leading queen rearing groups, and as reminders of the processes and procedures practised during the course.

This course will also be of great interest to anyone considering studying the BBKA Module 7 (Selection and Breeding of Honeybees, a.k.a. Queen Rearing) examination.

Target Audience

The Short Courses are aimed at those beekeepers with some experience of the craft; they are not aimed at novices. We can provide guidance to applicants as to the appropriateness of our Short Courses to their stage of beekeeping. We do ask that students respect this policy. Students are welcome to apply on a first come, first served basis.

The NDB Short Courses can provide valuable discussion, learning, and hands-on experience for those planning to take the BBKA Modules and Assessments above Basic level.

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