Oregon State Beekeepers Association

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Beekeeping 101 - Rearing Queens

Bees will produce queens under the stimuli of:

  • supersedure
  • swarming
  • emergency conditions

Most, if not all, queens produced commercially are produced under the swarming stimulus.

Any beekeeper can produce queen cells by simply removing the queen, creating an emergency status. Within a day or so, around 5-15 emergency cells will have been started. After these cells are capped, they can be cut out and transferred to another colony. After emerging and mating, the colony is thus requeened with a queen of the type chosen by  you, the beekeeper.

Most common methods of commercial queen production use variations of   the" Doolittle method." The elements of this technique are:

1. Breeder Colony (or colonies): this colony has characteristics that you want to incorporate into all your colonies and, thus, the source of queens of "good stock.". You can select for almost any common characteristic (gentleness, productivity, color, winter-hardiness). Larvae, three days old or younger are selected from this colony for the grafting into beeswax queencups in the Starter Colony.

2. Starter colony (or colonies): A Queenless-colony having a population depending on how many queen cells are to be produced - a small population is required for only a few cells, while 4-5 pounds of bees is needed to produce hundreds of cells. There should be no eggs or young larvae in this colony.

3. Cell Building Colony (also called a cell Finishing Colony). Since the starter colony may require large numbers of bees and extensive manipulation, "started" cells are moved to Cell Building Colonies to be finished after twenty-four hours, while grafted larvae are again placed within the  Starting Colony if desired. Started cells are placed near emerging brood above a queen excluder. The Cell building Colony allows the Cell Starting Colony to be used much longer and start many more cells. "Ripe," capped cells must be removed before the 16th day of their development, which means at the latest ten  days after they are put in the starter colony.

4. Queen Mating Nuclei. Ripe cells are transferred to queen mating nuclei (Nucs). Thee is no standard size or style nuc. Warmer climates use smaller nucs (baby Nucs), while colder climates must use larger nuclei. Queens emerge from their cells here, take mating flights and begin to lay. Queens are then inspected to see if eggs are present in the nuc and them introduced to their permanent hive.

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See a contact list by location of beekeepers who collect swarms of honeybees.


See a contact list of beekeepers who provide pollination services.


Download the Farm Direct Rules PDF document.


Download the OSBA Membership form.


Download the Oregon Dept of Agriculture Hive Registration form.


View or download the Endowment Agreement with Oregon State University.


View instructions for donating to the OSU Endowment for the Northwest Apiculture Fund for Honey Bee Research, Extension and Education.

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