A Cloake board is an essential piece of kit for anyone considering rearing their own queens. The method utilises a queen-right colony ensuring the best quality queens.
Cloake boards can be bought from beekeeping suppliers such as Thornes. Click here for Thornes Cloake Board. Although they are simple enough to make.
As mine are all in use – here’s a temporary photo borrowed from Thornes to assist my description. I hope they don’t mind.
Basically it consists of a queen excluder with a bee space underneath. On top are some lats equipped with grooves to hold a removable slide which can be made of metal or plywood. Ideally the space between the top surface of the slide and the bottoms of the frames in the box above should not be more than a beespace or the bees will draw down wax during the course of this procedure and that can cause obstruction and delay.
The method utilises a strong queen-right colony in a double brood box. The board is placed between the two boxes and when the slide is inserted, it makes half of the colony temporarily queenless. During 3 queenless days, grafts or cells from a Jenter or Cupkit are introduced and there is a high degree of acceptance. The colony is then made queen-right again, the bees are returned to their right-minds and calmly raise excellent quality cells.
If the colony is set up early in the season several iterations are possible – the frames being rearranged after each crop of cells is removed.
You will need:
- A strong colony of bees in a double brood box not swarming or even thinking of swarming;
- A spare brood box;
- A feeder and strong syrup;
- A frame of pollen if there isn’t one in your strong colony
- Find the queen and put her somewhere safe on the frame you found her;
- Turn the floor so it is facing the opposite direction and block the entrance;
- Now sort the frames removing any lumps of wax from the bottoms as you go or these will impede your slide later. The spare box comes in useful here. Into one box – Box B put all or most of the frames of eggs and larvae in one box and in the other Box A put the frames of capped brood, emerging brood and empty frames for the queen to lay into;
- Now reassemble the hive. Put Box A onto the floor and put the queen, on her frame, into the middle of it;
- Put the Cloake board (WITHOUT THE SLIDE) on top of Box A with the entrance facing the same direction as the original entrance;
- Put Box B on top of the Cloake board and replace any supers
At this point the bees in the top box will have no larvae young enough to make themselves a new queen. However, up until now they have been in contact with their queen through the queen excluder. This point is important.
- Now add the slide – you will need a puff of smoke. This makes the bees in the top box effectively queenless.
- Open the entrance at the back – the one in the floor – the one you blocked earlier.
The flying bees now depart from the bottom box but they will return to the entrance at the front – the one which now leads only to the queenless top box. This has a dual effect:
- It depletes the population in the bottom box – which is now unable to think about swarming – if that thought had occurred to them it will now be forgotten.
- It increases the population in the top box, perhaps doubling it, which intensifies the impression of queenlessness making them very welcoming of the small larvae you are about to add.
3. Now add your bar frame to acclimatise and get a bit of a bee-ish smell to it.
4. Make sure there is a frame of pollen next to it;
5. If you are neurotic, like me, go quickly through and make sure there are no queen cells in the top box;
6. If there is no flow or if they are a bit on the light side you should add a feeder and feed a heavy syrup (2:1).
- Retrieve your bar frame;
- Add your day old larvae either as grafts or from a Jenter or CupKit.
If you are using a Jenter or Cupkit you will know your larvae will be a little less than 4 days old – 3 days as eggs and in their 1st day as larvae. If you have grafted – you can be less sure.
- Remove the slide
- Block the back door
Cells are capped and the queens will emerge on Day 20/21 depending on exactly when the eggs hatched.
At this point, if you have supers on, lift the brood box containing your cells up on top of the supers. This should stop the bees from drawing comb in amongst and around your queen cells.
Get your cells into Apideas
Cells hatch/queens emerge
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