Queen cell nursery

Cloake Board Method of Queen Rearing

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.

Click here for a timetable for the Cloake board system

The Board

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.

Cloake Board, National/Commercial

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

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
Day 0
    1. Find the queen and put her somewhere safe on the frame you found her;
    2. Turn the floor so it is facing the opposite direction and block the entrance;

  1. 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;
  2. Now reassemble the hive. Put Box A onto the floor and put the queen, on her frame, into the middle of it;
  3. Put the Cloake board (WITHOUT THE SLIDE) on top of Box A  with the entrance facing the same direction as the original entrance;
  4. Put Box B on top of the Cloake board and replace any supers
Day 7

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.

  1. Now add the slide – you will need a puff of smoke. This makes the bees in the top box effectively queenless.
  2. 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 – expect the unexpected and go quickly through to 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).

Day 8

  1. Retrieve your bar frame;
  2. 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.

Day 9
    1. Remove the slide
    2. 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.

Day 18

Get your cells into Apideas

Day 20/21

Cells hatch/queens emerge

Click here for a Cloake board system timetable

Click here for How to set up an Apidea

Click here for How to set up your Jenter Kit

Click here for How to Graft

Click here for How to improve your Bees

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4 thoughts on “Cloake Board Method of Queen Rearing”

  1. Hi, i have set up my cloake board & ready for day 9, but typically is wet & windy today so i cant get my laevae for grafts. Is it o.k to be a day or 2 over at this stage? And then wait another day once there in to let them start raising q/cells then remove insert as normal.

    Thanks for any advice


    1. You’ve probably got a day or two’s grace but be careful, the longer they are left ‘queenless’ the more desperate they become. That suits your cause for a short while but then they will get creative so be very careful and check that they have no queen cells elsewhere. They have been known to steal an egg from another hive!

  2. hi found your article on the cloake board intresting but i thought the queen emerges on day 16 give or take a day depending on the temp 16 days for a queen 21 days for a worker 24 days for a drone thanks frank

    1. Hello Frank,
      Thank you for your comment – that’s got the old grey matter running early!
      I think you are mixing up two time sequences – queen cell development and the Cloake board method.
      Don’t forget the little larvae you add in on Day 9 of the Cloake board method are already 4 days old.
      As you quite rightly say, the queens will emerge on their 16 day which is 12 days later.
      Add 12 days to Day 9 of the Cloake board method and you come to Day 21.
      Hope that makes sense.

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