Category Archives: Beekeeping Information

Adapted Queen Rearing Method

The following article is from Glyn Davies’ notes on the Donald Sims adaptation of Miller Queen Rearing Method

This year I wanted to try a different system of queen rearing; one that did not need techniques of grafting – every year I seem to need brighter and brighter light to do this and the young larvae don’t like bright light or inaccurate, clumsy handling. So when I came across Donald Sims’ description of Dr C C Miller’s system in his book “50 Years amongst the Bees” I decided to try it. Here is a summary of my experience so that if anyone would like to try it next year, at least you can benefit from my mistakes and wrong decisions. However, it was not a complete failure and, as with most beekeeping techniques, should be better next time. First in brief, is my adaptation of Donald Sims’ adaptation of Dr Miller’s system.

Glyn’s Adaptation of Donald Sims Adaptation of Dr Miller’s Method of Queen Rearing
1Select a Breeder colony; Give stimulation feed. Call this Box A.Early
2Select a strong colony with old or unsuitable Queen – Box C; feed for a few days.Day -3
3Prepare a frame as below for collecting eggs; use unwired foundation.Day -2/3
4Remove all but 2 frames of Brood from Box A into second empty box - Box B, shaking all the adhering bees back into Box A first.Day 1
5Place B on another colony over a QE.Day 1
6Place prepared frame between two Brood Frames in Box A.Day 1
7About one week later, examine the frame which should be laid-up. Brush bees back into A. Cut back the new comb to the youngest, just hatched, larvae.Day 7
8Kill or remove Queen from C. Place all Box C brood combs but NO BEES into B.Day 7
9Place prepared larvae into the Queenless Box C between two good food frames. (Box C now has all its bees including nurse bees and only the added brood to rear.)Day 7
10A few days later, examine to count Queen cells available for Nucs.Day 10/12
11Unite Box B over newspaper including bees, with Box C.Day 10/12
12Make Nucs from B&C 10 days later (ie after DAY 7) & give a Q Cell to each.Day 17/18
Notes of Experience (Numbers refer to the stages listed above)
1Selection of Breeder. I selected an old queen that has performed beautifully for 3 years and also given good daughter queens under previous systems.
2Selection of cell raiser. This is the most critical decision and where I failed miserably. Actually, there is often not much choice if you have just a few colonies. In addition there is something contradictory about looking for a strong colony with a weak or undesirable queen. By “undesirable” we must not mean “aggressive”. This colony will be queenless for a while and manipulated frequently – not very easy for queen rearing if it has a bad temper! Limited choice made me select a colony that was not strong enough; the reason for my difficulties later.
3The cutting of the foundation does not have to be accurate but certainly unwired foundation is preferable. Not only does it ease the initial shaping of the comb, it also facilitates the more delicate cutting to day old larvae and removal of mature queen cells later (See 7 & 13)
4This was a dilemma. The breeder colony was a growing nucleus, the old breeder queen having been confined in it; I didn’t want her to head a strong colony this year. There were only two spare brood combs which I moved to Box B as directed.
7Great! My old faithful queen had done a great job. Colleague Bob Normand with his 20/20 vision, cut the combs back to the newest larvae.
8There was no reason to kill the queen so Bob took her in a cage and later said she was doing fine in a growing colony. There were only 3 spare brood frames in Box C including egg covered combs. Too few for later.
9Easy to do but I began to worry that colony C was too small for good queen rearing.
11Loads of queen cells started. I reduced these to 10 well-spaced cells examining both sides of the frame. This was my biggest error. It should have been no more than 5. There were too few bees to feed ten.
12OK and easy.
13There were actually 11 rather undersized sealed cells. I gave up the nucleus idea and united the frames to C. Gave a reasonable queen cell to C and made up mini-nucs for the rest. A fortunate coincidence was that I had a queen above the excluder in another colony. I had found her two days before and put her below. The supers, full of brood of course, had loads of nurse bees in them. So I shook them off into a swarm box the day before with a few from other colonies to fill 10 mini-nucs. Now I am waiting to see the result. The virgins do not look too bad.

Well, from the 10 mini-nucs I have 6 laying queens. [The others were lost in the mating process – a risk under any system. Always aim for double the number of queens you would like to end up with!]

At this stage they look smaller than I would like but I shall watch them carefully and hopefully each will bring a colony through the coming winter at least. I must remember the beekeepers’ motto. “Do it better next year”

Recently I have become a great fan of Dr CC Miller. His name crops up with commonplace regularity in beekeeping conversations and it’s possible to mention his name and inventions for years without getting to know the great man. I was delighted to see that the publishers David & Charles in Newton Abbot, through their American associates Dover Books have reissued his classic “Fifty Years Among the Bees”. This was reviewed in Devon BKA’s “Beekeeping” magazine last month. The great feature of the book is his humour which comes through his writing and the honest way in which he admits and deals with his mistakes. It seems to me that Donald Sims also admired Dr Miller but rather typically added 10 years in one-upmanship giving his book the title. “Sixty Years with Bees”. I found Sims very useful, and interesting for the name dropping of contemporary beekeepers in it, but annoyingly, he was always perfect, apparently, in his bee management. The rather complicated shorthand for his beekeeping notes is also very similar to the way that Miller wrote his memoranda. (While mentioning Sims I must say that newcomers must be careful of his erroneous comments about Terramycin on page 223 of “60 Years…..”)

Miller kept bees from 1861 until his death at 90 in 1920. His book is a wonderful social history of America at the time but crucially he lived through the time when Langstroth’s vital discovery and application of bee space in 1851 changed ancient, traditional beekeeping methods for ever. Clearly, Dr C C Miller adopted movable frame hives very early and many of his methods for queen rearing, comb and section production (for years his sole income was from his sale of comb honey) are still relevant and useful today.

When it comes to EFB, in 1909 he had 150 colonies and only 22 showed no sign of the disease. He wrote, “I felt like giving up but only for a little while”. Antibiotics were 50 years away so he used several techniques. (IPM?) One he called the “McAvoy Treatment” – brushing bees on to new foundation! William McAvoy was a Canadian beekeeper who had been appointed to be the first beekeeping inspector (anywhere?) in Ontario in 1891. Was he the inventor of the currently, much-promoted, DEFRA EFB control system? However, Miller found later that many bees had left;- “bag and baggage, leaving empty hives”. (Marie Celeste syndrome? Or most likely straight absconding such as can be experienced today with shook swarms). Miller also explains how, in mild cases of EFB with one or two cells infected, (and he says it is easy to identify these by colour alone), then caging the queen for 7/10 days will cause the disease to disappear. You will have to read the book for an explanation but it is consistent with modern theories of EFB even though he believed the disease was caused by Bacillus alveii as did many others at the time. Dr Miller warns that this treatment would be no good for American Foul Brood.

“Fifty years Among the Bees” concludes with a section of delicious sounding recipes for fruitcakes, jellies and cookies obviously around 100 years old. There is also a section of recipes for potions, lotions and remedies for a range of ailments. True apitherapy – when it was necessary, and written way before modern, high-tech, effective (mostly) medicines.


Like many BBKA members I have read most of Roger Patterson’s articles on Queen quality from the BBKA website and elsewhere The weak queens I have described above have an obvious cause for their defects. In some defence of my beekeeping skills, I have to say that queens that I have raised by orthodox systems this year, that is by artificial swarm techniques or other swarm control measures, have yielded some cracking queens. And those reared last year using a Jenter kit and a Cloake system for rearing have also done well. My view is that the problems Roger is describing can probably be put down to weakened drone and queen fertility caused by the 12+ years use of fluvalinates for Varroa control. There is considerable published scientific evidence for this now. Here in Devon, for several years now, few people have used Apistan or Bayvarol. And before long, the whole of UK will be free of these particular varroacides. (Apivar (Amitraz) is no longer used in USA and although effective for a few years, should not be used as an alternative if fertility is in question. It is not “legit.” in UK anyway.) It will be interesting to see what will happen to our queens in the coming years. Please report your successful queen rearing however simple. I am concerned that publicity is only being given to queen rearing problems and we have never been free of these of one sort or another. The web site or BBKA News are good platforms for this information.

Glyn Davies – August 2006

Spring Colony Split

The object is to create increase and control swarming.

Select a strong, good quality colony (a marked queen will make the job easier).

Feed early to stimulate growth (further feed will be needed).

An extra hive and frames and dummy frames will be needed.


Select the strong colony to be split and to raise queen cells and place a new brood box with foundation a few meters away.

One cell can be left in the raising colony to re-establish there. Dummies should be removed and replaced with new frames as appropriate.

These guidelines should be modified to suit local circumstances.

Based on an article by Glyn Davies.

Making Heavy Syrup

Making up heavy syrup, sometimes referred to as 2:1 or winter syrup, is not at all difficult. Many will know the 1 lb of sugar to 1 pt of water recipe, which in modern parlance roughly equates to 2 kg sugar in 1.25 l of water.

To make up ~12.5 litres use the following recipe.

Putting a contact feeder containing syrup onto a hiveHeat up 6.25 l of water to boiling and turn off the heat. Add 10 kg white sugar and stir until dissolved. Once dissolved the liquid will be clear and slightly straw coloured. Be careful not to boil the solution as boiling can produce a molecule called hydroxymethylfurfural which can cause ulceration of the bees gut and so is potentially quite harmful.

Once cooled sufficiently I add 5 ml of thymol solution made up to the recipe on Dave Cushmans website (always be careful when handling thymol crystals). This makes a 1 x Manley strength thymolised sugar syrup which should not suffer from black mould.

For reference, and hopefully to save your back, 12.5 l of 2:1 sugar syrup weighs about 16 kg and is equivalent to about 14-15kg of stores when in the hive.


Bridget Beattie. (August 2013). Winter Feeding. Available: Last accessed 30 September 2016.

Beekeeping Timetable

We are lucky to have Glyn Davies coordinating our apiary management in Torbay, some years ago Glyn produced a beekeeping timetable detailing the yearly schedule for beekeepers in Devon.

The timetable includes among other things, details about how many bees one would expect in a colony what main sources of forage are available, when to apply treatments for varroa and when to take samples for disease testing. Loads of stuff in fact, it is a really useful schedule which both new and more experienced beekeepers will find useful and informative.

Beekeeping Timetable

Beekeeping Timetable 

There is also an editable version available in word format on the DARG website.

Labelling Advice

General Honey Labelling Advice

  • The word “honey” is required.
  • When packed in quantities exceeding 50g may only be packed in prescribed quantities of 57g(2oz), 113g (4oz), 227g (8oz), 340g (12oz), 454g(1lb) or multiples of 454g(1lb).
  • The weight must be on the label.
  • The weight must be metric (and it’s optional to add the Imperial weight as well).
  • The weight must be net, i.e. not including the glass-jar and lid.
  • The minimum height of figures on the label must be as follows: <50g 2mm; 50-200g, 3mm; 200g-1kg, 4mm; >1kg, 6mm.
  • You can specify the area where the honey is produced, e.g., Devonshire honey.
  • You can specify the type of honey, e.g. heather, but the honey must be at least 75% of that type.
  • If you are selling the honey, you must have your name and address on the label. It does not need to be complete but you should be able to be found from the information.
  • If you are selling the honey through a third party, you must have a lot number (though if your Best Before date specifies day, month and year then a lot number is not required).
  • You must have a Best Before date on the jar. 2 years from now seems to be pretty standard.
  • You must have a country of origin on the jar, e.g. Produce of England. Just adding the country to the end of your address is not acceptable.

There is more information in the BBKA leaflet Selling Honey .


The Torbay Branch of Devon Beekeepers Association disclaims all responsibility for all consequences of any person acting on, or refraining from acting in reliance on information contained above.

Queen Marking Colours

The international queen marking colours code was created to allow beekeepers to mark their queens using a code which all other beekeepers, wherever they were in the world, would understand.

The colours are used to show which year the queen was born in, they also help to enable beekeepers to spot the queen when doing a hive inspection.

Year ending inColourMnemonic
1 or 6WhiteWill
2 or 7YellowYou
3 or 8 RedRear
4 or 9GreenGood
5 or 0BlueBees?

Honey Extraction

This sequence of photographs show the principles of extracting honey to keep it fresh clean and undamaged by heat. The set-up has been developed over several years on a domestic scale but is able to manage now a crop of dozens of supers. Many beekeepers with just 2 or 3 hives yielding 5 or 6 supers can manage with smaller apparatus adapted for the kitchen but the basic principles are the same. These are summarised below. Clean water and hand cleaning cloths are essential.

  1. Extract the honey as soon as it comes from the hive or keep the supers warm. This allows the honey to flow more easily.
  2. Uncap safely and drain cappings which will contain a lot of honey. Remove the wax capping with a very shallow cut. At least three quarters of honey in the combs should be sealed and no honey should drop out of the comb before cells are uncapped.
  3. Avoid equipment that heats the honey and cappings such as Pratley trays.
  4. A radial extractor is the most efficient and a motorised one is a wise investment.
  5. Coarsely strain honey from the extractor as is runs into to the Settling tank or container to remove wax bits.
  6. Store the honey in air-tight food containers. It will set firmly sooner or later.
  7. Warm the containers to melt the honey to maximum of 50C, Then fine filter it through 200 mesh nylon or stainless steel, allow it to settle to let micro air bubbles rise to the surface then run into jars.
  8. Do not store honey in jars for long periods.
  9. Well-drained cappings can be rendered down in a solar wax extractor. Other methods can be read about in guide books or invented!