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Queen Rearing – Using a Cloake Board

Queen Rearing – Using a Cloake Board

Posted by Bruce Clow on 25th Jan 2022

Queen Rearing – Using a Cloake Board © Ceracell Beekeeping Supplies (NZ) Ltd


In their natural state, bees will rear new queens basically in three situations:

1. In preparation for swarming where the incumbent queen will leave the hive taking a proportion of the existing bees with her and leaving the rest to a new queen.

2. In an emergency where the queen has suddenly disappeared, died or been killed.

3. In a supersedure where the queen is still in the hive, moving about and laying eggs, but she is failing and the bees recognise this, usually through a reduction of queen pheromones, and start to raise a new queen.

Most queen rearing systems make use of the “emergency” response of bees to rear queens. In the basic splitting of a hive, in the queenless half the bees recognise very quickly that they are queenless and immediately select several young larvae to raise as queens. However, the bees don’t always choose the best larvae, and the oldest one chosen will emerge first, and of course kill any rivals still in their cells. And the oldest larva rarely makes the best queen.

It has been found that bees rear better queens in either the swarm preparation situation or the supersedure situation. It seems that the bees feed and care for the queen larvae better when the hive is queen-right. However, trying to simulate the swarming instinct in the bees hasn’t as yet been able to be done. The New Zealander, Harry Cloake, invented the Cloake Board, which allows the beekeeper to simulate the supersedure situation and rear high quality queens.

Procedure for Rearing Queens Using the Cloake Board


In the Cloake Board method, a strong hive of two brood boxes is selected as the rearing hive. Several days before the grafted larvae are introduced to the rearing hive, the hive is turned around 180 degrees, and the Cloake Board put between the two brood boxes, without the slide in the Cloake Board. The Cloake Board entrance faces the direction of the original entrance, and the original entrance which now faces the opposite direction, is closed. The bees will now start to use the Cloake Board entrance to come and go from the hive. The worker bees will be able to move between the two brood boxes through the queen excluder in the Cloake Board.

After a few days, check where the queen is. We want the queen in the bottom box. If she is in the top box, swap the boxes around. However, we also want brood in the top box, so that there will be nurse bees in the top box. Make sure that in the top box there are frames of nectar/honey, brood, and pollen, and either an internal division feeder or a top feeder ready. In the bottom box make sure there is honey, some sealed and emerging brood and empty comb in which the queen can lay. Move frames around to get this arrangement, and feed the top box syrup and pollen or pollen substitute if there is little pollen in the hive. Then leave the hive for a day or two to let the bees settle.

Day Before the Graft

The day before the graft, put the slide back in the Cloake Board AND open the reversed bottom entrance. This is absolutely imperative so that the bottom box will be able to ventilate and the foraging bees from the bottom box will fly and then return to the top box through the Cloake Board entrance. This will further strengthen the top box and also bring in more fresh nectar and pollen to ensure good nutrition for the soon-to-be-reared queen cells. If there is young open brood in the top box, remove those frames and put them in either the bottom box, or in a nursery colony. Leave the space necessary for the grafted frames to be introduced the next day.

Day One – the Graft

Twelve to 24 hours later, prepare the grafted cell cups in the graft frames. Open the rearing top box with the least amount of disruption as possible, avoid using smoke, and gently lower the graft frames into the spaces allowed for them. The nurse bees should immediately flow onto the graft cells. They will start to feed the larvae with royal jelly and build the queen cells around them. If any rogue queen cells have been started by the nurse bees, destroy them.

Day Two

A day after the cells have been put in the top box, remove the slide in the Cloake Board making the whole hive queen-right again. Also, close the rear entrance again so all the flying bees will use the Cloake Board entrance. The queen cells started will continue to be raised, but now in a supersedure situation, so the cells will be reared strong and large.

Day Five or Six

The developing queen cells should be capped by the bees in this time. Capped queen cells from day six to nine are fragile and should not be disturbed. The beekeeper can now follow their normal routine in dealing with capped queen cells. After day nine, when the cells are more robust, it may be prudent to protect the cells with round cages, tin foil or short pieces of hose.

Day Twelve to Thirteen

The queens are about to emerge, and may be moved to queenless mating nucs, nucleus hives or standard hives, or prepared to be sold as virgins.