Basics of beekeeping

Cloake board queen rearing

Learn how to do the Cloake board  method

The Cloake board, created by New Zealander Harry Cloake, is a piece of beekeeping gear used for queen rearing. Hobby beekeepers prefer the Cloake board technique of queen raising because it requires the least amount of equipment and causes the least amount of disruption to the hive.

using one hive as your donor, cell starter, and cell finisher to raise superior queens The board is made of a removable metal or plastic sheet that is framed by a three-sided rim and rests on top of a queen excluder. The “removable floor” gives the beekeeper the ability to entirely divide the two halves of the hive. When the floor is lifted, the workers can move around the hive while the queen is still confined beneath the excluder.

What’s needed to raise your own queens

  1. In a twin brood box, a robust colony.
  2. A cloaking device
  3. grafted cell cup frames

Cloake board queen rearing: method

The first DAY: Colony preparation

1. Look around the colony and locate the queen. She should go in the bottom box. Rearrange a few of the frames so that the upper box has plenty of open brood.
2. Reverse the bottom box on the hive stand and block the entrance to it.
3. Include the QE minus the slide and the Cloake board. Above the original door, which is now shut, should be the Cloake board entrance.
4. Set the frame with empty cell bars next to the queen-less upper box with two to four frames of open brood so that it can be polished and cleaned in preparation for crafting.
5. Put the sloping ply sheet in position as shown, reassemble the hive, and let the colony alone for 24 hours.

Colony preparation notes

  • When using open mesh floors, where bees tend to gather when they can’t find the original entrance, the sloped ply sheet truly does help.
  • Now that their original entrance vanishes, the field bees will return to the hive and finally find the new top entrance. Some of the nursing bees will ascend to care for the young as a result of the uncapped brood frames we transported to the upper super.

Also, don’t forget to read The Doolittle Method for Raising Queen Bees.


The second DAY: Concentrating on the bees

1. Gently slide the slide into the Cloake board to divide the slide into two colonies.
2. On the other side of the hive, open the lower back entrance.
3. Fill the top feeder with 200 ml or more of syrup (2:1 w/v sugar and water).
4. Depart the colony for a whole day.

Cloake board queen rearing: method

The third DAY: Grafting

1.Open the hive gently.
2. Eliminate any queen cells in the upper box that were initiated on uncapped frames.
3. Take away the cell cup holding frame, reintroduce the bees to the colony, and perform the grafting.
4. Place your frame of grafts in the center of the brood, which by this point should be teeming with bees. Allow it to slowly and gently descend into the hive of bees without pushing it.
5. More syrup should be added to the feeder.
6. Crownboard and roof should be replaced.

Cloake board queen rearing

The fourth DAY: Raising the queen cells

1. Take the slide out of the Cloake board slowly. We are returning the colony to its original layout by removing the floor plank.
2. More syrup should be added to the feeder.
3. Five days after the grafting, check again. It’s time to seal the grafted cells. Make sure you destroy any queen cells that have been initiated by searching the other frames in the upper box for them.

Ten days after grafting, use the grafted cells.

Do not do that

  • shake or brush them off, just gently move them aside with your fingers to inspect the cell cups.
  • If the larvae haven’t been accepted it’s either because they were damaged during grafting, or the colony – for whatever reason – is not suitably prepared (is the queen in the top box?). You can try grafting again.
  •  After 5 days the cells should be capped. They can be caged at this stage or later to prevent their destruction should a virgin queen emerge early. Remember to also check the other frames in the top box. Destroy any queen cells you find other than your grafts.

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