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Alley Method

A simple method of producing queen cells

The Alley method (sometimes referred to as the Alley plan) is one of a number of simple ways of producing queen cells in small quantities suitable for the ordinary amateur beekeeper. I think over the years there have been modifications and to avoid confusion I will refer to them all as the Alley method.

Before the more sophisticated methods of raising queen cells were introduced, many beekeepers cut up comb with worker larvae in that were the correct age for the bees to convert into queen cells. This would have been in the 19th century, with a flourish towards the end, presumably after the introduction of the moveable comb hive.

Henry Alley was an American beekeeper and successful queen rearer who wrote about this method in his book that was published in 1883.

I won't bother too much with all the variations here, but will concentrate on the method I have used on a number of occasions, which differs from the way Alley did it.

If a new comb is placed in the brood area of a colony the queen will usually lay in it quite quickly. Strips of comb with larvae of the correct age are cut out and mounted in a frame. I have used two methods quite successfully.

Queen cells will be built at random and often joined, so it is better to destroy 2-3 larvae between the selected ones before placing the frame in the cell raising colony. Alley used a match, but a cotton bud or small kids paintbrush that is fairly stiff will do.

When the Q/Cs are ready to be distributed they can simply be cut out.

I find the Alley method produces very good queens with minimal equipment and is well suited to the smaller beekeeper who only wants a small number of queens, but it is a bit of a fiddle and overall I prefer the Miller method.

Roger Patterson.