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A Note from Harry Cloake's Son Russ

An Email conversation between Dave Cushman and Russ Cloake, about the method of rearing queen honey bees devised by his father Harry. The black text is from Russ and the red text is my reply.

Dear Dave,

Much to my surprise my son came across a reference to the Cloake board and emailed me your web site URL. I am Harry Cloake's son and was most interested to read the notes for making increase method 2. The steps 1-5 are in fact the Cloake cell raising method which is in widespread use in New Zealand of which the board which my father devised as a way of further simplifying what he had been doing for many years became an integral part.

Vince Cook, whom you mention in relation to placing the nucs in a circle, worked for my father during his early years of beekeeping when he first came to New Zealand. The circles with inward facing entrances were also devised by my father as a means of minimising the drift to which our Italian type bees are prone. Firstly in our apiary sites to cut back honey losses caused by drift and later in our nuc mating sites to improve matings. This took place in the early 1960s and the final development of the cell raising method about 1969.

At the time this caused a great deal of interest in local beekeeping circles and culminated in Dad being invited to make a presentation on the subject at Apimondia in Adelaide, Australia about 30 years ago.

My older brother Mervyn continues to use this method of cell raising to this day and is able to raise about 200 cells per hive.

We never gave much importance to the board itself as it was simply a part of the whole system, so I was surprised to see it featured on your site.

Your comments as to the simplicity and lack of labour involved are very accurate as we used to raise about 2500-3000 cells over a period of about a month from about 16-18 hives and once the system was set up only about 1 hour per day was taken up by cell raising.

Dad never sought any recognition for any of his many practical innovations, but took pleasure in the increased efficiency they produced and was always very willing to help anyone who wanted to do what he was doing. I don't recall any of his ideas not working, but he was always looking for a better way of doing something without wasting time going down dead ends. His contribution to NZ beekeeping was greater than most people knew even though he was recognised as making a significant contribution.

So thank you for giving credit where it is due as most of his ideas have been absorbed in general beekeeping practice without anyone these days knowing where they came from.

Thank you very much for your Email, may I use your comments in a future upgrade of the page ?

I believe in giving credit where it is due.

I personally have used the method many hundreds of times, it has a basic 'sympathy' with the bee's own desires and needs.

The method is widely used in the midlands of the UK, although very few modern beekeepers have heard of your father, but if you have any papers, photos or articles written by him I would be glad to publish them on my website (you will get full credit as source).

My website may be rather untidy in places, but it gets about one and a half million 'hits' a month, and would be an ideal place for people to learn more about your father and his influence on beekeeping.

Yes you may certainly use what I said on your web page. As far as articles etc. go, I will talk to my older brother Mervyn who has Dad's diaries and papers. This may take some time, but I have checked and the report from the 26th Apimondia in Adelaide in 1977 contains Dad's presentation of what was then his new method. On reading the article which is "Queen cell raising my way" in the Apimondia book it states that the method had been in use for two years... So 1974-5 was the time when he finally perfected it. I was at the conference and Dad's talk stood out amongst some of the utter rubbish that we were subjected to by some of the speakers. There were very few presentations worth listening to, as Apimondia at that time was controlled by Romania and it was an eye opener to us simple Kiwis to see the extent to which politics pervaded the whole affair.

Probably the most significant other single contribution Dad made to NZ beekeeping practises was his system for managing two queen hives which again is in common use. I used this method for many years until my retirement from commercial beekeeping. My brother still uses it and has further developed it, but to my knowledge no one else is using his current system.

Peter Kemble, who lives in Hastings, England and has a beekeeping supplies business also worked for my father for a few years in the late 70s. Peter took some of Dad's ideas back to England, but found that they weren't as suitable in the English climate as they were to NZ conditions.

However beekeepers are an inventive lot and will continue to dream up various ways of doing the same thing and I think that is one of reasons why it holds such an attraction to us. What Dad did however was always sympathetic to the bees own needs and impulses as you rightly pointed out in relation to his cell raising method.

Kind regards

Russ Cloake