The Harbison Method of Queen-Rearing
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  1. #1
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    Default The Harbison Method of Queen-Rearing

    I recently came across this little-known method which, considering the year of it's invention - 1860 - is, I think, a very ingenious technique. Harbison duly filed a Patent (US 26,431) for this technique and even wrote a book 'An Improved System of Propagating the Honey Bee' about it - but the essence of his method can very easily be described in a few short sentences, and with just one diagram.

    A queenless colony is created, into which a comb of brood from a desirable queen will be inserted within which eggs and young larvae have been identified.
    A section of that comb containing them is then removed. This section being typically around 3 inches long and - this being the only slightly tricky bit - as deep as the comb is thick. So we're looking at around 7/8" or 22mm deep. This section is then to be re-inserted having been rotated through 90 degrees, such that the desirable cells on the underside are pointing directly downwards - labelled 'A' in the following diagram:



    BUT - before inserting that section with it's new orientation, a further section of comb is removed below the first - shown as 'B' in the above diagram, ensuring that shoulders remain to support the now vertical section inserted above it. Queen-cells will then be drawn within that space.

    That's all there is to it - perhaps this could be thought of as a mini-Hopkins technique ?

    All other aspects of the method - queenlessness, stocking with nurse bees, the need for stores & pollen combs etc. - are exactly the same as with any queenless cell-raising method.

    By posting this I'm not suggesting that the Harbison Method is better (or worse) that those of Alley or Hopkins - but considering the date, 1860, I reckon it's quite an ingenious technique.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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  3. #2

    Default Re: The Harbison Method of Queen-Rearing

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    I recently came across this little-known method which, considering the year of it's invention - 1860 - is, I think, a very ingenious technique. Harbison duly filed a Patent (US 26,431) for this technique and even wrote a book 'An Improved System of Propagating the Honey Bee' about it - but the essence of his method can very easily be described in a few short sentences, and with just one diagram.

    A queenless colony is created, into which a comb of brood from a desirable queen will be inserted within which eggs and young larvae have been identified.
    A section of that comb containing them is then removed. This section being typically around 3 inches long and - this being the only slightly tricky bit - as deep as the comb is thick. So we're looking at around 7/8" or 22mm deep. This section is then to be re-inserted having been rotated through 90 degrees, such that the desirable cells on the underside are pointing directly downwards - labelled 'A' in the following diagram:



    BUT - before inserting that section with it's new orientation, a further section of comb is removed below the first - shown as 'B' in the above diagram, ensuring that shoulders remain to support the now vertical section inserted above it. Queen-cells will then be drawn within that space.

    That's all there is to it - perhaps this could be thought of as a mini-Hopkins technique ?

    All other aspects of the method - queenlessness, stocking with nurse bees, the need for stores & pollen combs etc. - are exactly the same as with any queenless cell-raising method.

    By posting this I'm not suggesting that the Harbison Method is better (or worse) that those of Alley or Hopkins - but considering the date, 1860, I reckon it's quite an ingenious technique.
    LJ
    Cool, thanks for sharing this!

  4. #3
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    Default Re: The Harbison Method of Queen-Rearing

    I can see that this method could possibly be useful for somebody wanting half-a-dozen q/cells right at the beginning of the season when the nights in many areas can still be cold. With luck, it might be possible to select larvae in the central area of the comb and thus rear q/cells in the very heart of the brood nest where conditions would be warmest - and thus avoid the large spaces which occur when using conventional queen-rearing frames.

    BTW - Harbison recommends using newly-drawn comb, but I'd say that is far too soft and delicate to fool around with. Light amber comb, say one season old would be my choice.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  5. #4
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    Default Re: The Harbison Method of Queen-Rearing

    >That's all there is to it - perhaps this could be thought of as a mini-Hopkins technique ?

    Kind of. The original "Hopkins" method was this:
    http://bushfarms.com/beeshopkins1886.htm

    Which is basically the same as the later Jay Smith "Better Queens" method:
    http://bushfarms.com/beesbetterqueens.htm

    ...and which Hopkins says was invented by Jos. M. Brooks.

    The later Hopkins method was this:
    http://bushfarms.com/beeshopkinsmethod.htm

    The Harbison method is actually more like the Alley method:
    http://bushfarms.com/beesalleymethod.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  6. #5
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    Default Re: The Harbison Method of Queen-Rearing

    Well, we'll have to disagree on that one Michael.

    The reason I think this method is more like Hopkins than any other - as practiced today - is that unlike (say) the Alley method where the beekeeper can choose whether or not to have open brood being fed at the same time queen cells are being drawn and fed, with both the Hopkins and Harbison methods q/cells are being drawn upon comb which clearly have large quantities of open brood present - which arguably is undesirable (being the reason why such brood is culled by some Hopkins practitioners) - but which more closely resembles brood-nest conditions which occur in nature.

    With regard to retaining the integrity of the brood nest, I can't think of another method which does this - Miller's being probably the nearest - but even then his method does create a frame-width void beneath the q/cells.

    Anyway, I only posted this for interest - I can't see it competing with the established classical methods - although I might possibly try it once or twice for fun.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  7. #6
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    Default Re: The Harbison Method of Queen-Rearing

    Nice find!
    for those interested, here is the full book
    https://archive.org/details/animprovedsyste00harbgoog

  8. #7
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    Default Re: The Harbison Method of Queen-Rearing

    While we're looking at novel methods of queen-rearing, here's one I found ages ago - but forgot to post about ...

    It comes from 'How to Keep Bees (A Handbook for the Use of Beginners)' by Anna Botsford-Comstock, 1905. She writes:
    "... the time when queen cells are naturally built may not be the most convenient or the most desirable time for giving certain colonies a new mother. This being the case, queens may be developed through the power of suggestion, as follows: Select a frame of brood from the best colony; with a toothpick tear down the partitions between three worker cells which contain eggs or larvae less than two days old and destroy two of the eggs or larvae; repeat the operation in several places.
    Place the frame back in the hive, being very sure that there is sufficient space between it and its neighbouring frame, so that good queen cells may be built. If there is a scarcity of honey, feed the bees. The cleverness of bees is clearly proven by the readiness with which they take a hint, and they almost invariably build queen cells upon the comb thus treated. pp.156-7
    Unfortunately there's no diagram - so there are three possibilities:



    Of these, the blue option on the right would seem the most logical - which I've tried a couple of times, but so far without any success. Maybe my girls aren't into taking hints ?
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  9. #8
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    Default Re: The Harbison Method of Queen-Rearing

    Mel Disselkoen calls this "on the spot queen rearing".

    http://www.mdasplitter.com/
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  10. #9
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    Default Re: The Harbison Method of Queen-Rearing

    To get the hint I find it helps to put the frame above an Excluder or in a Queenless Nuc for a day or so (Queenless starter). They will then build queen cells where the cells have been notched. If I don't do that, the bees often just remove the larvae and repair the damaged cells. Also depends on if it is swarm season or not.

    I did it 2 weeks ago in a Queenless Nuc and got 3 nice queen cells where I had notched the bottom of cells.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: The Harbison Method of Queen-Rearing

    Quote Originally Posted by MattDavey View Post
    To get the hint I find it helps to put the frame above an Excluder or in a Queenless Nuc for a day or so (Queenless starter). They will then build queen cells where the cells have been notched. If I don't do that, the bees often just remove the larvae and repair the damaged cells. Also depends on if it is swarm season or not.
    Of course - but that's not the object of this exercise - I already use several methods which work extremely well.

    Perhaps I should explain what I'm doing ? For some time now I've been trawling through old books, archived copies of 'Gleanings' and the ABJ etc., just in case something turns up which can be seen in a new light with modern knowledge - which of course is the true meaning of research - re-search - to search again. Already I've established that many ideas of Simmins, for example, are bordering on fanciful and not to be taken at face value - a view shared by ROB Manley, btw.

    Now with regard to Botsford-Comstock, her choice of words is interesting: she talks of developing queens by the power of suggestion - now I read those words as being totally different from making a colony queenless and panicking the bees into drawing emergency q/cells. So - I ask myself: "could this be a novel way of creating supersedure cells ?" But - as I say, it hasn't worked thus far ...

    Could it just be that Botsford-Comstock has simply forgotten to mention making such a colony queenless beforehand ? Well, I doubt that - because from page 159 onwards she discusses at length the importance of queenlessness (in the context of new queens) and methods for detecting it. I'm sure she would have mentioned it in regard of her method of queen-rearing, as her book was targeted at beginners.

    But yes, perhaps this was an oversight on her part ...
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  12. #11
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    Default

    The question is why do bees make queen cells when swarming or with supercedure?

    The answer is the reduction of pheromone levels from both the queen and the amount of open brood.

    If the pheromone levels are high, there is no incentive for the bees to make queen cells.

    Moving the frame away from the broodnest reduces the pheromone levels and so creates the incentive to make queen cells.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: The Harbison Method of Queen-Rearing

    Quote Originally Posted by MattDavey View Post
    The question is why do bees make queen cells when swarming or with supercedure?

    The answer is the reduction of pheromone levels from both the queen and the amount of open brood.

    If the pheromone levels are high, there is no incentive for the bees to make queen cells.

    Moving the frame away from the broodnest reduces the pheromone levels and so creates the incentive to make queen cells.
    No - you're just not getting it .... I've been keeping bees quite long enough (since 1959) to know about such elementary principles.

    "The question is why do bees make queen cells when swarming or with supercedure?" - that's not the question, that's your question.

    My question is "had Botsford-Comstock stumbled across some novel method of inducing supersedure ?"
    This sort of enquiry is the reason I keep bees - I'm not the slightest bit interested in either Honey or Money - I'm only in it for the interest it provides (to a former scientist).
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  14. #13
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    Default Re: The Harbison Method of Queen-Rearing

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    ...
    This sort of enquiry is the reason I keep bees - I'm not the slightest bit interested in either Honey or Money - I'm only in it for the interest it provides (to a former scientist).
    LJ
    LJ,
    Are these related at all to the method discussed?
    Non-English, but I am sure you will see what you need to see.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aufAtogWPw
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuaaETxrThU
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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