BBKA Forum

British Beekeepers Association Official Forum 

  • To clip or not to clip - what's your preference

  • More advanced beekeeping discussion forum.
More advanced beekeeping discussion forum.
 #5614  by Chrisbarlow
 30 Jan 2020, 17:40
I am gonna try clipping queens this year, I want to extend my inspection intervals

Does any one clip and why

Or is any one really against it?
 #5619  by Patrick
 30 Jan 2020, 23:00
Yes, clipped queens into the hundreds. No credible downsides in my view. Personally I consider it a crucial one off action at the start of the queen's second season, insurance for me and the bees in the event of other swarm controls not being effective. I lost swarms repeatedly in my early years although diligently following books and newsletter sure fire fail-me-never methods. 4 out of 5 of those swarms statistically wont make it through their first winter and were doomed - that is not responsible beekeeping in my view.

There is no reason to lose a clipped queen any more than you would have lost them with an issuing swarm - most of my queens make it into their third year just as they would have unclipped - but you don't lose half the colony with them.

I can expand on the whys and wherefores of clipping but what do others think?
 #5627  by Chrisbarlow
 31 Jan 2020, 09:06
Cheers Guys. I like the responsible beekeeping angle, that's a very good point
 #5628  by NigelP
 31 Jan 2020, 09:28
There are many methods employed to mark and clip queens. The BBKA favourite seems to involve squeezing her legs between fingers to immobilise the queen. Not my cup of tea as prefer to mark and clip as fast as possible.
I prefer holding her down on the frame and clipping, or crown of thorns for marking.
Recently been playing around with this twist and mark cage from Thornes. It's quite good and you can't squash the queen when using it. The long slots make it easy to clip her at the same time.

 #8489  by huntsman.
 13 Aug 2020, 12:30
I clip and help those I mentor clip.

The 'twist and turn' cage is good for both but I have found it is very easy to damage the queen because the diameter is too small and she can be hit by an edge.

I now like the crown of thorns with threads, not solid plastic.

I would never use my bare fingers as I don't want my 'greasy' fingers touching her.

I agree in that you shouldn't have to rely on clipping but if you want to have a two week holiday, it helps.

If you can keep the ground in front of the hive covered with wood chippings, you have a good chance of finding her on the ground (with attending bees) and use her for other purposes.
 #8490  by huntsman.
 13 Aug 2020, 13:42

It seems I have been using the 'twist and turn' cage incorrectly.

I was bringing it down directly over her while Steve suggests laying it down in front of the queen and guiding her in.

Thanks Steve.
 #8495  by Patrick
 13 Aug 2020, 18:09
Glad to hear Huntsman I am not the only person who often uses stuff wrongly - until a sudden light bulb moment. Holding a running chainsaw at the wrong end a few times was particularly uncomfortable :lol:

I do use the turn and twist cage but just pick up the queen by the wings and drop her in. You might reasonably ask if I am going to do that, why don't I just mark her in the hand there and there? The reason is a held queen will often attract workers to investigate and I prefer to move away a bit from the flying melee to mark and to allow the paint to dry a bit before release. If she is under a cage or in a plunger tube there is less of a chance of me messing up and dropping her away from the hive in the long grass.

For clipping, unless i got lucky with a stick out wing when marking, I do hold her in the hand but always with nitrile gloves on, so the greasy and smelly fingers you mention neither contaminate her nor attract interest from workers. I have mentioned before that the old advice "you can't clip queens with gloves on" dates from the era of thick leather gloves as the only available option. I have not used them for many years.

You can very definitely pick up and securely hold queens with nitrile and even marigold type gloves. The dry rubbery surface actually helps grip the queen with minimal or no finger pressure applied - the very slight desensitisation from nitriles is actually helpful in that you do not distracted by workers landing on your hands or even attempts to sting you. If you do all you beekeeping with bare hands anyway - fill yer boots.

As I mentioned above in the thread, the advantages of clipping are a whole lot more than just allowing you to take slightly longer intervals between inspections. Another benefit is doing splits. If you get it wrong and end up with a queen in a part which raises queen cells or they are deliberately already present, no worries - they may indeed attempt to swarm but you won't lose any workers as long as you inspect normally and respond accordingly. You can also do splits without finding the queen if she is clipped, by deliberately leaving a protected queen cell surrounded by foil in either part, as long as you follow up to remove any additional emergency cells. Not recommending it, just saying it is possible. If you don't protect it, there is a chance that the reduced population in the queen right part will simply knock down the cell and you end up with old queen, which you may or may not want.
 #8512  by AdamD
 16 Aug 2020, 10:35
I pick up queens and clip. It's quick and straightforward, but takes a few goes initially to lose the initial nervousness. Never a problem in my view. However it's better to wait until the queen is a few weeks old before marking or clipping as young ones can be rather flighty and fly off if you're not careful.