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How to start a queen in a two-frame nuc

I had a request to write about how I start queens using a two-frame mating box such as the Brushy Mountain “Queen Castle.” The Queen Castle is a standard size deep brood box that can be divided into four two-frame sections, each with its own entrance. But the following instructions could be used for any small mating nuc, regardless of the configuration.

First, prepare the box.

Next, select your starter frames. With a system like this, you can start with swarm cells or you can start with eggs and very young brood.

Starting with swarm cells:

Starting with eggs and brood:



Each section of the “queen castle” has its own entrance.



Excellent advice, Rusty. Thanks. Did not find anything usable anywhere else.


We just modified a queen castle into 3 separate compartments, built from scratch. Each compartment will hold 3 frames or 9 total frames for the castle. My question is this. We’re starting with the brood and eggs method – can we populate each section with one frame each of brood, honey/pollen and drawn out to make it easier for the workers? In other words, is one brood frame per section enough?



I have started as many as four in one queen castle, which comes out to only one frame of brood and one of honey per section. I’ve had good results with this method and no problems. Just be sure to move them when they start out-growing the space.


I am intrigued by your queen castle. How do you cover each section individually? Please describe your inner cover for a four-nuc deep. Does each nuc have a ventilation hole? I keep trying to think this through and my brain is in knots!


Each section has it’s own inner cover. You can see the one I have at


I have a question about moving queens and bees out of the queen castle. Do you have to be careful about positioning? You have an article about moving hives any distance by forcing bees to re-orient themselves. Does that apply if you move frames out of the queen castle and into a nuc?



Whenever you have a colony that includes foragers, the foraging bees will return to the original location of their hive. If the hive is moved far, a couple miles or so, the bees will reorient themselves right away as they leave the hive. But if the hive is close to the original site, they do not automatically re-orient and so become confused when they return home. So yes, if your frames contain foraging bees, the foragers will return to the queen castle. If the frames contain just the queen and nurse bees there is no problem.


Thanks for that.

So what procedure do you recommend? Do you check or make sure you only have nurse bees in your queen castle? If so, how? Otherwise what do you do when moving the bees out of the castle?



I don’t do anything. A queen castle is not very big and so does not support a lot of bees. I just move the frames with the queen, brood, and nurses into the the nuc. The foragers will scatter eventually and probably find a home somewhere.

Bruce Petway

in the queen castle, if it is only divided once, making 4 frames to the side. that puts 2 entrances, should one be closed off to help prevent robbing. And can you use this anytime of the year or maybe just in the spring or early summer…thanks Rusty



Yes, I would close off the second entrances. A four-frame nuc is probably too small for overwintering. They won’t have enough room for winter stores unless you add supers. Even then, the colony may be too small to keep itself warm. I generally just use the queen castle in the spring to get new queens going, and then transfer them to larger quarters.