The last couple of days I have been making some queens to head up new colonies of bees by grafting tiny larvae from a queen who had swarmed from our colony of bees at the Boys and Girls Club in Brevard. This is the second time this mother queen has swarmed and been caught. In 2019 she was caught in one of our swarm traps at our home bee yard. Her thorax was marked with a bright green dot and then she along with the rest of her swarm was installed in the observation hive at the Boys and Girls Club. Then last month she swarmed again to a tree outside the Club where I captured her again and installed her in a hive at the home bee yard. She has been a very prolific queen and survived with minimal mite treatments which is the primary reason I have chosen her to raise new queens from her.
The process begins by selecting a young larva that is less than 24 hours old.
Below you can barely see (sorry for the out of focus) the tiny larva floating in a pool of royal jelly on the tip of the grafting tool.
The larvae are then placed in artificial plastic queen cups.
Once all the grafts have been completed the bars containing the grafts are inserted into a queenless “cell starter” colony where the young nurse bees feed the larvae royal jelly that they secrete to make what otherwise would have been a worker bee into a queen. The bees recognized that they no longer have a queen because of the lack of her pheromone and try to raise a new one.
After 24 hours the frame containing the queen cells are transferred into a queenright “cell finisher” colony. The queen is held in a lower chamber separated from the queen cells by a queen excluder, a screen that allows the worker bees to pass through but excludes the queen because of her larger size. It has been found that swarm cells produce better queens than those produced under an emergency queenless situation. This queenright “cell finisher” simulates the situation found in a colony that is building swarm cells in preparation for their swarming. Below you can see the cells after 48 hours showing how the bees have filled the cups with royal jelly and begun to build the queen cell out with bees wax. After 10 days from grafting the mature queen cells are removed and placed into new queenless colonies where they emerge and then hopefully mate and successfully return to their new home and begin laying. I am keeping my fingers crossed but right now it looks like 18 of 20 cells have been accepted and are well on their way to becoming new queens.