In this posting I am going to briefly cover the technique called grafting to create new queens. There are complete books covering this in detail if the reader is interested in learning more. This method is more involved than simply making a split and letting the queenless bees raise a new queen. This method lends itself to raising more queens at one time from the selected queen compared to giving a queenless colony a frame containing very young larvae. When choosing the queen from which to raise new queens such factors such as mite and disease resistance, productivity of honey and brood, longevity and gentleness should be the criteria used to evaluate the candidate.
The tools are simple and inexpensive; however, the technique definitely takes skill. This method is known as the “Doolittle” method – named for the person who first developed it. The process involves taking very young larvae from the selected queen and transferring them into an artificial queen cup that is held in a special frame that is then inserted into a “cell starter” colony, which is a colony that either thinks it is queenless – or actually is. The frame of grafted larvae are then transferred into a ”queenright” or cell finisher colony, which is a colony that has a queen as it has been found that they actually do a better job of raising a queen larva than a queenless colony.
This is a Chinese grafting tool that I use. The tip is a flexible horn material that is slid under the larva and royal jelly that it is floating in..
Here is the artificial queen cell cup and the frame holder
Unfortunately the camera was a little out of focus, but I think you can make out the “C” shaped larva and royal jelly on the tip of the grafting tool. The button on the opposite end from the tip is depressed, like a ballpoint pen, to gently insert the larva and royal jelly into the queen cup.
When the grafting is completed, the frame is inserted into the cell starter colony
Rather than taking out the frame after it has been “started” in one colony and transferring it to a “finisher” colony, I use the “Cloake” board method which allows one to use a single colony for both purposes. The Cloake board has a metal tray that slides into place, effectively blocking the queen pheromones from entering the upper chamber. It also has a queen exclude that prevents the queen from being able to access the upper chamber.
After 24 hours have passed since inserting the grafts into the colony the metal tray is removed creating a queenright colony to finish off the cells. Below is what the cells look like 24 hours after grafting. A more experienced person would have close to 100% acceptance of the grafts. My success rate is much lower as you can see.
When the cells are mature and before the queens start to emerge, which is 10 days after the grafting, the cells are removed and inserted into a queenless colony or split where the queen emerges from her cell and then in a few days takes her mating flights. She hopefully will be successful and safely return without becoming a meal for a bird or dragon fly and begin to lay eggs in about a week.