On March 23rd I grafted larvae into artificial queen cups and installed them into a starter-finisher colony to transform these larvae that were destined to be workers into queens. Normally the queen cells are harvested 10 days after making the grafts and then transferred into nucleus colonies where the queens emerge from their cells, take their mating flight and then begin to lay. Due to forecasted rain I had to advance that schedule a couple of days, so on March 30th Tom, a fellow beekeeper that lives nearby, and I made up several splits in preparation for installing the queen cells. We installed five frames of honey, pollen and capped brood into the five frame nucs and”queen castles”. The queen castle is a 10 frame hive body with partitions that slide in and out enabling you to have either 4-two frame nucs or 2-five frame nucs. With entrances on opposite sides, it minimizes the drifting of one colony to another. Below is Tom installing frames into a queen castle.
We also had a couple of naturally occurring queen cells that we utilized. They were from some of my more productive, populous colonies, so I had no reservations about using them.
I used five frames of honey, pollen, brood and bees because I had several strong hives to work with. Normally when making up five frame nucs I would use only three frames with all the above and two empty drawn frames. I have successfully made up the nucs with just two frames, but more is usually better. The frames with the honey are placed on the outside edges of the nuc. Frames of pollen, honey and older brood are placed in the middle. Ideally, you would not have any young larva that could become queen candidates as the colony may decide that they would prefer to raise a queen of their own rather than the one you have given them.
The next day I returned to install the queen cells into the nucs. Each cell is removed from the grafting bar and inserted into a plastic cell protector that has “ears” on it to enable it to be pushed into the wax foundation of the frame.
So now I have 13 nucs that hopefully will be successful and join my other hives to be productive this year.