First I’d like to start off with a big shout out to the Forsyth County Beekeepers Club!! All of the members did an amazing job with putting this class on and teaching everyone about queen rearing!
We started the class with the biology of a Queen as well as a brief biology of drones. This, however, will be for another discussion. The workers will decide which larvae will become Queens and are faced to make this decision within 3 different scenarios. Swarm, Supercedure & Emergency
Swarm Cells: are going to be towards the bottom of the frame and are usually created because the hive is crowded, but are great for requeening!
Supercedure Cells: are created by the little ladies because they know/sense something is wrong with the current queen and can be found towards the top of the frame.
Emergency Cells: is a smaller cup found randomly throughout the frame, ready for an emergency. This is not ideal for requeening.
Queen rearing allows a keeper to speed up the process of natural queening. If a keeper chooses to naturally rear a Queen, he/she would lose both time and honey. So, there are 3 main ways to rear: Cell Punch, Hopkins Method & Doolittle Method.
Cell Punch: is exactly the way that it sounds. You punch one of the cells out of the frame with a cell punch tool. There is no grafting necessary and is not a popular method.
Hopkins Methods: another non-graphing method is where a beekeeper drawls lines across the cells and then lays the frame horizontally across the top of the brood box, this then allows the little ladies to create queen cells. This method is also not preferred because the queen cells are very messy!
Doolittle Method: is definitely the most preferred method of all. You can either use a master grafting tool, the hook grafting tool, an artist brush, toothpick, goosequill, or most popular the Chinese grafting tool. With this method you would remove the larvae and the royal jelly from a cell and graft it into a queen cup. The most ideal larvae are anywhere between 4 to 6 days old.
Once grafted, allow the ladies to nurse the new queens in a swarm box for about seven days. A swarm box should have at least one pollen frame, one honey frame, one feeder, one drawn comb, and one empty frame with all of your queens grafted into the frame within the bars. Right before the queens hatch, they will need to be transferred to a hive of their own. But introduce slowly (queen cages) so that the other bees accept her.
Update 06/07/2015: ALL 4 of my Queens survived! So I am grafting the 4 queens into 3 nuc boxes! 1 I am giving to my neighbor, and the 1st nuc will have 1 Queen & the 2nd nuc will have 2 Queens (may the odds be ever in her favor)! I am breeding the Queens with a club member’s drones on his property and should be able to pick up in 2 weeks (give or take)! Updates to follow!