Earlier today we went out to our bee yard in Wellborn and made up our “Starter Colony” to start another batch of queen cells. We shook bees off from about 6 or so frames into the starter hive and then brought it back home. Before shaking the bees in, we prepared the hive with a frame of pollen, a frame of honey, the frame with the queen cups between them and a drawn comb to the outside of the first three for the bees to cluster on–five frames in all. We put the frame with the queen cells on it before grafting to give the bees a chance to start polishing them and working on them and therefore when we graft they might be more likely to make queen cells out of them.
This evening we went back and found a frame with eggs and newly hatched larvae on it from which to graft young larvae into the queen cups with their royal jelly. We picked the frame from a bee hive that has healthy, gentle bees that I really like. Gerrit did all the grafting using his “Chinese grafting tool,” a headlamp, and another homemade tool to take down the cell wall to make it easier to lift out the larvae using the grafting too.
The starter hive has extra space in the bottom and screens for ventilation as well as a plastic dish with moist sponges for water since there is no way for the bees to leave or come into the hive after it is closed up.
We’ll leave the frame with the grafts in there for a day or a day and a half, then transfer it to the “Finisher Colony” which is a queenright colony with the queen below an excluder and the queen cells up above between two frames of open brood. They will finish feeding the larvae and seal the cells.
The first grafting we tried a month ago went pretty well. I hope this one goes well too.