So you have a tool, now what. I mentioned in my first lesson on queen rearing that you need to establish a starter hive. This can be a smaller 5 frame nuc box with lots of nurse bees, very young bees which you can shake off of a frame of larvae and sealed brood. Some suggest not putting any larvae or brood frames in the starter, just a frame of honey and pollen. Overcrowding this starter nuc is important. Get this starter hive prepared and ready so that when you do your grafting, you can quickly place it into your starter hive.
Now, with close up eye wear on, a good flash light and the grafting tool of your choice go and pick out a good frame to graft from. Remember, get the frame from the hive that has the characteristics that you want to keep. Usually it needs to have proved itself over a couple of years to be sure these are traits not just a fluke.
Once you retrieve your graft, then place it into the cell cup. Repeat this until you have all your cell cups started. Then, take the frame (explain in the previous lesson) and place it into your starter hive, a queenless 5 frame nuc with nurse bees that a) would love to swarm if they had a queen, and b) would love to have a queen, and c) are young and can produce the needed start to your queen cells. However, I have found that I must remove the cells out of this starter hive after 24-36 hours. They just don't seem to have the royal jelly and proteins the queen cells need to seal the cells all the way by the 8th day.
As you can see this is about as good as I am right now grafting. The empty cups are bad grafts that didn't take. The extra bit of comb is...an extra bit of comb the bees just built on the frame near the cups. I don't know why and it doesn't mean anything. Maybe they were bored on a rainy day.
I place the queen cells in my incubator that is VERY accurate. It has a digital thermometer and I've set it to 93.9 degrees. Be careful to handle your queen cells carefully, never tilt them from their vertical position. They must be kept at 93 degrees or the queen will die.
When the queen emerges, I collect her, put a plug of my candy in her cage and place her in a queenless nuc, which some call a mating nuc. I use a 5 frame nuc rather than the smaller ones simply because I like all my equipment to be interchangeable. She will need some time to mate, usually a week, but sometimes longer if the weather is not right. Once she has been laying good for 2-3 weeks, then she is ready for sale. I've read that if she can lay for 21 days in her nuc, then she will be a better queen. This requires a lot more on our part, to have our yard flooded with 5 frame nuc boxes full of virgin queens. They actually have been mating and starting to lay a lot faster than I thought they would.
David & Sheri Burns