Feature Article

Q&A: Preferred method of grafting queens?

Honey bees in hive {Apis mellifera} Ecuador
Q:   What is your preferred form of grafting queens?  What tool do you like best?
A: Each person grafting queens usually settles on a method that fits their style.  I know there are many non grafting methods available for a person to use.  I use the Doolittle method.  My cell builders are all made up with each cycle of queens to be raised.  I use queenless cell builders because I have the hives and bees to make them up.  Many beekeepers will work with a cloke board method which has a queen in the lower section of the hive.  To get queen cells drawn in large numbers, it takes very young bees and lots of them fed with as much food as they can take down in a feeder.
I raised and sold thousands of queens.  Today, if I were to raise a few queens which I do, I have shifted to the queenright method with a queen in the lower chamber, and isolate that chamber from the rest of the hive for the period I am starting cells.  Once the cells are started — I now only will start a dozen queen cells at a time as I only have 8 mating nucs available for new queens — and once the cells are started I use a queen excluder in place of a solid inner cover (no hole) which I remove.  I also like to have the cells build in a box that is a full deep super above the queen excluder.  I might add that I will place new frames of emerging brood in the cell builder around the cell bars holding my grafts to draw both young bees and bees to keep the proper temperature around the queen cells being built.
The tool I use is the steel — German grafting tool.  But you can build your own grafting tool.  I don’t like the plastic Chinese grafting tool but many to seem to like it.  I have used toothpicks to graft with and on occasion, I continue to use the toothpick.  So easy to throw one away and get a new uncontaminated toothpick to use.  If you are using the steel tool, use Clorox frequently to clean and sanitize the tool.
Thanks for asking the question.
Dana Stahlman