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  • Writer's picturebrian carlton

Queen rearing with a double screen board

Rearing queens with a double screen board

Anyone with 2 or 3 hives can successfully rear their own queens, It may seem like a daunting task to many a beekeeper, but once you realize the mechanics of it all, it simply is not. I am entering my third season of beekeeping, and I love having a steady flow of new queens, pick the best queen in your yard and designate that hive your breeder hive, she should possess the traits you're looking for IE- temperament, disease resistance,  productivity.  As I mentioned before all you need is one large double deep hive for a cell starter/finisher hive, one hive for a breeder hive, and one hive to harvest nurse bees from, having a few more to make splits from is a plus.

Equipment needed:  A double-screen board , which is about a 1-inch deep rim, open in the center. The  opening is covered with screens on both sides so that bees on one side of the board cannot contact bees on the other side of the board. One side has a separate entrance.

Grafting tool- I tried the German type with no luck, I prefer the  Chinese Grafting Tool, it has a flexible head that easily slides under the larvae to scoop it out of the cell. It is spring-loaded to delicately remove the larvae and place it safely into the cell cup. 

You will need to fashion some sort of grafting stand to hold your frame of larvae, and perhaps a magnifying glass of some sort, depending on your eyesight. I use a lamp with a magnifying glass built into the head, I can swivel it around as needed. 

Grafting frame with cell cups to hold the newly grafted larvae.

Mating nucs- once your queens emerge you will need some sort of mating nuc to get the queens properly mated, and store them till needed. I use minis, 2 framers, and 3 framers depending on the length of time I plan to store the queen, minis for selling the queens, 2 and 3 framers for making splits, new nucs.

Incubator- Incubators allow you extra time to make up the mating nucs, you can place the cells in hairpin roller cages, inside an incubator set to 93F and release the virgin queen directly into the mating nucs when you set them up, or just prior to emergence. This is not totally necessary, you can put the cells straight into the mating nucs if there are enough bees to keep them warm, a queen pheromone strip helps keep the bees in the box.

Now that you have everything together, lets get started!

 The first thing to do is find and cage the queen in your cell starter/finisher hive. Put all the brood frames that have eggs and larvae young enough to produce cells in the top deep with the queen. In the bottom deep we want all the capped brood, with no eggs or larvae capable of producing cells, Pollen frames, and honey frames are needed as well, make sure to leave a spot for the grafting frame.

Now place the double screen board onto the bottom box, if a flow is on you can add the honey super first, position the entrance of the double screen board to the back, now place the queens box on top. The bottom box is now queen less, and they will know it soon. Next up find a frame from your donor hive that has very young larvae in milk brood stage. You will want to graft the smallest 12-hour-old larvae you can find, they are in a shape similar to a “Comma”, keep a moist towel over the cell bars until you put the frame into the hive. Once you have the grafting frame prepared carefully place it in the open spot in the bottom deep, this should occur around 30 minutes after splitting the hive, they now know they are queen less and will pounce on your grafts with glee. If you wait a day I have found they will draw out any larvae on the brood frames you may have missed.

24 hours later I disassemble the hive,  leave the box with all the capped brood on the bottom with the queen and an excluder over that box. Make  sure to leave a frame or two of open comb for the queen to lay in.

 Next comes the box with all the open brood, plus our grafting frame, the bees will carry on finishing the cells as they care for all the open brood, I remove the frame of cells after they are capped on day 8 from egg laid, and reassemble the hive minus the queen excluder.  You could leave them there till they are almost done (inside cages), but I don’t want to set them back, or put them into swarm mode from brood nest congestion.

I put my cells in the incubator until day 16, and place each  one inside a stocked mating nuc. From there on it’s up to the bees to get the queen mated, the success rate varies depending on the time of year, and the size of your mating nuc. 

Happy Grafting!

Brian Carlton

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