|Partially formed queen cell|
|A naturally occurring queen cell|
|Grafting tool aka "the tongue"|
They position the cells where they will have ample room, and often construct and tear them down several times during a season. For raising queens, we use a special structure with multiple pre-formed cells.
By removing newly hatched bee larvae from their worker cells and placing them in specially designed queen cells, David can entice the colony to raise these babies as future queens.
This grafting is a delicate task. A bee larva is smaller than a grain of rice, and comes floating on a bed of royal jelly. She must be moved into the correct position without bumping her or drowning her in her own food.
The grafting tool (dubbed "the tongue" by Noah) is nicely engineered for the job.
To further nudge the hive to care for our young queens, David keeps them stocked up with nurse bees (the ones who make the most royal jelly),pollen and honey.
The box is packed full of bees and nearly every cell in the hive is full. To the bees, this abundance triggers the instinct to start new colonies - each of which needs a queen. Additionally, the colony has been made temporarily queenless to stimulate the bees to make queens.
Without a queen and her pheromones, the hive "smells" different. The bees perceive a need for a new one, and get to work providing for the little future queens in the cells.
There is still much we at Several Gardens Farm need to learn about raising and replacing queens. Timing is the biggest issue. Summer comes late and short here. During the winter, bees live 6 months. The colony needs to be full of them to survive and mobilize in spring. The balance between letting the bees gather food, and getting them settled in for the winter with a new queen, has been tricky. David fears he started too late in the summer this time. Will the new queens be active in time to produce 'winter bees' and next spring's workers?
Stay tuned. This is an ongoing project.