Grafting Technique – My Queen Rearing and What Works

I don’t do a lot of grafting but I get quite good results by doing the following:

  • Use a brood frame that has been laid in a few times, i.e. not a new frame of drawn comb or one completely black. I found that new drawn comb is too soft and the Chinese grafting tool pierces the wax rather than curving around the larvae. When it’s too dark I can’t se the larvae at the bottom even with a torch.
  • I take the frame indoors to do the grafting. As my shed is next to the apiary it’s only a minutes walk so I don’t need to cover the frame or use a damp cloth. Working indoors means I can take my time and work at a nice height with the right lighting conditions. Just makes it easier and less fiddly, with no distractions.
  • I use a head magnifier with a built in light to select the smallest larvae I can. Ideally no bigger than an egg. To get it on the grafting tool I insert the tip of the grafting tool at the back of the C shaped larva. I don’t use the magnifier to help me with the actual graft as I find it gets in the way.
  • I transfer the larvae to the brown plastic cups, similar to those with the Jenter or Cupkit systems, and just ease the larvae off using the release button on the grafting tool. My grafting frame holds 10 cells, in 2 rows of 5, and I wait until I have filled all 10 cups before transferring them on to the frame. This way I find I can get into a rhythm and can do the grafts in a couple of minutes.
  • If I have any slight wobbles as I do a graft I reject it and start again and select a fresh larva.

Working quickly and getting into a rhythm make the process less fraught. My last attempt resulted in 9 of the 10 cells being accepted. Typically, I only want 3 or 4 queen cells and so having double the number means I can select the best looking ones to be hatched out.


I have started using the Cloake board system for raising the queen cells and will put an article up soon on how this works. But I have found it easier than the Wilson-Pagden method I was using before.