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After collecting the larvae, putting them in the plastic queen cups ( the process is called grafting) and then putting the frame into a  queenless hive, we waited 10 days for the larvae to develop. The nurse bees sense that they are without a Queen, so they take good care of the potential queens, feeding them lots of royal jelly.   Queen bees take 16 days from egg to emergence.  It was important to take a very young larva… perhaps only one or two days old , so  by day 10 ( about  8-9 days after we grafted the larvae into the plastic cups) the potential queens will have formed a pupa and the queen bee cell is sealed over for protection.  The queens will emerge about 6 days later.   I went back to the hive with Steve to check on their development.  Out of the 60 larvae that we grafted we counted 24 capped queen cells. They look like large peanuts.  6 of the larvae that I grafted were successful!   I was pretty excited about my success until Steve said that he usually gets a 75-80% success rate and the big time professionals get 90 – 95%!  Takes lots of practice and a keen eye.

Successful queen cells

Successful queen cells

The day before we checked on the queens, Steve had prepared special hives…small units with just a few combs and no queens. Steve calls this a mating nuc.  We took the queens ( still in their cells) to the hives and put one into each hive by pressing the wax cell into the comb.  When the queen emerges, the bees will hopefully accept her and begin to feed her.  A week later she will be mature enough to leave the hive for a mating flight.  The workers will escort her to an area where a large number of drones congregate each day ( the bee equivalent of a singles bar) and she will mate with up to 10 different males.  Hopefully she will find her way back to her hive and within another week, she will begin laying eggs.

Attaching queen cell to comb

Attaching queen cell to comb

Placing comb back into the mating nuc

Placing comb back into the mating nuc

We will leave all this up to the bees, returning to the hive in about three weeks to see if this whole process has been successful.   I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

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