Queen rearing methods
The easiest method of raising a new queen is to move a ripe queen cell from a busy colony into a nuc or mating box stocked with nurse bees and brood. This is usually the first type of queen rearing a new beekeeper tries and it is both fun and effective. Plus it gives a new beekeeping a general feeling for the queen-rearing process.
The remaining queen-rearing methods can be grouped into three categories: no-graft systems, grafting systems, and artificial insemination. Although many variations and strategies are used, all the systems are very similar. The major difference between the systems is the amount and timing of beekeeper interference.
Moving a ripe queen cell from one colony to another requires very little interference.
No-graft systems require slightly more interference. In a no-graft system, the queen is given artificial cups in which to lay her eggs. Once the eggs are laid in the cups, the cups are moved to a new location.
In grafting systems the beekeeper has an even bigger role because he must select larvae of the proper age and then physically transfer them into queen cups where they will develop. This requires both the ability to recognize larvae of the right age and the physical dexterity to move them without injuring them.
Artificial insemination is a special art that gives a breeder the most control over honey bee genetics. The breeder selects not only the queen mother, but also selects the sperm donors. Then the breeder must collect the sperm and artificially inseminate the queens. After eggs are laid, they are grafted into queen cups similar to other grafting operations.
After the initial steps, however, queen rearing in all the systems is nearly identical. Simply put, queenless colonies are used to begin the process of queen cell building and queenright colonies are used to finish the process. Later, after the queen cells are capped but before they hatch, they are removed from the queenright hive and transferred to mating nucs or queen banks.
Although insemination requires special training, anyone can learn to use both the no-graft and grafting systems. Practiced on a small scale, either of these methods will provide plenty of queens for a hobby beekeeper.