So I thought I'd talk about the way I raise cells.
For years I have used a method that Kirk Webster showed me. It's a great way to raise a batch (45-48) of very good, quality cells. The cells are large, well built, and still provisioned with jelly when they go into nucs a day or 2 before emerging.
Kirk's method is a take off on Brother Adam's cell building plan. I've done both and now prefer Adam's way. But, the beginning...
Choose a very strong production colony. One with 9-10 frames of brood and a prolific queen. A queen who is a laying machine and who fills every open space with brood. Best results are when on a flow so supers are in order.
On day 1, separate the broodnest with an excluder. Sealed brood and queen go in bottom brood box, while unsealed and extra frames of pollen and honey go above the excluder in top brood box. Supers go back on top. No queens allowed above excluder. If you have to shake all the bees out of the supers and brood box to be sure, then so be it. There should be 5-6 frames of sealed brood below and 4-5 unsealed above.
9 days later, the entire colony has to be checked for queen cells. The colony may start swarm cells below the excluder, or emergency cells above. All must be removed...no exceptions. Begin feeding 1:1 syrup at this time...no matter the flow conditions. Continue feeding until cells are capped 5 days after graft.
The next day is grafting day. In the morning, the cell builder has to be made ready for the graft. The colony is taken apart...supers removed and top brood box removed. Bottom of hive with queen is removed from stand, and turned around to face the other way. Note: My broodnest is 2 deeps and a medium, so the queen actually has a deep and a medium. The top deep was raised above the excluder.
A new bottom is placed on the stand facing in the original direction. One of the partially filled supers is placed on the bottom board and the top brood box is placed on that. The outside two frames (frames without brood) are removed. A space is made inthe middle and a good fresh pollen frame is placed in the space...the graft will go next to the pollen frame later in the day. The rest of the supers are placed on top. This new setup I'll call the Cell Builder...CB
Now, the core of the queen's broodnest is shaken into the cell builder. This core is comprised of unsealed brood and contains the nurse bees of the colony. Remember that you place the sealed brood below the excluder 10 days before grafting. That all emerged and the queen re-layed it, so now it's all open brood. When shaking these 5 or 6 frames of bees into the CB, take no queens! I shake them through an excluder shaker box, to be sure. After shaking, close both the queen's hive and the CB. Go find something else to do until later in the day.
What have you created? A hopelessly queenless colony with only sealed and emerging bees. This colony is stocked to overflowing with young bees. It has all the field bees for added nutritional resources. The freak! Fly around the yard. Crawl all over the hive and out onto the ground. Listen hard...you'll almost hear them cry. And that's what you want.
In the afternoon, add your graft next to the pollen frame, and fill the feeder again.
5 days later, the old queen and her colony can be re-united with the CB. Remove the CB from the stand. Don't bump and crash the CB as it has tender cells in it. Swing the queen's colony back up and onto the stand. Remove the cover and add an excluder. Place the CB on the excluder, and the supers on top. On day 10 after grafting, the cells are ready to use.
That's basically Kirk's method. But in reading Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey, I see Bro Adam did it just a bit differently. I've switched to his setup. On day 1, instead of separating the brood above and below an excluder, he brings in brood from other colonies. So, place an excluder on top of the broodnest of your strong colony and the box of brood (7 frames of brood and 2 feed frames on the outsides). Supers back on top...no queens!
See, Bro Adam believed that the best cells were raised under either swarming or supercedure. Supercedure is difficult to control and usually not many cells result. Swarming on the other hand is easy to set up. Just try adding 7 frames of brood to a strong colony. I call these boxes of brood Bee Bombs...see my article in Bee Culture.
So, you set up a colony to get to swarming strength, and take away the queen. You control when they start their cells. They have all the resources and more...exactly what is needed to create quality queen cells.
One plus with Bro Adams approach...you can re-use the cell builder in a couple weeks after taking the cells. You never separated the queen's broodnest or restricted her from laying. Rather that using up the young nurse bee resource inthe CB, you are adding to it.
This is the best cell building method I have come across.