Raising queens using the Punched Cell method has been in use since the early 20th century. Until now, the booklet “Raise Your Own Queens by the Punched Cell Method” by Richard Smailes, that was first published in 1970, was the most comprehensive source of information. Possibly due to the irregular supply of punches, few have continued to practice the method and it has largely gone out of use, though the author, Roger Patterson, has used it successfully for over 50 years. In this book Roger describes the method he uses, as well as giving other useful information.
Small-scale queen rearing is needed more than ever to overcome the increasing number of queen imports into the UK and their genetic impact on locally adapted and native bees. For many, weak eyes and trembling hands make the idea of larval transfer via grafting a worrying challenge, especially when the larva is separated from its food and the potential queen is often dumped unceremoniously into a plastic cup of some kind.
The Punched Cell method that Roger describes does not separate the larva from its food, it is not moved from its original wax cell and it is not touched in any way during the whole process. Good light is not even needed; indeed, the whole process can be easily performed on a hive roof in the apiary.
This well illustrated and practical book covers the history, methods and examples of how every beekeeper can have their own sustainable supply of quality queens for many years to come at little cost, with little skill required.