Hi Everyone! After hearing back from most of you, I have decided that the best way to swap bee genetics this year would be through trading virgin queens, rather than hosting a grafting party. This means that each of us will have to follow a set schedule, so that we all have virgin queens for trading (who are only 1-5 days post cell-emergence) on June 2.
So here is the plan: I will send out emails with instructions (and hopefully photos), and anyone who wants to can 'play along at home.' If you aren't ready to try it this year, you can still get the emails and get a sense of the queen rearing process. Or if you want to try along with us, but don't have a queen that made it through winter, you could just keep the queens you make for yourself and use them for splits or "bank" them for later. I will send advice for those of you who want to do that too.
When we get to the ripe queen cell phase, we can touch base on who has made it this far and how many queens will be available for trading. Then on June 2 in the afternoon, we can meet at Oregon Ridge, and trade queens. From there, you will be responsible for the mating phase and new colony establishment.
Here is the basic timetable of activities, so you can plan, and I will send out more detailed instructions as each step approaches. The weekend of May 5th, you will start making your "cell builder" colony in either a five frame nuc box, a queen castle, or an extra super with frames that you have around. You will feed it and load it up with capped brood and nurse bees until May 16th, at which point you will put in the eggs/larva you wish to turn into new queens. The bees will draw out the queen cells, on the weekend of May 25, you will either cage the individual queen cells or move them to individual mating nucs. (This is to protect the other cells from being killed by the first queen out.) Then on the afternoon of June 2nd, we can meet at Oregon Ridge with our virgin queens in little queen cages, and swap.
So for right now, you can get started by reading up on queen rearing techniques on the web, watching YouTube, or reading books. I would recommend Lawrence John Conner's book, "Queen Rearing Essentials," from Wicwas Press. Rusty of the HoneyBeeSuite website has this explanation of how to use a Cloake board for queen rearing,http://www.honeybeesuite.com/using-the-cloake-board-method-to-raise-queens/. Michael Bush also has a brief explanation. http://bushfarms.com/beesafewgoodqueens.htm
Please feel free to email me with any questions, comments, suggestions for improvements, etc. I would like to develop a system that is easy enough for almost anyone to follow along, so all feedback is appreciated.