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Grafting Tools for Transferring Honey Bee Larvae



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Swiss grafting tool

Swiss Type... This is an expensive precision instrument! It works alright, but it is not as easy to use as some of the others and represents poor value for money.

Magnified Swiss grafting tool

Magnified Swiss Type
A magnifying glass is fitted to the stem of this tool to enable those with less than perfect eyesight to see more easily. I find this rather clumsy and unwieldy. (I use a binocular attachment on my spectacles to provide magnification on those occasions that I need it.)

Magnified Czech Type

grafting tool in illuminated eyeglass and battery pack/case from Antonin Sima, Photo Dave Cushman (sorry about poor quality) grafting tool in illuminated eyeglass from Antonin Sima, Photo Dave Cushman (sorry about poor quality)



This inexpensive, magnified type has battery powered, focussed illumination with the tip of the grafting tool placed at the focus of the lens in the eyeglass. In use it is not placed to the eye, but is used at a comfortable viewing distance.

It comes in it's own carrying case that also houses the batteries and an on/off switch. This sample shown above belongs to Ron Hoskins.

Chinese Type...


Chinese grafting tool

When I first tried these out I did not get on very well with them. I have returned to using them after a gap of about twelve years and I now find them ideal. They are inexpensive, but they are reliable. They are a little difficult to keep clean and I am suspicious that some of my failures may be due this fact. (The one above shows dirt between some of the handgrip wrappings.)

This one is shown about twice life size, it consists of a spring loaded bamboo plunger that slides along a thin tongue of flexible plastic. Modern versions of this tool have moulded plastic parts, which may help with cleanliness. To use, the tongue slips easily under a larva and then a press on the plunger will deposit it, and any royal jelly that was picked up, in the cell to be grafted.

Modern production of this type of tool is by injection moulded parts, which may be more readily kept clean that the wound wrapping shown above.


sable hair brush grafting tool

Sable Hair Brush
The very small No 00 size artists brush is a nice tool to use for grafting, when moistened the bristles stick together and can be easily slid under a larva.


home made wire grafting tool

Homemade Types
These include wooden match sticks or toothpicks that have been softened by chewing and fashioned with a penknife. I have used a strand from a barbed wire fence that I untwisted and hammered into shape. This was my 'favourite' for many years until I lost it. The one illustrated above was made just for the photograph.


goose quill grafting tool

Home made grafting tool for clumsy fingers A goose quill (as above) can be shaped with a sharp knife and the air resistance of the feather helps to steady shaky fingers.

One problem that I have personally is an inability to grip small or thin objects properly. I have overcome this by making a paddle shaped handle from 6 mm plywood and fixing a 100 mm length of stainless steel bicycle spoke with the end flattened and narrowed. The shaft is bent downwards at about 80° to keep the fingertips out of the way of vision.

One feature of this paddle, that is difficult to indicate properly is that the surface is scalloped out on both sides to match the curvature of my fingertips as the yellow cross section illustrates.

Illuminated grafting magnifier...

Illuminated grafting magnifier These are sold for reading maps and have a couple of torch batteries in the handle. They focus on the surface that is in the exact plane of the rim, but by using comb that is shaved down heavily they may bring the larvae into focus. The grafting tool is introduced via a slot or hole in the side of the cone. If adequate focus is not obtained, the rim of the cone can be sawn off with a hacksaw to shorten the distance between the lens and the cell bottoms.


Dental probe modified for grafting

The grafting tool shown above started life as a dental probe, but a little judicious grinding and re-polishing turns it into a good grafting tool, which, owing to the weight in the solid metal handle, has a very positive 'weighty' feel to it that aids slow and deliberate handling.


Plastic dental probe style grafting tool

This plastic tool is similar to the dental probe, it has been available in USA and Europe for some time, but as of August 2002, I have not seen them on sale in UK.

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Written... Autumn 2000, Revised... 19 June 2002, Revised... 20 July 2002, Revised... 19 August 2002, Revised... 18 August 2003, Corrected... 24 June 2006,

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