I put together a cell starter the other day and grafted some larvae for the first time ever today. I started going cross eyed by the time I was finishing transferring larvae to cell cups. Hopefully I'll get a few queens out of the deal to start some nucs with in a few weeks.
Larva on the end of the grafting tool.
Transferring larva to a cell cup.
Cell cups primed with a little honey, didn't have any royal jelly, and each contains a larva. I used the smallest larvae I could find.
Here's the frame from which I found larvae of appropriate age.
I was looking through the colonies today and have plenty of drones. If the cells don't take I'll try again here in a few days. I'm kinda scared I used too much honey to prime the cell cups. It seemed like I only put in a very small amount with the syringe but when I floated the larvae of the grating tool it seemed like a lot more was in the cups than there should have been. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Gotta start somewhere. Good luck my fingers will be crossed for you. I would love to do that with that ferel hive I have.
I've never primed a cup, and don't have any problems with acceptance. My usual take is 40-43 of 50 grafts. With those results, I can't see the benefit of priming. Why not try a chinese grafting tool..for less than $5. It picks up the larva and the puddle of jelly it sits on. Depositing the larva/jelly in the cup is just as simple. No chasing the larvae around the cell as with a stainless tool.
Originally Posted by WVbeekeeper
I started going cross eyed by the time I was finishing transferring larvae to cell cups. Hopefully I'll get a few queens out of the deal to start some nucs with in a few weeks.
1) next time get larvae from some very dark to absolulely black comb. you will be surprised how much the dark background helps. 2) get yourself one of those large magnifying glass + light on an extentable arm (when I had young eyes this device definitely helped in regards to eye strain... now it is essential).
I think??? those plastic queen cell cups are sold as you don't really need to prime or polish the cups. priming does make the larvae come off the grafting tool a bit easier.
I cant wait to start grafting. The only problem is is that it has been lightly snowing the last few days...
where is spring??? :(
It's not meant as a criticism, but wasn't that larvae kind of old? When I graft 12-24 hr larvae they are either much smaller than the one shown in the photo, or I just wasn't seeing the larvae in the photo clearly. Also, I would think that priming with honey may cause some osmotic shock to the larvae. Maybe a pro can weigh in on this subject.
When I purchased a dissecting microscope I also purchased a really nice LED light on a flexible arm. Having a cool bright light that can be focused to the bottom of the cell really helped me out. Also, I used the same type of grafting tool as shown in the photo, and found it very difficult to handle. It was like using a shovel to pick up a tiny larvae. The Swiss made tool seen in some of the catalogs (around $35) has really fine tips and is extremely well designed. The tips are fine enough where I can easily get the larvae off and into the cup. How Marla Spivak can work with a head lamp is beyond me. Speaking of Marla Spivak, her grafting video is excellent.
upon review I think HVH comments about the size of the larvae is quite correct. I am however unfamilar with the style of your grafting tool. I use one of those automatic grafting tools from Kelleys and the larvae should be no larger (curled up) than the width of the tongue.
do keeps us informed as to how your effort goes.
Michael Palmer, I'm sure I'll learn as I go. As I use different tools and try different methods I'm sure I'll find what works best for me when I get the right components together. If the cells don't take all I'v elost is a little bit of time, a few cell cups, and a few eggs. I'll still have the cell starter to try again with the great advice I'm getting from everyone.
tecumseh, I agree about the dark comb. Maybe I did grab a few larvae that were slightly on the old side because the smaller ones were too hard to see on the light colored comb. I think I will use a magnifying glass and a light next time as I have both on hand.
HVH, here's a close up of the larvae. This was the third one I transferred. About half were about this size and the other half was maybe a little smaller.
I'll be sure to keep you posted.
I do appreciate all the help. This is why I wanted to post a few pictures and briefly explain what I'm doing (wrong). Thanks.:)
The larvae do look much too old to my eyes. You may still get some queens, but younger larvae make better queens. I will give a long winded reply below and maybe get some of the pro's to argue about the fine points of queen rearing.
Originally Posted by WVbeekeeper
I have been rearing queens for only a few years and am near the bottom of the learning curve as well. The dark comb as mentioned, a pair of 3X glasses and a good grafting tool (BetterBee GT3, page 65, 2008 catalog) really added to my success. I have been getting over 80% of my grafted cells with queens and my speed quadrupled when I got the Swiss grafting tool (I tried the auto tool, the chinese tools, and the double grafting tool). To me the most frustrating part was getting the tiny larvae on the grafting tool without crushing it, and then getting the larvae back off again without crushing it. The grafting tool in your photo looks like the double ended grafting tool GT1 in BetterBee. That tool is responsible for the invention of new expletives in my grafting room. The thickness of the leading edge made it difficult to get underneath the larvae so I found myself smashing larvae and taking a long time before picking one up successfully. When I switched to the Swiss tool, the number of mutilations dropped dramatically and I found myself adding one larvae after another to cell cups as though I knew what I was doing. Since the Swiss grafting tool was on backorder it took forever to arrive. I bought three of these tools because I never wanted to do without one again.
Since my perfect eye sight of four years ago seems all of a sudden not so perfect, the 3X glasses are a blessing.
My approach adopted/modified from Spivak -
So for me, I confine the queen in one of my nucs with a push in cage (#5 excluder wire) on a Tuesday morning (before my real job starts) , and release her the following morning (Wednesday with eggs under the wire being no older now than 24hrs). On Thursday evening after work I add the cell cups frame to the finishing colony to be polished. Friday morning the first eggs that she could have laid would start to hatch into larvae, so this is when I add the frame to a finishing colony that has already been arranged for queen rearing (actually, I replace the frame of polished cups with the larvae). The nurse bees upstairs will add more royal jelly than the nuc would, resulting in easier grafting the following morning. Having Saturday off of work allows me to graft larvae no older than 24 hrs old and possibly as young as newly hatched that morning. If I can't get to them until afternoon sometime, then the oldest eggs may be up to 30hrs old. So first thing Saturday morning, I set up a swarm box from a colony arranged to harvest nurse bees (see Spivak video) and place the box on the cool garage floor with moist sponges inside the box. Next, I get a small towel large enough to wrap around a frame, and get it wet with warm water and head to the apiary to recover the frame of larvae and immediately wrap with the towel (brush bees off first:rolleyes:). Once in the grafting room where the humidifier has been on for a few hours, I place the frame of larvae on a wooden frame that holds it at a comfortable angle for me to graft. The cell cup/bars are on a moist towel on top of my plant propagation mat previously set to 95F and the towel folded over them. Once I have the 3X glasses on, the fiber optics lamp pointing into the cells where the #5 wire used to be, I am ready to grab a cell bar from under the moist towel and start to graft. I graft about 57 cells in an hour. After each cup on a cell bar is complete, I place it under the moist 95F towel and grab the next cell bar. When all the bars (3) are complete they are added to the frame and then to the swarm box. A gentle tap of the swarm box drops the bees to the bottom, on top of the wet sponges, giving just enough time to place the bar inside between a frame of open nectar and a frame of pollen. It is good if the swarm box sits a few hours in a cool place before adding the cells.
These techniques are covered in the Spivak video and work book.
Sorry for my long response, but others may be more tempted to get into details if they have something in print where they disagree. Good Luck
I will add to HVH comments after first saying well done.
Steve Taber suggest that about 95% of workers eggs hatch on a nocturnal schedule.... so I like to graft in the am.
feeding the queen mother hives several days in advance will make the food at the bottom of the cell much more plentiful. this makes scooping up the larvae with a good dab of feed attached, plus removing of same, much easier.
the HVH writes:
a pair of 3X glasses
where might one get a good set of those?
the tecumseh adds:
I don't confine the queen but do add frames and pulled foundation to the queen mother hive which I date and recheck on a 24 hour schedule. after some experience you can just about pull any frame and hunt and search for the proper aged larvae, but this adds signicantly to the time the larvae are exposed in the cell cups (which I don't like to do personally).
just to add some 'feel' for the proper sized larvae... if you divide 'a' cell into six pie shaped wedges then a very young, newly hatched, larvae should fit into one of those six wedges. having some method of positively indentifying larvae age (such as HVH described in the prior post) makes the grafting quicker, better and less subject unneeded variation.
HVH: "plant propagation mat"
Now there's a new idea for those cell bar's. I just happen to have 3 of them but never thought about using them this way! I also use a smaller nuc for my queen breeder but never really thought about the difference in feeding those 1-30 hr. larva with different size colonies. Interesting thought on moving into a larger population of nurse bee's. I think I just naturally selected those with more royal jelly but having an entire frame better fed makes sense.
Just show's again all the different variations to get to the end goal!
I came to the conclusion a few years ago that having control over queen production was a key factor in any apiary. I got really tired of having 50 colonies with 1/3 strong, 1/3 medium strength, and 1/3 poor. If I have enough nucs each year, I can adjust colony strength and replace queens at will. I purchased 50 Buckfast queens one year and most were killed within a week or superseded thereafter. I was so angry:mad: I decided never to purchase queens again unless as breeding stock. The Marla Spivak video got me started and then I read Alley and Doolittle (great books). After reading Brother Adams, I decided His approach was brilliantly simple - raise your queens near the swarm season, when nature prefers, and overwinter them as nucs. The nucs that survive winter are used to requeen in the spring (last summers queens are the most productive). Instead of destroying the old queens, He would place them in the nucs where the new queens were taken. Then when the season is right for queen rearing, He would go to the nucs, kill the old queens (that have kept the nucs stocked), and then add a new virgin queen. When I read this, I new that I had stumbled across a jewel. I tried this approach on a small scale with a dozen nucs and it worked extremely well. So I built 100 four frame nucs last month and painted them last weekend. Each nuc is half the size of a full depth brood box, so that two will fit on top of a hive (a standard box divided would have worked also). I plan on making up two-queen colonies each year with this approach. I have a long ways to go and many mistaked to make, but I look forward to the journey.
where might one get a good set of those?
I don't know about a good set, but my wife picked up the 3X glasses that I use at the dollar store. She got 2X, 2.5X and 3X which provides a range for different applications. The fiber optics lamp I purchased makes a huge difference, but was several hundred dollars (meant for the day I am willing to fail miserably at instrumental insemination). You may be able to locate a cheaper fiber optics lamp at a lighting store or another hobby house of some kind. The nice thing about fiber optics, is the flexible arm that allows you to focus the "cool" light right down the middle of any cell without cooking them.
HVH, I've seen that video before but thought I would just try to read up on grafting and give it try before purchasing the video. Anyway I went ahead and ordered it from Kelley's today. I can't wait to get it. I'm going to open the cell starter tomorrow and see what's going on inside. If they are raising some queens for me do you think it would be alright to start some nucs with them even if the queens were started with larva which were a little older? I'd like to start some nucs early and then replace the queens with some better ones later when I start doing better.
On those magnification glasses, I bet you could find some in a fabric shop. People who sew use them or a magnifying glass to be more precise with their needle placement when sewing. My mother uses a large magnifying glass sometimes when she sews. Also, here is a link to some safety glasses with the bifocal magnification lenses. They seemed to be priced at a really reasonable price. There are a few listed at the bottom of the page that are 2.5 magnification priced between $9 to $13.50. There is on pair on there for $6.75.
If you get your new queens laying eggs, I would think they should last long enough to get replacement queens. In fact, if they perform well, I would put them to work in hives or in nucs until they seem to run out of gas. Even if the queens are inferior, you might get a few pounds of bees for free - sure beats driving across town to collect a swarm.
Originally Posted by WVbeekeeper
I went to the local beek meeting this evening. The state inspector which is designated to my area was there. We talked after the meeting about how I was learning to graft and he said he would come up in a few weeks for a tutorial. It will be really nice to have someone who is experienced to to take the time to help me out.
thanks for the input...
I would go ahead and install those cells in the smallest unit I could put together. the next step (problem) in queen rearing is stocking those nucs which (at least it seems to me) can be an different kind of talent.
This job becomes a pleasure when you learn to overwinter your mating nucs.
Originally Posted by tecumseh
Michael, We're still hoping to get you down to tell us about your queen rearing methods. Another alternative might be a few of us coming up and giving you a days work in exchange for some OJT. berkshire
One thing you might consider. Especially if you try the chinese grafting tool. Do you have a breeder hive, or do you keep the queen confined to one section of the hive? If you make sure the breeder colony is strong, with lots of emerging brood, and has a good pollen comb next to the frame of eggs, there will be nice puddles of jelly under the larvae. Much easier to graft.
Originally Posted by WVbeekeeper