I have tried to graft larvae three times now, and the bees only accept one cup. I think I may be hurting them in transfer. I have read about priming the cups with royal jelly, but how much is enough or too much? Also, I made my own grafting tool fron a paper clip, flattened, curved, and filed to a sliver. Is there a trick to scooping the little guys out of the cell, or does it just take practice? My homemade "jenter system" never works right, so I tried the old fashioned way. The colony split queens are working out really well, but I wanted to get into this grafting of larvae to queens. I read everything I can get my hands on, but I must be missing something...and they are fresh hatched larvae.
I have tried to graft larvae three times now, and the bees only accept one cup. I think I may be hurting them in transfer. I have read about priming the cups with royal jelly, but how much is enough or too much?
Take the wooden end of a large woodenmatch after greaking the head off of the other side. Put one small drop of liquid royal jelly into the bottom of the queen cell cups, enough to cover most of the bottom.No more!
You further wrote:
Also, I made my own grafting tool fron a paper clip, flattened, curved, and filed to a sliver. Is there a trick to scooping the little guys out of the cell, or does it just take practice?
I have made my own frafting needle from a paper clip and I favor it over more expensive needles.
But I did not file mine to a sliver. I instead, flattened it, then took a jewelers fine file and filed it to the width of the paper clip wire normal width and gently rounded the edges, wiping with fine emery cloth. Then I bend the end for grafting and shaped the paper clip to fit between my thumb and first finger in comfort, but long enough to get into the bottom of the cell unscraped with enough clearance (length) to see what I was doing.
I had an old beekeeper tell me slivers can be too sharp!
Also when starting out, take a toothpick of plain wood and bend the pointed tip and use that for lifting larva.Also the end of a plastic soda straw carved to a small flat tip will work also after being bent.
You also wrote:
My homemade "jenter system" never works right, so I tried the old fashioned way. The colony split queens are working out really well, but I wanted to get into this grafting of larvae to queens. I read everything I can get my hands on, but I must be missing something...and they are fresh hatched larvae.
Then prime the queen cells with royal jelly. Then wet the grafting needle with royal jelly. Then slide the wet grafting tip under the larva slowlly sideways, aproaching from the moon/curved side of the larva in position in the bottom of the cell cup. This is the easiest way to approach when learning.
Then gently after sliging under with the grafting needle, lift up and out and then place into the bottom of the grafting cup and slide to the side again pushing down slowly at same time, so you float the larva off of the spoon with the jelly, and slide her onto the jelly in the cup bottom.
It takes practice, but you can do it.
Keep going and trying.
Dee A. Lusby
Since you live in PA. consider going to the Ohio State University Rothenbuhler Bee Lab for the two day course,"The Art of Queen Rearing" by Sue Cobey. It should bee in May of next year. This is an excellent hands-on class, you will learn how properly graft and to make all of your equipment. Try (make) a lot of grafting tools and find one that works for you. One "store bought" tool to try is the Chinese bamboo grafter, it has a flexable plastic tip that slides under the larva as well as a "plunger" to push the larva off if needed.
On my Chinese grafting tool, the end is made of a sliver of waterbuffalo horn.
Anyway, at under 5 dollars (try Mann Lake) it's cheap and works easier for me that things I've made myself.
Also to the first poster, are the larvae drying out? How long it is from the time you graft till the time put the larvae in the hive?
I was looking through some stainless steel dental tools one day at a flea market and came across what are known as curettes. They look much like a grafting tool, but only much larger...almost three to four times as wide as some grafting tools.
I struggled all through last year's queen rearing season with dismal results so I tried using the curette this year.
Much to my surprise the curette easily picked up the larva with nearly all of the royal jelly it was laying on. My next dilemma came when trying to release the larva into a plastic cell cup (JzBz). I soon found that a fine sable paint brush (size 3/0), slightly moistened can be used to transfer the larva from the curette into the plastic cup without harm. I had amazing results! The larva is transfered with so much royal jelly that priming the cups is not necessary.
Steve Taber, a well known queen breeder, says jokingly in his book that you should only graft the larva that you can't see. With the curette I simply locate cells with an abundant supply of royal jelly and then scoop it out. In most cases, the transparent larva is right in the middle of its royal jelly bed and can then be transfered to the cup.
Some supply companies sell "jelly spoons" which are nearly identical. I don't graft on hot days and I place wet paper towels over the cups as I graft into them. Moisture is crucial so don't overlook this important element.
I actually had some success. I started as James said, by grafting the smallest larvae I can find. My grafting tool was to thick.
I also noticed that the one or two that were being accepted were the last ones that I grafted. I think they were drying out or something. I read alot about it, but as Dee said, practice, practice, practice! I am getting better at it. I will keep practicing, so I have at least somewhat of a clue for next spring. I need about 3 more queens to requeen, but two are already in the process.