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  1. #1
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    Default Raising Queen Cells Without Grafting

    After some discussions on other threads Iíve done this thread to show with pictures a way to raise queen cells without grafting.

    It is called the Cut Cell Method and is based on what Jay Smith did, although is not identical.

    I also want to say upfront that there are many ways to raise queens. This is a way that suits me, after using many methods. But any experienced queen breeder will find parts of this method he does differently / doesnít agree with. Comments / critisizms welcome long as it stays friendly!

    Also this is a bit different to what I did when raising queens as a full time job, it is more to suit a small scale operation, wishing to raise from perhaps a dozen to perhaps a thousand queens per year.

    Also a couple of bits of equipment are shown, a swarm box, and a breeder hive. However if you donít have these, explanations are given how to do it with no special equipment.






    Day 0. (Wednesday) This pic shows a bar with a bit of foundation being put into the breeder hive. You can see the hive is sectioned off with a queen excluder and the queen is in the part that fits three frames.
    When I was breeding queens full time we used a purpose built breeder hive that was a bit different but the principle is the same. The queen is kept in a small area which encourages her to lay straight away in the comb we put in, plus it extends her life because she is not laying as many eggs.






    Day 1. (Thursday) The next day if the hive is vigorous the bees have drawn the foundation and there are eggs in it. (And some drone comb built). The comb is removed and put over the other side of the excluder for the bees to look after for the next few days.

    For those who do not want to set up a breeder hive as pictured, just take the queen and two full combs from the hive you want to breed from and leave them in the hive with the bar of foundation in the middle. Move the rest of the hive away just a few yards. 24 hours later the hive can be put back together and the comb should have eggs in it and can be stored over an excluder. If the bees might not draw the foundation fast enough, it could be put in a hive for a day or two to be drawn, before being put in with the queen.






    Day 4.(Sunday) The comb now has eggs starting to hatch. It is in the shed ready for cutting.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Raising Queen Cells Without Grafting


    The cells are cut into strips one cell wide.



    Cell bars are painted with melted wax.



    The strips of cells are put onto the cell bars. This has to be done FAST, before the wax that has been painted on hardens. The bees are not allowed to raise all the cells, they are too close. Every third cell is left alive, the other two are thinned out by poking a hole in the bottom of the cell, in this case with a nail.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Raising Queen Cells Without Grafting




    The bars of cells are hung in a frame, with the cells hanging downwards, and the frame is put into a swarm box (or cell starter as many call it). The swarm box is basically a box able to hold 6 frames, with some extra space at the bottom with gauze attached to allow ventilation. There are also holes in the lid with gauze. In this case, the swarm box was prepared by putting in two combs containing unsealed honey, and pollen. We want the larvae well fed so there should be plenty of food available, also fresh unsealed honey, not capped honey which does not hold enough water.
    Three lbís of bees were added, which is enough bees that the two combs are boiling with bees, and plenty more bees again. The bees are added a few hours before the cells go in, so they have time to realise they are queenless and are desperate to raise queen cells by the time we add the cells. They cannot leave the swarm box, the entrance is closed.
    The frame with the queen cells is hung in the middle, and one comb of pollen and honey (and no brood), is put tightly on each side of it.

    If you donít want to make a swarm box, it can be done in a nuc or super, just as long as you can get enough ventilation, perhaps nail some mesh on the bottom and the top.






    Day 5 (Monday), the cells are taken from the cell starter and put into the cell finisher. The photo shows the cell finisher hive and the starter box with the frame of cells between the two feed combs.
    To make a cell finisher hive you need a strong two or three box hive. Since finding queens is quite a time wasting procedure, I donít, I put an excluder between the two brood boxes. 5 days later I know which box the queen is in because it has eggs in it. This should be timed to coincide with the day old cells being ready. The box with the queen in is put on a new bottom board and moved away a few yards and has a lid put on. The other box, which is now queenless, is put on the original bottom board, and this becomes the cell finisher.







    This is the frame holding the queen cell bars. The bees have started 24 cells. The reason there are some empty patches with no cells is because my eyesite is not as good as it once was, and I have to guess which cells have larva in, so a few strips with no larvae were put in. If the bees had more larvae they would have started more cells. However the advantage with this method is that now I struggle to graft because of poor eyesite, I can still use the cut cell method & get a decent number of cells.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Raising Queen Cells Without Grafting



    This is the cell finishing hive after the cells have been put into it. At least two combs of eggs or young larvae from the queenright box (that was moved way) are put into the middle of the cell finisher, and the frame of queen cells from the starter box are put in between these combs. There must be plenty of unsealed honey and pollen near the frame of queen cells. The bees from the starter box are dumped in, making a very strong hive. Additionally, any bees returning will go to the original site and boost the cell finisher.






    Because the cell finisher is now very crowded, a box of honey frames has been added on top as somewhere for surplus bees to go.






    Day 9 (Friday) We now have some nice looking queen cells, just capped. The bees have built some burr comb also, this can be cut away when we remove the cells to put into hives to mate.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Raising Queen Cells Without Grafting



    Also day 9, the finisher hive can be re-united with itís queen. The box with the queen, that was moved away, is put back on the bottom board. Then a queen excluder, and over that the box with the queen cells. Then the honey box on top. There is no need to use newspaper or similar, the bees have not been separated too long and will re-unite peacefully.
    Because there was young larvae in the combs of the cell finisher when it was queenless, we have to go over those combs to check for queen cells and kill any we find. They could hatch early and kill our cells.

    Finally on day 13 (Tuesday), we remove the cells, to go into the hives they will hatch in, and hopefully mate and start laying. With cut cells, mating success is normally better than with grafted cells.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Raising Queen Cells Without Grafting

    oldtimer - I have just come across your post by accident - fantasticly clear in words and pictures. makes me feel I can and want to try it

    many thanks

    max

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Raising Queen Cells Without Grafting

    Great Info!! And for All The Work You put into this, Thank you !! The Pictures are Awesome !

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Raising Queen Cells Without Grafting

    Thanks .

    Taking some pics and posting them is something I've been thinking for a while, that I should do sometime.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  9. #9
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    Thumbs Up Re: Raising Queen Cells Without Grafting

    Oldtimer - thanks for the great information. Pictures are worth a thousand words!

    Jim

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Raising Queen Cells Without Grafting

    Well done, I enjoyed reading it.
    Dan

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Raising Queen Cells Without Grafting

    very nice thank you

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Raising Queen Cells Without Grafting

    Thanks so much for the pictures and the explanation. It is very informative and helpful.

    If you don't mind, I had a few questions regarding your process. Ok, perhaps more than a few, but still, I'm so interested!

    First, do you think it would be easier to insert a fully drawn frame, instead of inserting a frame of foundation on day 0? This would ensure that the queen lays in most of the cells, and that all of them are drawn out with no drone comb.

    Second, can you explain the importance of ventilation in the swarm box? I've read other queen rearing books and I'm familiar with the topic of a swarm box, but I havn't read anyone else emphasizing an importance to have a top ventilation as well as a bottom ventilation, let alone any ventilation in a swarm box.

    Third, why do you seal off the entrance of the swarm box? If you shake mostly nurse bees in there, you shouldn't have an issue with them leaving.

    Fourth, why not add frames of capped brood to the swarm box? This ensures that when they emerge, you have additional nurse bees to take care of the queen cells. Since they are capped, you don't need to worry about them taking resources away from the queen cells.

    Fifth, in Jay Smith's "Queen Rearing Simplified", he emphasizes the importance of making a swarm box a day in advance, keeping them queenless overnight with a feeder in a dark cool place (he used his cellar). You stress the importance of only keeping them queenless for a few hours, and you don't seem to think it's necessary to plunge the girls into darkness for 24 hours. Have you tried Jay Smith's process and found it unnecessary, or do you just operate a simpler method?

    Sixth, you only put the queen cells in the swarm box (or cell builder) for one day. Most other books have suggested leaving them in the swarm box much longer. Since you have already taken the time to make sure that the swarm box is full of plenty of uncapped honey, pollen, and nurse bees, didn't you create the optimum conditions to raise a queen? Why only keep them in the swarm box for a day, when you could keep them in there for four or five days and have the swarm box raise the queens? Along the same lines, do you think it's possible to make one box that can act as a cell builder and a cell finisher? Or is that not possible?

    Seventh, you said you used to raise queens professionally. What other methods do you have experience with? This system seems very easy and fool proof (which I love) but I'm just wondering if it's easier than the Nicot or MDA Splitter methods.

    Lastly, and I know I'm taking up alot of your time, I'm very sorry, but some of those cells are spaced kinda close together. Have you ever had difficulty cutting the cells out? I get the feeling that if I was doing it I would damage 1/3 of those queen cells. Perhaps experience cures all

    Once again, thanks so much for the information. You have sparked so many questions and so much interest in queen rearing. I appreciate the time, effort, and work you put into this thread.

  13. #13
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    Question Re: Raising Queen Cells Without Grafting

    hey...my operation is just ten hives this year...i'm learning all the time... i'll make my own queens this year.. thanks.. another problem i have now is that screened bottom boards are stripping much pollen off the incoming bees..its winter now and losing this much pollen can't be a good thing.. we are in an area of beetle and varroa infest...
    thanks .. ken

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Raising Queen Cells Without Grafting

    If it's falling through the screen it's probably mostly stuff they were throwing out anyway. But you're right, a buildup under the screen can attract pests where the bees can't clean it.

    Thought I'd post a pic of an italian I've raised the same way, notice the carniolans look smaller and less robust, yet the interesting thing is that in season these carniolans can outlay a bigger italian.



    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Raising Queen Cells Without Grafting

    could you take a pic of the queen excluder you used on (day 0)? the one that kept the queen in those three frames. thanks.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Raising Queen Cells Without Grafting




    Here's what it looks like from underneath. Before assembly a saw cut is made in the two end pieces of the super so the queen excluder can be slid into place.Then the excluder is bent over as per the pic and one queen excluder happens to fit just right for a 3 frame division. The only other thing required is a hole drilled in the box into the queen compartment as a drone escape.

    In most commercial breeder hives the frames hung in the queen compartment are blanked out with wood and only have a piece of comb in the middle perhaps 5 inches square, to restrict the queens laying. But the hive pictured just has normal frames which means it is self sustaining, I don't ever have to add any bees to it.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Raising Queen Cells Without Grafting

    thanks so much, really looking forward to trying this method very soon.

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