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  1. #1
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    Default My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    Tried my hand at grafting today, 36 JZBZ wide base cups got filled. 18 from a local MH queen (open mated) and 18 from a prolific VSH hive. I was hoping to graft from one of Russell's Sunkist queens I ordered, but the weather messed that up. I tossed as many nurse bees as I could into a ventilated cardboard nuc box, and sealed it up for the night (or perhaps up to 36 hours). I'll keep everyone posted on how it turns out.
    I did learn quite a bit. For starters, I hate chinese grafting tools. So hard to work with (I thought). I'm going to have to order a few other types, see what works well.
    But I did have a few questions that I was hoping to throw by you guys:

    I did my best to find the queen in the second hive (the one all the nurse bees came from), but alas I wasn't able to find her. Wicked aggressive hive, and definitely going to have to requeen them soon. You could grab a frame and see a cloud of bees rush for the veil, a few seconds later smelling bananas. They made the whole thing rather uncomfortable. As a matter of fact, after I got done grafting, I walked around the house to the front door and went inside. A half an hour later I saw a bunch of bees bumping into the screen door, so I went outside to see what was up. Nothing was up, they were just looking for me, to exact revenge. And they did. Three times on the scalp.

    The aggressive hive consists of a deep, two mediums, and a shallow, all full of brood. After shaking the nurse bees (as many as I could) into the nuc, I shook everything from the top medium, and the shallow into the deep, put another medium over the deep on bottom, then a queen excluder, then the other medium and shallow.

    1. I was hoping to toss the queen (if she wasn't already) into the bottom deep. But if on accident I shook her into the nuc box, will they draw out the cells anyway? Or not likely?

    2. Because they are so aggressive, I think I might pinch the queen, and use the numbers in the hive to populate all the mating nucs. Does that sound reasonable?

    3. I don't really want to dive back into the aggressive hive later, when the swarm box is over with, so I was hoping to put it on top of a different, calmer hive to finish the cells. Can I put the nurse bees from hive one that's in the swarm box over top of hive two to make a finisher? Will it screw up the bees mixing them around that much? Am I better off putting the nurse bees back from where they came from, and using the aggressive hive as a finisher?

    4. What is the maximum time you can leave them in the swarm box? I have to work tomorrow (9am-6pm) and I can combine them after 6, but if the weather doesn't hold out I might have to wait till Sunday. Thoughts?

    5. Some of the larvae I grafted were from the aggressive hive. Nasty to work with, but prolific as hell! Are the queens from the aggressive hive, by nature, going to be aggressive?

    Thanks for the help! Having a blast (even with the stings) over here!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    Interesting account!

    If the queen is in the cell starter, most likely they will start a few cells but not many. Or maybe none. But there are other factors that may make them start, or not start, the cells in the presence of a queen but for the most part, if the queen's there the take would be low / zero.

    BTW looking through a hive for the queen with all those boxes, unlimited brood nest, and vicious bees, can be a nightmare. Here's a tip, 5 days before you will take the nurse bees, put a queen excluder in the middle of the brood nest. Then when you make the cell starter take the bees from the 1/2 with no eggs, don't bother looking for the queen.

    As to pinching the queen, yes. Me, I like to work in comfort. I simply refuse to tolerate aggressive bees and it is still possible to have a very good bee that is not aggressive. If you split this hive into nucs, bear in mind that if any of your cells don't hatch they will then raise their own from the aggresive queens brood. You can solve this by going through a week later and pinching any cells.

    Yes you can combine the starter onto a different finisher hive. When you put this starter onto the other hive, if you are still not sure where the queen is, look for eggs. If she is in the starter there should be eggs in some of those combs.

    24 hours is normally as long as an enclosed cell starter should be left. longer then that and quality of care of the cells drops off.

    And yes, the offspring of the aggressive queen are likely to be aggressive also. Maybe not all of them but probably most of them. Bear in mind also that using the offspring of this queen is going to be putting, in the future, a lot of drones out there with those aggressive genetics.

    As this is your first attempt it's likely results might not be awesome, but looks like you're learning a lot already! All the best, do post some pics!
    Last edited by Oldtimer; 04-01-2011 at 03:34 PM.
    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: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    Thanks Oldtimer.

    I already know my results won't be great. I'm only expecting about 10-20% of my grafts to actually make it. Hey, it's a learning curve!

    As far as splitting 5 days before you graft: Wouldn't you still have to go into both "halves" of the hive? Since you are looking for 3 day old larvae, they will only be where the queen is. I could shake from the part that has none, ensuring that I don't shake in the queen, but I would still have to go into both halves, right?

    I know you do a "graftless" method, and I might try that later-on. Right now it's just about learning.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    Yes you are right, youngest larvae possible for grafting.

    I wasn't talking about the hive where you will graft from though, just putting an excluder in the one where you will get the bees from for the starter. 5 days after the excluder goes in there will still be plenty of nurse bees in the queenless 1/2. If you are both grafting and taking bees from the one hive, yes, you would have to go into both 1/2's, but at least you could be sure not to get the queen in the starter.

    Yes I do a graftless system, nothing wrong with grafting though I just posted the graftless thing as one method, of many.
    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: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    Ok, much clearer, Thanks.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    I rechecked today (I was able to make it home during my lunch break), and the queen was not in the nuc.

    I didn't get an accurate count, mainly because the bees were covering many of the cups, but I think they only attended to about 30% of the cells. The ones that were untouched I think was due to my poor grafting :roll: I wasn't very proficient with the grafting tool. I know I flippd some larvae over, and I may have even cut one or two in half with the chinese grafting tool. It was difficult to get used to. But we will see how many ACTUALLY make it

    I combined them with a different hive than the aggressive ones, without much of an issue.

  7. #7
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    Apr 2008
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    west point, ms
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    Default Re: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    I tried it last year and was a total flop. I just can't see what i am doing good luck to you.
    Don't think you are on the right road simply because it is a well worn pathway.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    I figured I'd give an "update":

    I rechecked today, and 12/36 of the attempted grafts got capped today. More than I expected, but less than I hoped. A good learning experience.

    It should be interesting to see how many actually make it (emerge, mate, ect).

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Ballard County, KY
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    Default Re: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    Sounds good to me, keep us updated.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    I reckon 12/36 for a first graft is pretty dam good, give yourself a pat on the back

  11. #11
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    Default Re: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    Update:

    I went ahead and made up mating nucs today. I've been reading up on mini-nuc percentages, and the best way to increase the mated percentage number. So I took a standard 10 frame medium, and cut groves to make 4x2 frame sections out of it. I took the aggressive hive, and divided them up as equally as I could among 2 of these boxes (8 sections total with 2 frames in each). That gave me a deep box and three frames of mediums left. So I took the three remaining frames, put it in a medium 5 frame nuc box with a top and bottom. The 10 frames of deep I divided up into three 5 frame deep nuc boxes (two with 3 frames, one with 4 frames) and gave each a queen cell.

    12 total, we'll see how many make it. I have already seen quite a bit of drifting, as one 2 frame section is being overrun with forragers. I'll probably switch positions later, even the numbers a bit.

    The "bad" queen got dropped in some alcohol (first time doing that as well). She should make a nice swarm bait.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    Update:

    I just checked the mating nucs, and 4 of the 12 emerged. I think I screwed up in taking the cells out of the finisher (in case you were following in the other thread).

    I think at one point I expected to have a 20-25% success rate at each stage (grafting, emergence, and mating). So far I'm running at a 33% success rate for the first two (not bad so far). We'll see how many successfully mate.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    Hmm... That's dissapointing but all part of the learning experience.

    The cell transfer part of things should be regarded as risky, the cells must not be chilled and have to be handled gently. Although some breeders recommend transporting cells in the up and down position, I dissagree with that they can handle a few knocks better if they are transported on their side.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  14. #14
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    Default Re: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    It's odd how they turned out though. I figured some I might have chilled, and others I might not have populated their nucs enough. But in the end, there was no pattern to the cells that I put in as far as timing goes. I figured if I chilled them, the first to go in would make it, and the last would not. Also, of the 4 that made it, all were from 2 frame medium nucs. The 4 that were 3 or four frame deeps, and one that was a five frame medium (and was PACKED full of bees) didn't make it.

    But, as you said, a learning experience. That's all I'm looking for.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    Had the cells not hatched, or had they been torn down?

    In the unhatched ones were you able to examine the larvae?
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  16. #16
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    Default Re: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    Unhatched, not torn down. The larvae were white, but looked like a "bee" otherwise. I assumed they died right after they got capped, or close to it (probably about the time I transferred them).

    I'm not 100% sure that the other 4 hatched, or if they were just torn down. I thought that if they were hatched, they would have been opened from the bottom, and if torn down, opened from the side. Is that right?

  17. #17
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    Default Re: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    OK well if the larvae were still white, they had not developed fully before transfer and a high mortality is likely.

    Slower development can be caused by many things including season, and factors within the hive. There is a natural range of time that queens can take to develop in and it's not set in stone. If they had stayed in the finisher another couple of days before transfer you would likely have had better survival, but the catch 22 is that then any early hatching ones would have killed the others.

    Just one of those things that come after experience. But if in doubt about the development stage of the cells, transfer gently, quickly, don't chill, and to a hive that will keep them fully up to temperature.

    IMO, if a guy is raising a few queens for himself, Fall is the best time for it. Temperatures are in you favor, there is probably a flow on, and there's maximum drone numbers so good mating is most likely. the young queens go through winter not having to lay huge numbers of eggs so don't tax themselves too much and are ready to go next season.
    It can be done spring or whatever also, just have to be more careful about getting everything right.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  18. #18
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    Default Re: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    OK well if the larvae were still white, they had not developed fully before transfer and a high mortality is likely.
    Are you saying they were already dead before I planted? Or when I planted it, that's what killed them?

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    IMO, if a guy is raising a few queens for himself, Fall is the best time for it.
    Generally, I agree. But the point of this wasn't so much producing the best queens, but learning how to produce the best queens. I didn't want to wait until the Fall, because this way I'm able to learn from my mistakes and retry before the season is over. But I understand what you are saying, and I will retry in the fall.

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    Temperatures are in you favor, there is probably a flow on, and there's maximum drone numbers so good mating is most likely.
    No flow in fall in central NC. At least not one that can be counted on. Usually just enough to keep brood going, if you are lucky. One of the challenges of keeping in this region.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    Doubt they were dead when you removed them from the finisher hive, but at the white stage they are very delicate, and temperature dependant. A cell near point of hatching can be treated comparitively roughly, plus be transfered into a weak hive that will not even keep it at the right temperature and still probably hatch, but white stage larvae much easier to lose both during transfer, and after they are in the new hive.

    And yes, fully agree, raising queens all through the season will teach you a lot more than just at the easy times.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  20. #20
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    Default Re: My first go at grafting (by my self) today!

    Sounds like you are doing fine to me. Now you know that if you graft 3 you should get 1. Also you know you can put an extra cell in the nucs for insurance- if you have them.

    Keep at it and it should get easier. I'm at the same place- just planted 6 cells yesterday.

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