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  1. #1
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    Default Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    I’m a beginner. This has been my second year raising queens – my third year keeping honey bees. So I am in no way pretending to be any kind of an expert. But Joseph Clemens has generously agreed for me to share some of my experiences using his method of queen rearing.

    For anyone who is interested this thread starter is based on a broader post about my experiences as a beginner at queen rearing.

    The Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher System

    The system that I’ve been using is what I call the Joseph Clemens System – because that is where I heard about it from, and because Joseph Clemens has proven that it works by producing very large, high quality cells and queens using this system. I have found that it is very well suited for me to produce a fair number of queens while learning skills that can be scaled up to higher production later if desired. It’s fun, affordable, and you can use it even if you only have a few hives.

    This system uses a queenless five frame nucleus with 4 medium frames of bees and a cell bar as a combined Starter/Finisher and produces 10-20 cells (more or less) at a time – and it can be used all season without having to be rebuilt. As you can imagine this is much more manageable for hobbyists than the way the commercial guys do it.

    You can use this system over and over throughout the season without having to repopulate the starter/finisher hives, and you can use it just about any time that you want without having to do a lot of prep work – once you get it going . This system also avoids the problem of having to manage a cell builder hive that is on the verge of swarming by being Queenless – no matter how strong it is, a hive won’t swarm without a queen. When I first read about it, I thought that it sounded like such a hive would develop laying workers or some other problem because of being queenless for an indefinite time. But, because you give it fresh brood about once a week none of those problems crop up – it just gets really strong and stays that way all season long. It really does.


    One of my best batch of cells using this method. I’m still learning, but next year these will be my “regular” sized cells instead of just the best ones. I hope.



    This is the setup I started the season with – the top box houses a quart jar feeder. Before long I realized that the small entrance (with a piece of excluder over it) through the slatted rack was too small for such a populous hive, and that the ventilation was not adequate.



    So, I changed to this setup – from the bottom – Screened bottom board, queen excluder, 5 frame medium hive body plus the same inner cover, feed shim, and tele cover as in the previous picture.

    Setting up the Cell Builder Hive

    The two outer frames are capped/emerging brood, the next two contain stores – honey and pollen, maybe some empty space for them to draw comb and store incoming food. The center position is where you will be putting your cell bar after you graft.

    You want this hive to be very populous, so shake in lots of nurse bees. After the initial setup the cell builder will stay strong – even get stronger – from the frames of brood that you swap in every week.

    Once a week (more or less) when you are working your other hives swap in a fresh frame of capped/emerging brood. The open brood on those frames along with the grafts and other open brood that you add to the cell builder keep it strong and stable. When you swap in new brood, you also have to check for queen cells in the starter/finisher, and on any frames that you take out – you will find wild cells pretty much every time. But since it’s only a 5 frame hive, and it doesn’t have a queen you can shake the bees off, and thoroughly inspect every frame in just a few minutes. Usually there is no need to even look at every frame – 2 of them will be pollen/honey, and one will be the cell bar. It’s pretty quick and easy maintenance, but it does have to be done at least once a week while the hive is being used.

    How I (and you can ) Finally produce Big Cells

    I tried fruitlessly almost all of this year to produce big cells like Josephs. I packed my cell builder with bees which I fed copiously, I tried double grafting, priming with royal jelly, placing fewer grafts – but no matter how hard I tried my best cells were “OK” at best (did get some nice queens though) – until I found this tip by Ray Marler: 4 days before you graft put a frame of hatching eggs/young open larva in the cell builder. That will insure that your nurse bees get into feeding mode by the time you add your grafts. My experience is that if I skip this step I get much smaller cells. Joseph Clemens produces nice big cells without this step, I think because he is continuously using his cell builder – so the bees stay in feeding/nurse bee mode – while I was only adding grafts to my cell builder every week or two.

    When you swap in the cell bar with grafts on it there will almost certainly be queen cells started on the “primer” frame of open brood - At that time also check the other frames for queen cells. If you ever let one emerge it will ruin any cells that are currently in the hive – and you might have a hard time finding a virgin lose in such a crowded hive.

    I feed my cell builder hive continuously – 1 to 1 sugar syrup from an inverted quart jar, and under the jar lid…



    …Pollen substitute. I just spoon it in through the hole, and cover it with the jar lid. This is 8% protein mega bee mix with enough syrup to make a paste that is thick enough to not fall through the frames. The bees love it.

    I hope this is helpful to anyone thinking about trying queen rearing.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Starter/Finisher; one unit?, no transferring after 24 hours?
    Cool!

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Those are nice queen cells. The closeups
    also nicely reveal the fuzzy grey hairs on
    the bees.
    There's 10 chefs in a kitchen and still not one will tell you how to boil water unless there's something in it for them.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    this is the method we use to make all of our cells. 20-25 cell cups in a 5frame nuc, or 45 cell cups in an 8 frame single...works like a charm. Over the summer we usually have cells coming out of the 5 frame nucs every week.. and when we really need a bunch we will make a few 8 framers and graft 150 cups or so.
    A government large enough to provide everything you need is strong enough to take everything you have. T. Jefferson

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Thanks for sharing David, this is most interesting.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    seems you started to figure it out about the cell size.
    I have read in several places that there are three "Modes" for queen cell building and rearing.
    Emergency. Leaving no time for bees to prepare and always produces inferior queens.
    Supercedure. Bees choose this and prepare. draw back is they produce few cells in this mode.
    Swarm. From what I have read this is the mode in which bees are not only prepared but will produce cells in abundance.

    Your introduction of eggs and Larvae would be consistent with the bees already being in feeding condition. My concern is are they in a swarming mood? It appears to me that the swarm instinct being triggered is also a part of a large number of large cells being built and tended.

    It appears to me that you method may be suffering from this later distinction as well. The bees will build and support a few large cells leaving the others being left to want.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Just out of curiosity DanielY - just how many queens have you attempted to raise using any method? Reading on a subject does not necessarily make one knowledgeable about it.

    Could the mods make this a sticky?. A lot of good info here. Thanks for sharing David. I'm planning on trying some of this as well next year.
    Last edited by Barry; 11-08-2011 at 07:51 AM. Reason: quoting

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Thanks David for putting such a great post together! I'm sure many will benefit from your efforts.

    I do have one question related to how you configure your cell builder. You say: "The two outer frames are capped/emerging brood, the next two contain stores – honey and pollen, maybe some empty space for them to draw comb and store incoming food."

    Can you explain why you place the capped/emerging brood on the outside? I've always kept the brood near the middle, just like a normal functioning hive.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    I think David meant that the two "outer" frames were out from the center on either side of where the queen cell frame will be placed. The stores on the outside are correct. By the term "the next two..." I think he meant the next two going out from center.

    At least that's what I think he meant.

    Ed

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    I'll take a stab at this with the disclaimer I'll always be a student of the bees!

    1. an egg that is laid in a worker cell compared to a queen cell.
    > As best I know, identical.
    2. the difference in a queen cell that was made by man or one made by bees.
    > Although our man-made cell cups may not be perfect replicas, practically they work fine.
    3. The care of a larva from the moment it hatches that is laid in a worker cell and one that is laid in a queen cell.
    > According to Sue Cobey's article on Cloake Boards, "a developing queen larva receives 1600 feeding visits from nurse bees, compared to the 143 feeding visits received by a worker larva."
    4. a queen cell in a hive that has a laying queen and one that does not.
    > Some say that queen-rite finishers produce better queen cells, but as Joe and David have shown, their cells are just as good if not better. Take your pick.
    5. The importance of royal jelly or as some refer to it "Milk" In detail and exactly what minute difference are there in how it is supplied to a worker and a queen.
    > I believe it's just a matter of quantity and frequency of feeding noted in #3. A case where "more is better."
    6. The possible effect it has when bees have chosen and prepared to produce a queen and those that have had in forced upon them.
    > I don't think anyone will disagree that anything the bees or the beekeepers can do to have the greatest number of nurse bees and resources (pollen and nectar) to lavishly feed the queen larva will increase the "quality" of the queens.
    7. Why do bees that have had open brood supplied to them prior to being given queen cells produce larger queen cells and quite probably produce better quality queens?
    > Because the bees covering open brood have the greatest proportion of nurse bees that are the right age to produce royal jelly, again more royal jelly so the queens can reach their best potential. The more nurse bees the better.
    8. Why exactly is it that bees will produced better quality queens in larger numbers when influenced by the swarm impulse than under any other impulse?
    > That's when there is a peak in the "concentration of bees, particularly the number of nurse bees.
    9. It is impossible to ask bees to do a top quality job that they are not prepared to do. What do you understand is involved in bees being prepared to produce queens.
    > Bees don't prepare. They react instinctively to biological stimuli. Loss of a queen, a failing queen, or a colony is triggered to swarm all result in a change in chemistry (pheromones) of this super-organism to produce queen cells. The it's a matter of resources that effect the results.
    10. even bees that are well prepared can only be expected to adequately produce and tend to a limited number of queen cells. what is your understanding of where that limit is? I have seen claims of as many as 150 queen cells being placed in one hive. Is it possible that a hive can produce 150 quality queens at one time? or are there simply going to be 150 trash queens being produced.
    > That's better answered by the commercial breeders.

    Hope this helps.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Quote Originally Posted by Intheswamp View Post
    I think David meant that the two "outer" frames were out from the center on either side of where the queen cell frame will be placed. The stores on the outside are correct. By the term "the next two..." I think he meant the next two going out from center.

    At least that's what I think he meant.

    Ed
    I think he said it correctly for a five frame nuc. Brood on the outside, and pollen/stores next to what will be the cell bar for easy access. With 4-6 pounds of bees in there I think they'll be able to keep the two outside frames warm enough to continue caring for the brood, but you want the food for the prospective queens as close as possible to the graft.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Quote Originally Posted by AstroBee View Post
    Can you explain why you place the capped/emerging brood on the outside? I've always kept the brood near the middle, just like a normal functioning hive.
    Instheswamp as well,

    I can explain my reasoning, but I sure won't swear that it's correct. The capped/emerging brood is just supplying new nurse bees - there is little if any open brood on those frames - and as they emerge they are quickly back filled with stores, because there isn't much space for that anywhere else in the hive. The only open brood (ideally) is on the cell bar - and all of the nurse bees will be there as well. My reason for having the stores right next to the cell bar is so that they will be where the nurse bees can get to them, and stay with the grafts.

    I've tried it the other way too, and I can't really say that it makes a difference - with such a small highly populated hive it's all right there no matter how you arrange it.

    I would sure welcome the opinion of anyone who is more of an authority.

    Stripstake - I wrote this before I got to your reply. I'm glad someone agrees with my reasoning though.
    Last edited by David LaFerney; 11-08-2011 at 02:45 PM.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Dave, can you give an "exploded" view of the anatomy of your nuc box? It appears as if there is a 2" extension cleated above the SBB. Why wouldn't you use a deep? essplain porfivore
    Rmns 1:16/Prv.3:5,6/ Beegan BK May 09/ Zone 5b
    I have NOT failed. I have only found many many ways that do not work!

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Thanks David!! This answers a lot of my questions on the starter/finisher hive thing!! Cant wait to try it when spring hits!!
    Coyote Creek Bees

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Lakebilly,I was thinking that it was a slatted rack to give them some room ,but that's just a guess.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Yes, that 2" extension is a slatted rack to give them some room. I didn't use a deep nuc box because i didn't have one. I do all mediums so that is just what i have. I doubt if it makes much difference though. If you already have deep equipment then use it.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Just a few ? .
    #1 On what day do you remove the cells

    #2
    How early can you safely remove the cells

    #3. I forgot
    Happens often.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Quote Originally Posted by tommyt View Post
    Just a few ? .
    #1 On what day do you remove the cells

    #2
    How early can you safely remove the cells

    #3. I forgot
    Happens often.
    You need to remove cells on the 10th day after grafting - not too late on the 10th day for good measure.

    It is safe to remove cells from the finisher as soon as they are capped - on the 4th - 5th day - but they will have to be put into an incubator if you do.

    Some companies ship cells, so obviously they can be removed from incubation before they are about to emerge, but when it is safe to do that is probably highly technical and above my experience. It is safe to handle them gently on the tenth day.

    It might sound obvious, but just for the record - if you graft on Saturday, then Sunday is the 1st day after grafting. At least that's what I mean by it.

    There is some variation of schedules because of many factors, but especially temperature. If it is really hot, then you don't want to wait too late on day 10 to put your cells in nucs or it is quite likely that one will emerge and kill the rest.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    David, thank you for working on this thread. I have studied your info and read 3 queen books this winter. I live in south west Florida and it is early Spring here. 80degrees during the day now and 60 at night. I have used a version of the Clemmons system 3 rounds so far. The first try I had 4 capped cells and 2 hatched .#1 (Eve) hatched in the incubator on day 10. I introduced her to a new nuc by direct introduction on top of the frames. She had a full frame of brood on both sides at day 15 following introduction. #2 went into a nuc and is now laying also. The other two never hatched and when I opened them up they were partially developed and died in the cell.round two, I had twenty cells capped at day 5. I was really excited. When I went to take them out on day 10 all were chewed open. I neglected to check for starter queen cells. I took the virgins and bees from the starter nuc and made up a ten frame hive and she is laying now, so all was not lost.round three and I had 19 started cells and 13 were capped and removed at ten days. I installed them today into nucs and grafted round 4. I really feel like I am getting the hang of it. I am send this to you to THANK YOU for your work and for sharing the knowledge with all of us on the forum. I thought you would like to hear what I think is a success story, only possible because others shared info and took the time to help others. Jim

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    David, I would like to echo all the words of appreciation that have already been shared here. I am preparing to start 'down the road' of queen rearing this Spring. And this thread has answered a lot of my questions. Thanks to all for sharing your knowledge and experience.

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