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  1. #1

    Default Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    I'm just getting into raising queens through grafting, at this point just trying to self teach the trade. I've made two attempts at grafting, with pretty dismal success. Ok, I'll say it: 2/30 took, and then 3/40 took. Now I know there are several variables here, and most likely the biggest offender is my lack of experience. What I am struggling with most is getting the larva onto and off the tool. I fear that most times I damage the larva trying to get it off the tool.

    But onto the main topic, I have seen several references to priming the queen cell cups with royal jelly, which is said to help float the larva off the grafting tool. Also of course it will help jump start the larva on it's healthy diet.

    I'm fishing for input from those with experience on this, and ideally some references on where to purchase good quality, chemical free, royal jelly. Thanks in advance!
    After 20 months I'm over a 20 hives and growing. See my videos! http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8fVrmUsyYlRuASdX6UQk1g

  2. #2
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    Nov 2009
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    Jacksonville, Florida
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    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    I've never primed any cells. I just started last year myself. I use the Chinese grafting tool. I don't have any trouble getting the larva off the tool. I do trim down the tip of the tool. I find the way it comes from the store to be too flexible. If you trim just a little bit off it seems to give you more control. Give it a try they are very cheap. Sorry I can't give you any input on priming.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    Hi Tom,
    Priming is done to help get the larva off the tool--the nurse bees remove all the "prime" and put in new jelly.
    If your larva are well fed, you can get away with a "dry" graft. Some folks like this way, some folks prime.
    By the way, we use a 50/50 prime of royal jelly and distilled water mixed and brought to room temp.
    We store collected jelly in the Fridge for the season. It keeps just fine.

    Adam Finkelstein
    www.vpqueenbees.com

  4. #4
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    Jan 2009
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    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    Unless your eyesight is outstanding get some lighted magnifiers so you can see what you are doing. Try to pick up the larva so that it is almost hanging off of the tip - unless you are using a Chinese tool. If you are using a chinese tool use that magnification to make sure the tool isn't mangling the larva. Even a tiny bit of water helps get the larva off of a solid tool. If you even think anything went wrong abandon that larva and try again. Keep your finished grafts covered so they don't dry out. Maybe do fewer in a batch so that you can get them back in the starter faster. Better to get 7 out of 10 than 2 out of thirty. Graft every week or so, and you'll improve fast. Good luck.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    Panola County, TX USA
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    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    use a chinese tool and forget about priming

  6. #6
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    Feb 2005
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    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    Like David said, if you have the slightest inkling that the larvae may have been roughed up during the process, abandon that one and start with another one. If the possibly damaged larvae is on the tip of the grafting tool, I remove it with my tongue, eating it from the tool. Perhaps a little unorthodox, but there is no strong flavor from the tiny larvae, and it cleans the tool tip very quickly and successfully. The larvae are so small it's even difficult to feel them on my tongue.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    Quote Originally Posted by benstung View Post
    use a chinese tool and forget about priming
    You hear that a lot, and using a Chinese tool does make it easier during the learning period - if you have a good one. You better treat that one like treasure. In my experience if you are ordering them you better get at least 5 to have any hope of getting one that works right.

    BUT if you just start out using any of the solid tools, you will soon get the hang of it, and your SS tool will always perform in exactly the same way. And you are only a little practice away from being able to graft with a grass stem or paper clip if you ever want to. It might not matter to you, but if it does you will never get there using a Chinese tool.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  8. #8
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    Jan 2006
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    Frederick County, Maryland, USA
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    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    You hear that a lot, and using a Chinese tool does make it easier during the learning period - if you have a good one. You better treat that one like treasure. In my experience if you are ordering them you better get at least 5 to have any hope of getting one that works right.

    BUT if you just start out using any of the solid tools, you will soon get the hang of it, and your SS tool will always perform in exactly the same way. And you are only a little practice away from being able to graft with a grass stem or paper clip if you ever want to. It might not matter to you, but if it does you will never get there using a Chinese tool.
    Hi, yes that is very true: I switched over to dry-grafting halfway through this past season. I take all my grafting tools with me when I graft and sometimes have to switch tools depending on the conditions of the graft-able larva.

    When they are perfectly fed, using a Chinese grafting tool is very natural.

    Adam Finkelstein
    www.vpqueenbees.com

  9. #9
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    Dec 2006
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    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    Quote Originally Posted by adamf View Post
    When they are perfectly fed, using a Chinese grafting tool is very natural.
    Only well fed larvae should be grafted. If the larvae aren't floating on jelly, the breeder hive isn't set up properly. I find it has to be populous, it has to be well stocked with young bees, and there has to be a good pollen comb next to the grafting comb.

  10. #10
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    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    >Only well fed larvae should be grafted.

    I agree. Why do I want to graft underfed larvae? If they are not fed well enough there is something not right about the current conditions that I need to account for and apparently have not accounted for. In my experience, larvae that are grafted when they are not being fed well usually don't take, and if they do they won't be what I want.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  11. #11
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    Feb 2005
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    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    Best source for fresh royal jelly to use when priming ->
    "2/30 took, and then 3/40", That would be the two, or three cells that contain fresh royal jelly from the few actually successful grafts. I always graft a few extra cells, so I can sacrifice a few for their royal jelly to use for priming. Though I don't always prime with royal jelly, it is nice to have the option.

    I simply remove the resident larvae, then add a few drops of distilled water, to further dilute the RJ, then stir throughly before using to prime cells, just before grafting.

    Another option: I once had a plastic syringe (like those used to apply glue in woodworking), filled with royal jelly. I kept it outside in my grafting location, and I used it continuously, through most of an entire season, and the results were always good. After it was used up, I refilled it with fresh RJ, and it was, again, very workable.
    Last edited by Joseph Clemens; 11-26-2013 at 10:15 AM.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    Several months ago we were sharing queen rearing tips on Bee-L...the one that caught me by surprise (I hadn't hear of it or thought of it) was from Randy Oliver...put the frame that you want to graft from in the cell builder for a few/several hours. The cell builder should bee eager to feed the larvae, making everything work better and more smoothly when grafting.

    deknow
    The irony is free. It's the sarcasm you are paying for....ironically.
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  13. #13
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    Nov 2009
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    Louisburg, NC
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    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    Just use a drop of water. Get the water warmed up so you don't shock the larvae. I use a small artist's paint brush and dip it in the cap of a water bottle. One cap full of water primes 3 bars of cells. The bees are going to remove whatever you put in the cell. All you want is something to 'float' the larvae off into if you are using a standard grafting tool and the water will keep the larvae moist too. I have been using water for 30 years with good success. As others have said, a Chinese grafting tool eliminates the need for any prime.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    Only well fed larvae should be grafted. If the larvae aren't floating on jelly, the breeder hive isn't set up properly. I find it has to be populous, it has to be well stocked with young bees, and there has to be a good pollen comb next to the grafting comb.
    Hi Mike! Very true.
    We often graft from multiple breeder mothers and not all of them are set-up as "breeder" colonies. They're in production and being tested/evaluated.
    As long as there's larva that's newly hatched, we'll graft from them. A newly-hatched larva in a production/evaluation colony is very similar
    to a newly-hatched larva in a breeder colony (2-6 hours old).

    Ideally I like to graft from the 2 to 20 hour old larva. 20 hour old larva are a dream to graft with!

    Adam Finkelstein
    www.vpqueenbees.com

  15. #15
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    Dec 2006
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    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    Quote Originally Posted by adamf View Post
    Ideally I like to graft from the 2 to 20 hour old larva. 20 hour old larva are a dream to graft with!
    Do you think the resulting queens...those grafted from 2 hour old larva and those grafted from 20 hour old larvae are of equal quality? I realize that caste is determined by the age of the larva. After a certain number of hours, a female larva can no longer become a queen. But is that time just a switch? Or is caste determination a matter of degree? I believe so. The closer to the egg, the better the queen. Do you agree?

  16. #16
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    New Albany, Ohio, USA
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    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    Caste determination is on a sliding scale. There are several older studies that looked at the relative “queen-likeness” as a factor of the age of larvae grafted. While younger is better, 48 hours was kind of the economical threshold when looking at the number of ovarioles. There are many other characteristics, but ovarioles were assumed to be of the greatest economic importance due to egg laying rate.

    Deknow,

    Randy’s suggestion is one commonly found in old queen rearing books. I am not convinced that it is the best practice. Queenless colonies are not good for overall brood rearing. When a colony becomes queenless, panic sets in rather quickly. Certain larvae are well fed in preparation for emergency queen cells, but much of the young brood is actually cannibalized. Royal jelly is mostly water, protein and sugar. I find that a light sugar syrup, pollen or supplement and a strong queenright colony do a better job of feeding young larvae profusely and consistently.
    Breeder Queens & Honey Bee Nutritional Supplements
    www.latshawapiaries.com

  17. #17
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    Frederick County, Maryland, USA
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    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    Do you think the resulting queens...those grafted from 2 hour old larva and those grafted from 20 hour old larvae are of equal quality? I realize that caste is determined by the age of the larva. After a certain number of hours, a female larva can no longer become a queen. But is that time just a switch? Or is caste determination a matter of degree? I believe so. The closer to the egg, the better the queen. Do you agree?
    Hi Mike, everyone,
    I missed this one.

    From my experiences and what is in the literature, anything under 24 hours hold is optimum to graft from. After 24 hours, larva not fed a diet of royal jelly lose ovarian capacity.

    If I can graft from 6 hour old larva vs 24 hour old larva, I certainly will!
    Adam
    www.vpqueenbees.com

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
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    Philadelphia, MS, USA
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    632

    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    It is so much easier to graft the 15 to 20 hour old larva that I find my % takes increase and time spent grafting decreases. I see no decrease in queen quality.

    Johnny
    "Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself." - Mark Twain

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
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    carney, maryland, USA
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    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    Unless your eyesight is outstanding get some lighted magnifiers so you can see what you are doing. .
    David, can you recommend a lighted magnifier? (brand name, model, where to buy it)

    Phil

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
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    Roy, Wa
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    1,622

    Default Re: Priming Queen Cell Cups w/ Royal Jelly

    Heres the one I use. Spendy, but I love it. (I don't skimp when it comes to tools) Makes eggs look like hot dogs:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...?ie=UTF8&psc=1


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