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  1. #1
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    Default Harvesting royal jelly

    What methods have folks used for harvesting royal jelly? Not looking for selling it or needing larger volumes. Was just reading about folks raising queens and some adding extra royal jelly if they had it to the cells.

    Anyone want to share methods of collecting royal jelly?

  2. #2
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    Gainesboro, Tennessee, USA.
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    Default Re: Harvesting royal jelly

    I graft 45 cells at a time. Most times my take is between 80-90%. Before I put them into the cell finisher I check and see if any cells are smaller or if something is wrong with them. A time or two I may have to sacrifice a decent cell or two for the needed royal jelly to prime more grafts. One full cell or two is quite a bit. Though this practice might seems wasteful, it is faster and I think best for the larvae to be dropped in RJ. Even if the nurse bees do remove it I still like to use it.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Harvesting royal jelly

    Very Early in the season, I raise an extra batch or two of queens in a separate hive to sacrifice for collecting royal jelly to prime cells. The grubs (larvae) are removed on their 2nd to 4th day, whenever the RJ seems to be at a maximum, before the gorging larva becomes larger than the RJ supply.

    Another method is to double-graft. Graft the 6-hour to 24 hour old larva as usual, then remove it the next day and graft a new larva into the same queen cell cup the next day.

    By selecting a larva that already has plenty of RJ and using the Chinese grafting tool, the same thing can be accomplished.

    My limited records indicate that choosing VERY young larva (6 to 10 hours since becoming a larva = 80 hours since egg lay) has more to do with acceptance and eventually being well-mated than priming or double grafting, but again, my records do not span back years and years. Go ahead and prime them.

    Other factors that seem to have more importance than priming are really packing the Cell Builder Colony with nurse bees, especially those from 5 to 10 days old. Try adding 7 frames of capped brood from over-wintered nucs to your cell builder a week before you start (Watch that you don't cause a swarm...). Another is starting during the thick of the nectar flow. I DO FEED my cell builders, but there ain't nuthin' like a nectar flow! DO keep your grafting cell bar moist with a spray bottle or automatic sprayer mounted over your grafting bench.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Harvesting royal jelly

    Kilocharlie - Thanks, I really appreciate the information and tips. Hoping I can use it this late winter/early spring on my gals so I get a jump start on the spring.

    A lot of experience here on this site that takes years to learn on your own.

    Once again, thank you

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Harvesting royal jelly

    I just love Beesource!

    Oh, that should have been 78 to 82 hours after egg lay. The visual clue is a grub that is still almost straight and fairly hard to see. Use those 7x loupe magnifiers.

    Incidentally, I make up a Queen Excluder cage the length of a frame and the width of 3 frames + 4 beespaces (I call them my Queen Jails). They have sheet metal "ears" that act as frame hangars. They are not full depth, but about a half-inch short of a standard frame.

    Inside these "Queen Jails", I put 3 slightly shortened, Modified Jay Smith frames. All but about 3" x 5" of honeycomb is blocked out by plywood (The frames must fit inside the queen jail, so they are shorter in length and not as deep.) In the 3" x 5" window is a drawn piece of honeycomb on black plastic foundation. To get these drawn out, I mount a full-sized top bar (19" x 1.5" x 1/2") on top of the Modified Jay Smith frame with wood screws and plop it into a strong hive for about 24 hours, or until they are drawn but not filled with honey.

    They breeder queen, the queen jail, and the modified Jay Smith combs all get brought into the backpack tent behind the cell starter/finisher colonies. I put two frames down into the sides of the queen jail, then the breeder queen onto the small patch of comb of the 3rd frame. I carefully place it into the queen jail, and the tight-fitting lid goes on. Start the timer on your queen rearing calendar (unless, like a lot of breeders, you use grafting day as zero hour). The whole shebang goes into the breeder queen's home colony for the next 78 to 82 hours (3 days + 6 to 10 hours). The only larvae in there will be just the right age for grafting, with several hours of leniency immediately after.

    You can use this setup for grafting (Doolittle Method), Cell Punch, Cut-Cell (Jay Smith / Henry Alley Method), and perhaps other methods. To use Cell Punch or Cut-Cell methods, you need to have a way to attach the cell to the cell bar that does not over heat them like molten wax does. I now use super glue to attach the cut or punched cells to a golf tee. The golf tee goes into a vertical drilled hole in the bar. I put a sewing pin through cross-wise (horizontally), which requires a battery powered drill and a # 60 drill bit. I do pre-drill the cell bar, but I use a fresh golf tee each time a new cell goes on.

    Hopefully I will get a new digital camera soon and post all this new stuff in a thread soon.

    One more thing, Pat - this late in December it is doubtful that you will get well-mated queens using open mating. Consider sending them out to Dr. Susan Cobey or Dr. Joe Latshaw or other breeder that does Instrumental Insemination. If you do get away with raising even a few queens this late in the year, this will help insure their being well-mated.

    Make up a few more than enough shipping cages - 3-hole slots for the queens and a group home for 200 or so drones + 200 attendant workers and half a dozen holes for queen candy (10 to 20 drones per queen, at least 1 attendant worker per drone, err on the side of too much candy). Contact your I.I service, make a "dry run" by shipping an empty queen and drone shipping cage (with instructions to call you as soon as it arrives) to the service while your queen grafts are still slow-cooking in the Cell Finisher, and track the shipping cage! Know how long it takes to get there. Even send extra drones in early on that "dry run". Most complaints about the quality of I.I queens are due to excessive queen banking and shipping time.

    Best of luck!
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 12-10-2013 at 01:07 PM.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Harvesting royal jelly

    Never really had a need to prime the cups for grafts. Do you really feel that it makes that much of a difference?

    I saw that you can buy a royal jelly spoon on ebay... So you'd just get a bunch of cells started, then scoop out the goodies. Not sure on how you separate the little larva though.. If that is required..
    Solo for the last 4 Years, ~60 Hives, TF + Oils.
    http://tradingwebsites4bees.com

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Harvesting royal jelly

    Kevin -

    Grafting can work without priming - it is called "dry grafting". One thing that helps is having a Cell Starter colony that is BURSTING with 5- to 10-day old nurse bees and ABUNDANTLY FED.

    Another thing is placing the queen cell frame into the Cell Starter colony for 4 to 6 hours before grafting.

    Another thing that seems to help is to graft one bar at a time, replacing the queen cell frame into the Cell Starter while you are grafting the next bar.

    Still another thing that helps is to keep the cell bars moist by using the sprayer. "Dry grafting" is a misnomer.

    If you still have low initial take, or poor mating %, try priming. Take a month off from work in the spring and give 3 or 4 different methods about 10 tries each, keeping careful records of these activities, following up with performance records throughout the year. You will probably choose a method that works best for you and your bees. It is OK to experiment outside the box, and to think "inside the hexagon" as well. They way things have gone the last few years, 100% acceptance and 100% well-mated may even need improvement.

    Just for the purpose of the post- it seems like everyone here so far has some experience - DO NOT FLIP THE LARVA UPSIDE-DOWN. She will die. I suppose it goes without saying for most of us, but to a new breeder, that is a lot of labor saved. That, along with the other implicit MAKE D@^^ CERTAIN THERE ARE NO OTHER QUEEN CELLS PRESENT, again not intended to insult anyone's intelligence, but helpful to the first-timer. Kind of like "Harvest your queen cells BEFORE they hatch."...
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 12-10-2013 at 01:10 PM.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Harvesting royal jelly

    Quote Originally Posted by kilocharlie View Post
    The visual clue is a grub that is still almost straight and fairly hard to see.
    I've been doing a lot of reading on this subject, and, that's one of the important details I've been looking for. Having never done it before, how exactly does a newbie tell what is the right age larvae? That quote is a gem for me.

    Our original plan was to try grafting to raise a few queens for the first time this summer, but, life got in the way. Instead of tending bees at that time of year, we were moving, and ended up moving twice. All is good tho, now we live on a small acerage, and have plenty of room for a few more hives. I have 6 colonies in double deeps, and 4 more in 2 high nuc stacks for the winter. We want to expand a little more aggressively next summer, so I want to get this grafting thing figured out, so I can raise some queens a little more efficiently than we did in the past. I've got a strategy for building a cell builder, that's been well hashed over here in various threads, but, the actual nitty gritty of how to graft, gets glanced over quite a bit.

    Out of this thread I've picked up two gems. First, as quoted above, how to identify the right age. Second, DONT FLIP accidentally during the graft. Everybody seems to agree, keep the cups moist when grafting. As for priming with jelly, that seems to be 'ask a dozen beekeepers to get a dozen different answers' kind of a question.

    Our goal is, 10 daughters from one hive which we have already chosen as the mother. I've got a timeline that allows for two rounds of total failure, and then 'get it right' for the third round, successful cells from the earlier rounds, bonus. If I start when we get first drones, roughly mid april, that leaves me a month to 'get it right' on multiple tries, before I need cells to be well enroute, so they can be into nucs for emerging by early June.

    So, for the folks who consider this all second nature, are there more little details regarding the actual process of grafting, that are the kind of things you experienced folks just take for granted, but, us who have never done it before, will make a big mistake simply by not realizing it's a mistake ? I'm not planning to do lots and lots of them, just want to get a dozen or so cells from our chosen mother hive.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Harvesting royal jelly



    Another good trick is to trim the cells down about 2/3 with a knife. Not down into the RJ, just barely above the grubs. This makes grafting MUCH EASIER and speeds up the process considerably. Oldtimer mentioned this in his fantastic post on queen rearing without grafting last year and it really does help.
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 12-10-2013 at 06:08 PM.

  10. #10
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    Roy, Wa
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    Default Re: Harvesting royal jelly

    Lots of videos on youtube. Click on this link and go from there.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FllN2taeVLM

    Wholly cow, how did they get this many cells drawn in that weak little starter?
    I like the double cells on the frames..Cool videos I could watch all day. Love the methods of other cultures

    Heres another one.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBtbghsOZ1c

    Here's a photo of a failed cell with surplus jelly. I am putting a bit in the bottom of a roller cage along with honey for the newly hatched virgin to eat upon emergence. I really couldn't tell the difference between feeding this way and just honey, but I do it when I can and they do eat it immediately . This much feed will hold her in the incubator for three days, along with a drop of water on the cage twice a day. This is the bottom of the roller cage. When you put feed in these little indentations the virgin can feed without getting sticky stuff all over her, which can easily kill her.




    Another photo of a cell I bumped upon removal of the graft frame and ruined the wax.



    I should be saving that jelly for the next time I get stung in the face. Make some home made face repair poultice. Mix royal jelly with propolis and some DMSO. I'd feel better but no one would want to get within 20 feet of me...

    Heres a good book if you're interested in homemade recipes for healing:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/079...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    Last edited by Lauri; 12-10-2013 at 03:44 PM.

  11. #11
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    Apr 2010
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    Tipton, TN, USA
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    Default Re: Harvesting royal jelly

    I've grafted several hundred cells without 90%+ acceptance from the bees.. I've never primed the cell... Although lots of people swear by it. I also don't moisten my cells.

    If I have time, I'll put them in the hive over night for them to be polished, but I've had fine acceptance from jzbz pin cups straight from a bag, into my pocket, and onto a frame..

    I usually graft right in the yard with the hive open and the frame sitting on the hive next to it. If I have a moist/towel, I'll cover the cells as I work. But I think it really depends on how fast you move.

    Use a Chinese grafting tool.... I "like" to graft from a larva that looks like an egg that has just fallen over, but you can graft from slightly bigger ones. Just try to make sure that all your larva are the same size/age..

    Lift the larva straight up and out of the cell. If you "think" you might have touched the wall get another larva...
    Make sure that when you place it on the bottom center of the queen cell that it's the same as you pick it up. If you think you might have flipped/rolled it.. get another one.
    Make sure your starters are well fed...

    Everything else after that is polishing your technique and tweaking for your style/success rate...
    Solo for the last 4 Years, ~60 Hives, TF + Oils.
    http://tradingwebsites4bees.com

  12. #12
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    Jun 2013
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    Jefferson Co, TX
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    Default Re: Harvesting royal jelly

    You guys have got my mind spinning with ideas. Cannot wait till the weather is back in 60s-70s in March.

    Thank you again for the information.

  13. #13
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    Sep 2011
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    Strafford, NH, USA
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    Default Re: Harvesting royal jelly

    Quote Originally Posted by Lauri View Post
    Wholly cow, how did they get this many cells drawn in that weak little starter?
    I like the double cells on the frames..Cool videos I could watch all day.
    In the recent articles in Bee Culture of the "Curious" beekeeper in China, he writes about them selecting for RJ production much as many of us are selecting for "survivor" traits... That and it looks like a mighty big feeder built into that hive as well.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Harvesting royal jelly

    Grozzie -

    I guess I left out the purpose of the "Queen Jail" in post #5 of this thread - it is to isolate the queen on a small amount of freshly-drawn comb to lay eggs for exactly 3 days so I know where in the hive to look for the 80-hour (-2 hours/+10 hours) old larvae. There are other ways to isolate her - hive partitions with queen excluder screen (or entirely made of excluder) are a favorite of many - make shallow, vertical slots in the hive body to insert the partitions.

    My queen jails are just convenient frame-length x 5 3/16" wide boxes made of queen excluder with a tight-fitting wood and sheet metal lid, that can easily be pulled from a hive for quick loading/unloading in the "robber screen" (my backpack tent) to make quite certain that a valuable queen doesn't fly away on me.

    I do use a queen muff, and the queen only comes out of it inside the tent and gets immediately put into the queen jail, and the "QJ" goes quickly back into her own colony for laying the grafting eggs for 3 1/4 days.

    You can use any method that works to isolate a queen, or you can just search the whole doggum hive for the right-size larvae, but that tends to take a lot of time. I get much better results when the grafting operation goes quickly - hence isolate the queen and cut the combs down to just above the larva+RJ and practice a lot. (Worst case = extra queens to sell).

    Pat -
    Good time of year for the mind to spin - figure out what YOU are going to try, then go to the shop and make up your queen rearing equipment AHEAD of springtime. You may have already read about my favorite queen introduction cage - the 5" x 7" Laidlaw queen introduction cage - a good time to make up a bunch of them, too, as it has one of the highest acceptance rates of any queen intro cage.

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