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  1. #1
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    Jun 2006
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    56

    Default Why are my queen cells so small?

    This is my first year playing around with queen rearing and trying to expand my operation. I've had luck grafting cells and getting them to take, though I only have about a 50% success rate in cell production. My biggest issue though is that I am not at all impressed with the size of the cells. They are really pretty tiny cells. I realize that there are potentially several different reasons for this, but I was hoping someone who has had experience with this might make a few suggestions for obtaining better results.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
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    Sacramento,California,USA
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    3,655

    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    Abundant pollen is needed.
    Strong nectar flow or syrup feeder in place.
    Overly crowded to swarm strength with nurse bees.

    I like putting a frame of eggs in three days ahead of grafting, to get the nurse bees into royal jelly production and queen cell rearing mode. Then remove that frame and check through the cell builder for queen cells, destroy if any, and add my grafted cell bar or good frame of eggs if I'm going to let them do it for me without grafting.

    Here is a great thread that I like reading, perhaps it will give you some ideas...

    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...clemens+method

    Here is another great cell builder link...

    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...t=cell+builder
    Last edited by RayMarler; 06-04-2014 at 07:05 PM. Reason: added link

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2014
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    Gainesboro, Tennessee
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    94

    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    Yup what ray said

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
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    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    That's the ticket alright. However it doesn't take cells the size of cigars to produce perfectly grown queens. But double the nurse bees in your cell builder and do what Ray said and you will get bigger cells. The CB needs to be stronger than you might think at first.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    Hampstead, NC USA
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    608

    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    I read the other posts but I still don't understand the "science" behind this approach? What am I missing. Besides an education past the 4th grade that is.

  6. #6
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    Apr 2010
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    Tipton, TN, USA
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    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    Quote Originally Posted by challenger View Post
    I read the other posts but I still don't understand the "science" behind this approach? What am I missing. Besides an education past the 4th grade that is.
    I don't understand the question. Are referring to the original concerns over cell size, the giving them a frame to begin royal jelly production ahead of the graft, or grafting in general?
    Solo for the last 4 Years, ~60 Hives, TF + Oils.
    http://tradingwebsites4bees.com

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2013
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    Shreveport, Louisiana, USA
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    241

    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    Quote Originally Posted by challenger View Post
    I read the other posts but I still don't understand the "science" behind this approach? What am I missing.
    Queenless promotes the nurse bees' instinct to make and feed emergency queen cells; crowding promotes the bees' instinct to build swarm cells and feed queen cells; feeding provides nutrition for the nurse bees to produce royal jelly. Removing the young, uncapped brood gives the nurse bees no place to put their royal jelly except the queen cells.
    Last edited by Riverderwent; 06-05-2014 at 06:26 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
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    Roy, Wa
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    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    I hate it when I get shrimpy sized cells..but don't judge the quality of the queen by the size of the cell. If your builder is in good shape and the cells have been well fed, even if the outside is small, it's amazing how a big queen can emerge.

    That's one of the beauties of an incubator. I don't have to place cells I am not sure of, before I can candle them.

    Heres an example of a small cell most would throw away:



    Check out the big black bootie sticking up at the top:



    And the resulting queen:



    Why they make small cells sometimes? Who knows. But I've had large cells that were no better.

    This is what I generally get..average sized cells with left over jelly at time of emergence. You can see by the color of the cell (Light) compared to the color of the cappings in the nuc (Darker yellow), I am feeding syrup to the cell builder colony and our main flow has not quite started yet.



    Not overly large, but well fed.



    Gives me some beef



    I actually prefer a queenless starter/finisher over a queenright finisher. But I "finish' my cells in an incubator.
    I limit the number of cells raised for better quality. Usually about 20 cells per builder. Wth three builder colonies, that is all I can manage myself with my small operation.



    Globs of my protein mix they take up well



    And thank you to Adam and those that gave me the info about using tight bond II for gluing disks. I just let the queen dry for about 20 minutes in a roller cage on top the screened inner cover.My screened innner covers have a full 3/4" rim for lots of room for bees.

    Last edited by Lauri; 06-06-2014 at 06:26 PM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
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    Ojai, California
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    960

    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    Nice posts Ray, David, & Lauri!

    Challenger - just one more chime on the "science" - call it Royal Jelly 101. The Cell Starter/Finisher colony is primed for making tons of it by importing 7 to 10 frames of capped brood (maybe even combining 2 colonies by the newspaper method before adding the frames) on the beekeeper's schedule, not the bees' schedule.

    The goal for the Cell Starter is an almost unbelievably strong queenless colony, way jammed full of 5- to 15-day-old bees that are super-well fed (Capped/open honey frame, fresh pollen frame, pollen patty, 1:1 syrup with HBH, and a big ol' honkin' nectar flow going on) , and have NOTHING to do except eat, make royal jelly by the hogshead, and feed it to your grafts.

    The Cell Finisher may or may not be queenright, depending on your methods, opinions, ideology, etc. Again, it needs to be so strong that bees are boiling out of the top when you open it. It needs to way over-fed, and have NO OTHER QUEEN CELLS to focus on.

    I've had better success with a queenless finisher when it is only 2 boxes tall, or with a queenright finisher when it was 3 or 4 boxes tall and the queen was in the bottom below a Cloake board and the grafts were in the top box. Others will probably have different results.

    Everybody has different techniques and methods, so try various setups and learn what works for you, your bees, in your area, when your area is making queens.

    Large queen cells seem to coincide greatly with good wax making conditions -built during the peak of floral variety in the Spring time, with bees whose population buildup peaked during or just before that floral bloom peak.

    It certainly does appear that royal jelly has a LOT to do with queen quality, much more so than cell size and queen size. Back when folks were routinely double-grafting, the studies showed that queen cell size actually decreased with the additional royal jelly...it appears that the sugar content is higher on the first day of larval growth, and the protein content increases on the second day, so re-grafting on the second day didn't help things.

    I get the idea that the bees know more about raising queens than we do. Hope this helps, I readily admit this is more strategy talk and qualitative discussion than quantitative science. Good luck.
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 06-05-2014 at 10:41 PM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
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    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    I recently dissected a nice size cell that had failed to emerge. Inside I found what looked like a three day old larva. So not only do modest cells not equal small queens, but big cells don't always equal big queens.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    Hampstead, NC USA
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    608

    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    Interesting thread. I have a very basic question about stocking the starter. I'm trying 5 frame nuc and I've read that these should be stocked with 7+ pounds of bees. With 4 frames and a cell bar it doesn't seem possible to physically fit even 5 pounds of bees inside???

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    I don't know how many pounds it is 'cause I don't have a bee scale, but just by eye something like this works pretty good.



    Another pound or so wouldn't hurt. You don't want to see a lot of the top bars when you pop the top.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  13. #13

    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    Crowded cell builder full of nurse bees, plenty of foragers, plenty of feed, and no open brood in the cell builder besides the queen cells results in nice fat cells.

    How I do it. 10 days before I graft I place frames of open brood above excluder in top deep, queen and capped brood go in bottom deep. As the bees emerge in bottom deep it opens up plenty of room for the queen to lay cutting down on swarming impulse. 10 days later when you graft all the brood in the top will be capped and starting to emerge. Bottom deep with queen gets set to the side, usually 20 feet or more. Top box with only capped brood gets set on original stand to catch all the returning foragers. Nurse bees are shook in from queen right half and from other colonies if needed through an excluder. I always use an excluder as I have found a few double queen hives by shaking a queen into my cell builder after already locating another queen in the hive. I set up cell builders on Wednesdays, 9 days later on Friday I cut them down to a single queenless deep with no open brood, Saturday I place grafts into the queenless cell builder, and 10 days later, Tuesday, DING cells are ready. Once you get a routine of what to do on what days it becomes fairly straight forward. One tip, if using screen bottom boards and cool nights are expected place a piece of plywood or other material over your SBB to keep cool air from blowing in and chilling your bottom row of cells. If you shake in enough bees, chilling isn't a problem, but bearding is! You can do the same thing with double stacked nuc boxes for fewer cells.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
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    Ojai, California
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    960

    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    David LaFerney - You're right - more bees in that 5-framer are in order. Think BEE FOUNTAIN, not Cell Starter. Michael Plamer call his "Bee Bombs". Ever seen 3 inches of bees pile out over the top bars and beard over the entire box so you can't see it?

    Challenger - Try using at least 2 deeps or 3 mediums instead of a 5-framer for your Queen Cell maker colony. The average results go up a fair bit. How does 152 lbs of overfed nurse bees + food sound? Yup, they can make some QC's awright!

    So, early in the season, combine two colonies with the newspaper method, making sure the bottom colony is stronger, and pull the queen out of the top colony. Give them a week to get acquainted and happy. Now place queen excluders between each box so you can easily find the queen. This should be 3 or 4 boxes tall, you could even repeat this with a 3rd, smaller colony to get 4 boxes tall. This big colony will be your Cell Starter/Finisher colony.

    10 days before grafting (Day , go through the colony and REMOVE ALL QUEEN CELLS. Make sure the queen is below a queen excluder or a Cloake Board in the bottom box (you should now remove the other excluders). You can remove any open honey comb that is hatched out or has been back-filled with honey and replace it with imported capped brood.

    5 days before grafting (Day 6), begin feeding the Starter/Finisher - Pollen patty, 1:1 sugar syrup with HBH.

    At 7 AM three days (Day 8) before grafting (Grafting is on the afternoon of the Day 11, the 4th day of isolation), isolate the Breeder Queen (not the Starter/Finisher queen, but the one you want to make new queens from - perhaps one whose daughter workers display hygenic traits) onto 3 frames of new, open comb contained in a hive partition made of queen excluder material.

    At 7 AM on the Day 11, go through the Cell Starter/Finisher colony frame-by-frame and REMOVE EVERY QUEEN CELL (you can use these to make nucs if you like their queen mother's genetics). Slide in the Cloake Board or remove the queen entirely, placing her box behind the hive and facing the other way. You will be crowding 4 boxes of bees into 3 boxes, keeping the capped brood and eliminating everything else, except as folllows: the 3rd box is the one that will have the grafts. It gets a 2-gallon feeder, a honey frame, capped brood, pollen, a gap for the grafts, pollen, capped brood, (1 more capped brood if it fits - some feeders leave enough room, some don't). DO replenish the feeder. You can add the 4th box full of 10 imported capped brood frames if you are going to repeat the queen rearing cycle again later. Close it up and go have lunch, and set up your tent for grafting. Soak a few towels with water and put them in the dryer on low heat. Pull them out at about 2:45 PM while still damp and bag them, put them in the tent. You can also put spray bottle of warm water in the tent.

    At 3 PM on Day 11, GRAFT! Take a frame of larvae (the oldest should be about 80 hours old) from the isolated Breeder Queen, carefully brush the bees off with a large feather, and blow or brush bees off your bee suit before going into the tent. Graft one bar, covering the grafted cell cups with the warm, damp towel as you work, and go place the frame into the Cell Starter/Finisher. Then go back in the tent and graft the second bar, covering the grafted cell cups as you go. When finished, go add the second bar to the queen cell frame in the Starter/Finisher. If using deep boxes and your queen cell frame has 3 bars, graft the 3rd bar in the same manner and add it to the frame as you did the second. Try to work quickly - a bar should take less than 10 minutes to graft and place into the Starter/Finisher.

    In the peak of the season, a rig like this should easily raise about 100 queen cells - I've run a 5-deep tall Starter/Finisher with 2 Cell Builder boxes with 2 frames of 32 cells each in them, with all but 3 grafts made into queen cells.

    Let's give credit to the gurus - Michael Palmer, Kirk Webster, and Brother Adam, whose method this is (OK they vary somewhat, but this is Brother Adam's idea with some modifications) and a nod to New Zealander, Harry Cloake if you are using a Cloake Board.
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 06-06-2014 at 10:30 AM.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    Hampstead, NC USA
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    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    Kilo-that is an outstanding "how to". I must tip my hat to you sir for taking the time to put all that down for everyone to see and maybe even try.
    Here is a question that I keep suppressing but no longer can.
    When I populated the last starter I currently have cells being finished in (not enough cells "took" so inlet them stay to finish the 12-15 cells. I added bees and am feeding) I had a time getting the cover on without make an entire top rim of crushed bees. Looking at the photos I can't image the number of smashed bees. How does one squish them all down to put the cover on? Will the ones outside find their way in to a hive that is so jammed?

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Ft. Collins, Colorado
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    536

    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    challenger, just add a 1-2" rim under the inner cover. Gives you room for some of the extra bees, pollen pattie, etc...

  17. #17
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    Nov 2004
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    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    Quote Originally Posted by challenger View Post
    How does one squish them all down to put the cover on? Will the ones outside find their way in to a hive that is so jammed?
    Smoke.
    Bruce

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    Hampstead, NC USA
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    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    I've not had luck coaxing bees that are dumped into a new box using smoke. They are completely disoriented and don't seem to know to go in. The ones that fall between the frames go in and the ones on top of the frames can be easily swept in but all those on the outside just move around and there is no reason for them to be inclined to go in the box. The RIM idea would help the spin over but still seems to be just a space where a pile of bees would be jammed into. I know I'm over thinking this but given the space and the number of bees it seems there is just not enough room physically. I shook mine in with 4 frames in the nuc so one space open. The space where the frame for grafting goes gets filled up and the outside bees eventually seem to go in and/or fly away. I suppose I could dump the bees in followed by the frames but then I'm inserting frames into a huge mass of bees that have no place to go. Maybe a ship at the bottom would be an idea. I'm not trying to be touchy Feely about the bees- just don't want a bunch of wasted bees. Thanks for the patience.
    When I looked at a picture of a 3lb package it looked like it would take up every inch of open space in a nuc with 5 frames in it. I haven't had a package of bees in many years so I honestly had to find some net photos to get the sense for volume.
    Last edited by challenger; 06-07-2014 at 05:58 AM. Reason: Added content

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    I take out a few frames (I use a 10 frame cell builder) and shake bees into the hive. I add the frames letting them float down into the bees. When I add the frame of grafts to the last missing slot I do the same for it. The smoke is to get the top back on. Bees on the ground and sides will find a home. Nurse bees will go in and older bees will fly home. No, the bees don't usually fit. They beard up the front of the hive the whole time, even in the rain.
    Bruce

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Why are my queen cells so small?

    Ok. this is making better sense now. I appreciate the posts.
    How about some guesses as to how many pounds this swarm is.
    IMG_20140607_130555.jpg
    IMG_20140607_130612.jpg

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