Is it possible to graft too young?
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  1. #1
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    Default Is it possible to graft too young?

    I didn't think so but now I am starting to wonder.

    I just did 2 bars, 18 grafts, last Sunday. Today was check on them day. Out of 18, only 3 took. That is a terrible take rate!

    When I was grafting I had trouble finding larvae the right age. The frame was mostly eggs on both sides and I didn't realize that until I had gotten it to my workshop. I managed to find about 12-15 that I thought were the correct age. The rest I used larvae that I felt were too old and marked the bar where I used them just so I would know.

    Those were the only larvae accepted. By too old I mean not 'C' shaped yet but close. The other ones that didn't take were barely visible in the pool of RJ only recognizable by their segment lines.

    I'm stumped.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Is it possible to graft too young?

    In theory the younger the better. BUT.. grafting really young, just emerged from the egg larvae, there may not yet be much royal jelly around them and the larvae are put into the new cell in a pretty dry condition, that can cause poor acceptance.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Is it possible to graft too young?

    I concur with point of view of @Oldtimer. I had the same observation. In my quest to raise the best queens i went to the smallest of the larvae and landed in poor acceptance too. What i observed in that exercise, the amount of royal jelly is very low and it either gets the cups dry quickly or may be the larvae is getting damaged during the graft. I dont remember which thread I read, but this topic has been discussed here in bee source earlier as well. While grafting go for not too small not too big, and the one with much of royal jelly for a good acceptance rate.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Is it possible to graft too young?

    If it'll help any - this is the size of larvae recommended by Sladen, Frank Pellet etc:



    Which I suspect is a tad larger than many people are selecting for ... ?
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Is it possible to graft too young?

    Thanks LJ. I am sure that many of us attempt to graft the fresh hatched larvae and find poor acceptance. I think second instar is a better size and that is what your graphic depicts. New research regarding the caste determination seems to indicate that the diet of the queen is identical to the diet of the worker bee at least in the beginning and quantity is what makes the difference. A one day old larva swimming in RJ is much easier to graft and will make a good queen IMO.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  7. #6
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    Default

    Wow, thanks LJ. The ones I normally look for are labeled too small on that picture and I pass up the ones labeled right size.

    Next round in 2 weeks I will change course.

  8. #7
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    Default

    Morning Steve. What would happen if you primed your cups with a good amount of royal jelly? I wonder if this would help in sliding off the larve? These are the things I'm going to play with next year.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Is it possible to graft too young?

    Question for those of you who prime. How do you store your rJ from one grafting session to the next? I have been harvesting ,and using ,fresh but that wastes some.
    54+ years 16 colonies Treat using OAV
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  10. #9
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    Default Re: Is it possible to graft too young?

    3 out of 18 is better than I got my first couple of tries. Five years on and I got 7 out if 16 my last round. I still suck at grafting, so I graft twice as many as I need. Don't give up.
    Zone 6B

  11. #10

    Default Re: Is it possible to graft too young?

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    There is not a single larvae on that picture that I would graft from. All those larvae are way too big. Even the one labeled too small.

    We weigh our queens at birth and with larvae as shown in the picture you don't get queens that weigh more than 200 mg. We average 235-250 mg and the heaviest queens weigh 290 mg. (The birthweight is related to a) longevity b) egg laying capability [due to bigger size of ovaries and spermatheca] and some more parameters.

    The best advice is: you graft those larvae that you can't see.

    Because freshly hatched larvae are transparent and fresh royal jelly is crystal clear, too. So you have a glass like larvae in a glass like jelly. You see the ribbons on the surface, this is where you dig for the larvae.

  12. #11
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    I primed this round for the 1st time ever. I used diluted honey/h2o.

    This has just been a bad year for me grafting. Usually I'm in the mid to upper 80%. Maybe it's just my eyes getting older.

    The bad % so far this year is why I changed it up & primed.

    The clear ones Bernard describes are what I mostly had in the grafts that didn't take. I am going away for a week but will experiment when I return.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Is it possible to graft too young?

    Quote Originally Posted by BernhardHeuvel View Post
    There is not a single larvae on that picture that I would graft from. All those larvae are way too big. Even the one labeled too small.

    We weigh our queens at birth and with larvae as shown in the picture you don't get queens that weigh more than 200 mg. We average 235-250 mg and the heaviest queens weigh 290 mg. (The birthweight is related to a) longevity b) egg laying capability [due to bigger size of ovaries and spermatheca] and some more parameters.

    The best advice is: you graft those larvae that you can't see.

    Because freshly hatched larvae are transparent and fresh royal jelly is crystal clear, too. So you have a glass like larvae in a glass like jelly. You see the ribbons on the surface, this is where you dig for the larvae.
    Hundreds of experiments in using larvae from three hours old, up to those of 36 hours, prove that Queens from the former are in no way superior to those from the latter, while the bees always choose the latter, where the power of choice is left to them. As all of my plans of rearing Queens require the changing of small larvae, I have dwelt thus largely upon this very important point, so that the reader might know just where I stand in this matter. Years of success in producing the best of Queens, together with the result of many experiments, conducted by some of our best Queen-breeders, go to prove that I am correct in the above conclusion.
    Doolittle - Scientific Queen Rearing, p.43
    Sounds like there's something of a conflict of opinion here ...
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  14. #13
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    Default

    As each week goes by and I graft again I find that I am going for younger and younger larva. So I have been wondering about this same question is there such a thing as grafting too small of a larva?

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Is it possible to graft too young?

    There is not a single larvae on that picture that I would graft from. All those larvae are way too big. Even the one labeled too small
    Agreed

    Sounds like there's something of a conflict of opinion here
    well it IS beekeeping

    however I will take Taber and Tarpy over Doolittle... a LOT has been learned in the last 130 years
    "oh well, let us stick to science. let them have their beliefs and intuitions!" -Medhat Nasr

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Is it possible to graft too young?

    Like Bernard, I would not graft anything in the picture posted by little john due to my belief that all of them are too old. Even the one that says "too young." I am not stating that I think I am necessarily correct. While I think I have finally gotten fairly proficient and usually get good percentages of capped cells, that is not to say that I would not have had the same success with larger larvae.

    As to the resulting queens from 3 hr vs. 36 hour-old larvae, again, I don't have experience with grafting the older larvae.

    If Doolittle's observation cited by little john above continues to bear true, it would make grafting a lot easier if only that you would have so many more eligible larvae per frame to chose from.

    Worth investigating more.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Is it possible to graft too young?

    There is a solution to this conflict. Me, I would not graft the "right sized" one either. But in that diagram none of them appear to be swimming in royal jelly.

    Since latest research indicates the determining factor between worker and queen is quantity of food, none of those larve should be grafted from as they all appear starved, in terms of how much royal jelly we would see them in if they were in a queen cell.

    Seems like you have your breeder hive well fed, so the larvae you graft whatever the age, are swimming in royal jelly before you graft.

    https://royalsocietypublishing.org/d...rspb.2020.0614
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Is it possible to graft too young?

    Quote Originally Posted by msl View Post
    however I will take Taber and Tarpy over Doolittle... a LOT has been learned in the last 130 years
    True - a lot of stuff has been learned, but the most of the principles are as true today as they were back then - certainly the bees haven't changed one iota during that time.

    ROB Manley writes that grafted larvae 12 hours or younger are less frequently accepted. Wilkinson and Brown are of the same opinion. I think this is what Doolittle was referring to when he wrote that bees prefer slightly older larvae when given a free choice.

    If Doolittle's claim is indeed true, it would support ROB Manley's assertion that natural queen cells are invariably superior to artificially-created q/cells. So maybe we have learned a LOT - but perhaps not much about what's really important.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Is it possible to graft too young?

    I have read reports on a few experiments with variables of larvae age, dry grafting, double grafting, grafting with added royal jelly etc., and non of them considered skill of the grafter. No multi operator control. That variable can make quite a difference that could well be confusing conclusions. It sure is easier to graft 2 day larvae than ones less than 24 hours.

    Aside from the physical transfer of the larvae, at least in modern experiments, the 24 hour or less larvae from a well fed comb results in a queen with superior potential. If your management system is low key that potential may go unnoticed.

    The thrust of this is that 2 day old larvae may just "fit your pistol" very well.
    Frank

  20. #19

    Default Re: Is it possible to graft too young?

    Frank is right. It is often the operator of the grafting tool that damages the larvae.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve in PA View Post
    I primed this round for the 1st time ever. I used diluted honey/h2o.
    Honey and water? Why is that? For good results use pure royal jelly.

    The use of royal jelly and dipping the plastic cups into wax leads to premium results. For example, this was yesterday:

    https://youtu.be/cmNk-_yszrw

    Those are 24 hour old cells. I can do this repeatedly – almost all season long, which is April to September. Also I can make many more cells per starter. With a Brother Adam starter (originating from Ferdinand Gerstung, 1905) and royal jelly+wax dipping I can make 210 cells per starter. Even a standard starter makes 100+ cells with this technique. And I can do these numbers AND have birthweights of 235 mg average.


    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    Sounds like there's something of a conflict of opinion here ...
    I don't run my business on opinions but on my experience, my state of knowledge (I am learning constantly something new), my observations and so on. If someone shows me another way to make premium queens, that is easier and with the same or better success, I will gratefully dump all of my old techniques.

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    ROB Manley writes that grafted larvae 12 hours or younger are less frequently accepted.
    From my observations: Bees initially prefer slightly older larvae. This is maybe due to the panic and emergency to get a new queen as fast as possible. Older larvae grow quicker into a new queen.

    BUT after 24 hours bees switch to younger larvae and rule out all the older larvae! I can say this for sure, since you can change your grafting success by this: If you use 60 % young larvae and 40 % older larvae, the bees first care for the older larvae, but after a day those larvae get chewed out. And the grafting success is 60 %.

    By caging the queen onto an empty comb five days prior to grafting, you get a full comb of larvae that are the same age (almost). By carefully grafting only the youngest larvae at the same age, grafting success is well over 95 % all season long! By using old and young larvae, you can modulate and replicate grafting success and failures. The more older larvae you use, the greater the failure.

    Don't believe it, try and observe yourself. I can only tell you, how I am successful and get premium quality queens.

    But both observations can be true: bees prefer older larvae. Bees prefer younger larvae. It is only at which part of the development you look at, if the statements are true.

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    Wilkinson and Brown are of the same opinion. I think this is what Doolittle was referring to when he wrote that bees prefer slightly older larvae when given a free choice.
    As above.

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    it would support ROB Manley's assertion that natural queen cells are invariably superior to artificially-created q/cells.
    If you are not experienced enough maybe. I can say surely, that artificially raised queens are much superior when it comes to fertility, longevity and health than any natural queen. IF you know what you are doing. Using royal jelly, dipping the queen cups in wax when grafting, plus using an incubator, plus letting the queens hatch in the incubator AND feed them the first days with a mixture of royal jelly and honey every two hours, makes much better queens than any natural queens.

    I kept bees in fixed comb hives and letting them swarm naturally for 15 years now, I had more than hundred of skeps and Warré hives, and when I compare those natural queens to artificially raised queens that we produce today there is a clear winner. The artificial queen. Lives longer, makes much more brood, stronger colonies, much less diseases. I took dozens of five year old queens into honey production this Spring, and they made a comparable amount of honey compared to their younger fellow queens. I cannot see this with natural queens.

    The reason is: if you fulfil all physical needs and use good genetics on top – the results are better than nature, because there is a wide variation of fulfilment of the supplies in nature. Temperature varies, jelly varies, so you get mixed results. If that is good or bad in the long run, we all don't know. I guess, for survival alone, the variation maybe good. Although colonies with bad quality queens do not stand much stress from my experience. Nature selects for survival (and sometimes extinction...) not for performance.

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    So maybe we have learned a LOT - but perhaps not much about what's really important.
    We learned to produce healthier hives. Resulting in bigger honey harvests – even under negative developments of the environment.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Is it possible to graft too young?

    Very impressive Bernhard, those are great looking cells for 24 hours.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

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