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Discussion Starter #1
Hello,

My last attempt at grafting starting off good and ended bad. I made a cell starter from nurse bees from 2 different colonies. It was a 5 frame nuc with the screen around the bottom for ventilation and an extra 3" space for the screen. I made the starter overflowing with bees. Honey and pollen frames in the starter. No brood in the starter. Fed the bees. Grafted 10 cells. All 10 were started. 24 hours after the graft, moved cells to a finisher colony. Fed the bees until cells were capped even though they only took about 1/4 of a mason jar in 4 days then i removed the sugar water. This hive had a deep brood box with capped brood. Then a super with capped brood, then a super with open brood on top. Located queen place her below a queen excluder which included that deep and super with capped brood. Only the super with open brood was above the excluder. No queen cells noted. Place the graft in with the 10 started cells in it on day 5 (1 day after graft). Then on day 8 (4 days after graft) I had 9 nice looking capped queen cells. Now on day 12 (8 days after the graft) all but 2 cells are tore down. They were not opened from the side. I checked the super above the excluder for queen, eggs and queen cells with none found. Any ideas as to why the bees are tearing down the cells? Is the super above the excluder too close to the brood? Does the cell finisher above the excluder need to be larger than a super? Any ideas are welcome! Thank you!
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Is an incubator a safer way to go after the cells are capped? I just knew this time was going to be a success. I attempted grafting before this attempt in my observation using it as the queenless cell starter and finisher. Started 6 and capped 6 out of 10. Then they tore them down to 2 before I removed them to their nucs.
 

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Sounds to me like you have one of two problems here. Either one of your grafts were a few hours older possibly a day and you had one emerge early and tear down the cells. Or possibly a virgin they created. However this colony was queen right finisher, so the chances of them making a cell is unlikely. So it would seem that the more likely explanation is that you had one of your queens emerge early and she wiped out the rest. It is best practice to take the capped cells one they are capped on about day 12 of the cycle and put them into your mating nuc's or put them into an incubator in protective cages for emergence. Most people put them into the mating nuc's.
 

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I only use queenless cell growing colonies. Some cells are usually aborted as they are grown to maturity. When all of the cells are destroyed/torn down, it has always been the presence of a 'rogue' virgin queen. Hard to say with a colony that is already queenright.
 

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If you read through old posts you will see that cells being destroyed at the 11th hour is a common occurrence with QR finishers.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thank you all for the responses. I may abandon the QR cell finisher and go to queenless cell finisher.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
That's good to know about the roller cages. I think that will be the answer. Protects them from building comb all around the cells also. I have 10 I think, so that will be my next try. I just can't believe its a virgin on day 12 from the egg lay (8 from the graft). Same thing happened in my queenless starter and finisher observation hive. I watched them tear them down one by one. And the queen cells looked nice. Maybe they were dead in the cell.
 

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That's possible too. I recently examined a dud that failed to emerge in a mating nuc - perfectly well formed cell that contained what looked like a live or well preserved 3 day old larva. The cell had been finished in an incubator and installed in a cell protector so it was still completely intact and unopened. I think in the future I am going to candle them before going to the trouble of putting them in mating nucs.
 

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The same thing has happened to me using queen right finisher, with the cells in a box on the top. I have better success putting the cells finisher box on the bottom, with the queen excluded up to the top. I prefer queenless starter/finishers.
 

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Once these cells are capped before the 'critical period' carefully I moved them into a mating nuc.
Once the virgin emerged she is allowed to roam free until her mating flight. This has a
100% success rate so far.
 

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If you read through old posts you will see that cells being destroyed at the 11th hour is a common occurrence with QR finishers.
We only use queen right starter/finisher and typically get results like this:


We pull the cells to an incubator on day 6 and then candle on day 10. Candling saves wasting a lot of time and energy. The only two reasons they would ever tear down cells would be from a rogue virgin or diseased cells.
 

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1) Get rid of the open brood in the finisher. Nothing but problems. You want them to have nothing to do but eat and feed babies, with no babies to feed except your grafts. I'd replace that with 7 imported frames of capped brood plus a 2-gallon feeder.

2) Cell finisher should be as crowded as the cell starter.

Also, a 3- or 4-box tall queenright finisher above an excluder will start queen cells of their own above the excluder, often in supercedure position on the frames if open brood is present.

My bet on your torn down cells is a rogue queen, mated or virgin. Hair rollers will not prevent a rogue queen from killing them as she uses her sting to do the deed. It could prevent the workers from tearing down the rest of the cell after the queen pupa has been killed, but I'm making conjecture here - I have not observed this myself. feel free to jump in and correct me!

If you are going to use a queenright cell finisher, why not use a Cloake board? Less disturbance in the 1,600 feedings per day of the grafts, far less chance of a bump when re-uniting the nursery with it's mother queen one to five days (depending on your ideology) after the grafts are added.
 

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We only use queen right starter/finisher and typically get results like this:


We pull the cells to an incubator on day 6 and then candle on day 10. Candling saves wasting a lot of time and energy. The only two reasons they would ever tear down cells would be from a rogue virgin or diseased cells.
How does one "candle" a Queen cell? Can the process harm the Queen?
 

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How does one "candle" a Queen cell? Can the process harm the Queen?
To candle a queen cell you hold the queen cell up in front of a bright light, and look through it to see movement. This cuts down on finding the dud's the easy way. Does NO harm at all to the developing queen.
 

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once they're capped, I'd cage the cells with roller cages.
Jay Smith has another opinion on protective cages: the cells are more exposed to cold and queens don't get the same good care on their new born phase.

Q: Does mated queens really destroys cells? I had one that didn't. She entered the queen less finisher as she absconded from a mating nuc.
 
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