I know the old adage: ask ten beekeepers an opinion, and you will get eleven different answers! Well here goes. Already thinking of next spring, and I want to graft. I have never attempted it. Any opinions on the best grafting tool to buy and why?
For me the best one by far is home made from a plastic drinking straw. Just take the straw and cut at a 20 or 25 degree angle with respect to the straw axis. Cut with a really sharp knife. One sharp enough to cut the hair off your arm. The end of the straw where you will pick up the larva should be about 1 mm wide. Works about a thousand times better for picking up larva vs the Chinese tools I have tried. To get the larva off the tip of the straw into the JZBZ cup simply put the larva on the straw tip in position in a JZBZ cup, put a dental tool tip on the straw next to the larva and pull the straw back. Puts the larva in the center of the JZBZ cup every time. It also helps to fog the larva with water from a mister just before picking it up from the comb. Makes them easier to pick up. Also helps to push the comb back from the larva you intend to pick up with a dental tool so you are not working straight down into the comb and can see what you are doing better.
I used a paper clip that I modified the tip so that it had a very small hook on the end. Worked pretty good, but it would have worked a lot better if it would have been attached to a pencil. Not saying that was the way to go, but it was a rush job and I had nothing else to work with. The second bar had 10 of 14 accepted, which I was happy with since it was my first time doing this.
Most tools are cheap - get a stainless hook, a Chinese tool, a #000 artist sable paintbrush, a straw, a teriyaki skewer, a paper clip, and try them all out. Grafting takes about 2 hours to learn for the average beginner, and practice with different tools will probably improve your feel and reveal a favorite.
If money is not a concern, go for the automatic grafting needle. Those who've worked them love them.
If you need a certain number of queens by a certain date, use a non-grafting method as well. Most of us beginners get better quality queens with a non-grafting method until we practice up a bit. The Jenter box is a great setup whereby you don't touch the larva, and there are a lot of other methods - Miller, Smith, Disselkoen, Hopkins to name a few. Check out Michael Bush's website, www.bushfarms.com
You probably still have enough time this year to make a trial run. Good luck!
german stainless steel grafting tool is consistent and works great for the hundreds of cells we graft week in and week out. Chinese work well if you get a good one and they wont last forever (though they can last a while).
I prefer the German stainless myself, but I do graft wet.
Out of 4 queen rearing classes I held, only one class perferred the Chinese tool. We did discover that it worked much better if you trim the tip so it's about 1/2 the width. Before trimming it, it seemed to ride too high at the bottom of the cell and just pushed the larvae.
Anything that you can get the larva out with undamaged and deposited into the cup is fine. You need to decide what your preference is.
I generally use the Chinese grafting tools, but as MB brought up. The quality control is very lacking. I also buy several and keep the best. The ones that are too stiff, I scrape thinner with a razor blade.
I have the double sided german grafting tool, but IMO the tips are too wide/thick. I have another metal grafting tool which has a handle. I believe I got it from Ebay or Rossmans. It's thinner than the German, but still a bit to thick. I have the same issue with the jzbz grafting tools. With a paper clip, hammer, and a file. You should be able to make a comparable/better tool.
I purchased some mylar duck call reeds with grand plans of replacing whatever material they use. I just need to find the right thickness material, the stuff I bought was a little too thick.
1/2 the width. It appeared that the wider tip of the tool simply rode too high in the cell. Even though it is rounded, when you bend the tip it forms a strait line. Place it in a cell with a somewhat rounded bottom and the wider tip will sit higher in the cell than the narrower tip.
I think one reason classes give out the Chinese tool is that it is cheap and they can afford to give them away and have them walk off.
I have the JZ-BZ plastic grafting tool, the Chinese tool, and a stainless steel tool. I've never gotten very comfortable with the stainless steel tool. I've had good success with the Chinese tool, particularly if you don't want to prime. If you want to prime the cells, then the JZ-BZ plastic grafting tool works great. I find the JZ is more forgiving than the Chinese tool.
My first two seasons of grafting I really liked (the only one I tried) the Chinese tool. This year I decided to try multiple tools. The Jzbz I didn't care for the feel, the 000 brush wasn't too bad but I fell in love with the German stainless steel tool. The first time I used it I had better success rate than with the Chinese tool (which I felt very comfortable with). I liked the round end much better than the end with the multiple bends but decided to modify it so it would be smaller. I started with 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper and took some of the "sides" off so it wasn't so wide and more egg shaped with the narrow end where I pick the larvae up with. Then I "thinned" it by sanding some thickness away. I finished it off with 1000 grit wet/dry to a mirror finish. It took me all of 5 minutes. I love the tool much better. I don't necessarily get better grafting percentages (about 40 out of 45) but the larvae are much easier to pick up and drop off the tool. Even the tiniest larvae can "hang" off the end of the tool and drop into the bottom of the Jzbz cup with no problem.
I graft my larvae dry. I find it easier to get the larvae to stick to the bottom.
>I have the double sided german grafting tool, but IMO the tips are too wide/thick.
Mine is too stiff. It has the mechanism to pus the larvae off, but since you don't get much royal jelly (it doesn't scoop under it well) the mechanism doesn't work so well. I've got all the major kinds. Each requires different technique to pick up a larvae so to really judge them you have to figure out how best to use them first.
I like the Chinese grating tool trimmed down in length. I leave it the same width but, I like it a little stiffer, I feel like I have more control over the tip with it a little stiffer, a lot of the times I can pick up the larva on just the very end of the tool and never use the plunger to push it off the tip.
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