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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I posted a few weeks ago about using separate starter and finisher colonies as opposed to a single hive with a queen below the excluder. After putting my grafted cells in and waiting a day I checked to see how many the bees took to. It looked like they would raise well over 50%. I checked a week later and there were about this many capped queen cells. They were almost all small. Yesterday I was going to put these in splits. I went through the bars and only had 3 cells with decent looking Queens. The rest were dead inside the capped cells. The pupae spun a cocoon but didn't grow much more and we're dead when I opened these cells. What should I look at that went wrong with what I did? I am going to try again this week and will use the separate starter colony with plenty of well fed nurse bees. I will then transplant them into a strong queen right hive for finishing. There is a good flow on now which should help a lot. I am thinking I will use a 5 frame unc for a starter. Will this be OK for 45 cells? Also a single finisher for all?
Thanks
 

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I should say the bees were not in the right mood, plus they might have some kind of virus problems.

Usual size of a starter, in literature, is 3 kg (of bees), you can put it in 5 frame box if it has enough ventilation holes and is about 5 cm higher than the frames you use, put in shade of cellar. It is too big for a hobbyist.

If you wish to use 5 frame box, here is my recepy:
- take 3 frames from honeybox full of bees
- shake the bees of 3 open brood frames (no queen!), use brush if there is a flow
- put in one pollen frame, sprinkle some water on it

wait 4 hours

make the grafts

put the transfered larvae in the middle of the box and the pollen frame nex to it

max 15 larvae (one frame with Nicot system)

one cell builder can take care of these, but no more
 

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Thanks for posting this. I waa wondering about this: if I want to raise a limited number of cells couldn't I just use a 5 frame nuc as starter and finisher at the same time? So you say 15 cells. Would it also work using a fresh layed frame or using Miller method?
 

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It sounds like there was not enough feed in the cell builder or not enough feed or not enough younger nurse bees or all of the above.
 

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It sounds like there was not enough feed in the cell builder or not enough feed or not enough younger nurse bees or all of the above.
Yep. I used the phrase "to be in the right mood", with which I meant all of these factors: no queen, enough young bees, enough pollen, enough flow(and stores).
 

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In this case I stick with Kirk's method since I already have a double story that's boosting... added the third story too. So far I've done a pretty good sugar crop :)))). I have to regulary check it for queen cells but I guess they won't swarm with all this rain we've got in the last month and still going.
 

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Did you start these in a queen right hive? If so, it could be the box with the grafts were not far enough away from the queen. I just re-read your post. I think cells should be started in a queen less hive, or in a queen right hive with a cloake board so that the queen can be completely closed off from the box of grafts. A queen right finisher works, but the queen box needs to be far enough away from the cell bar box so that the queen's pheromones are not moved up from bees traveling.
 

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Sounds to me like a bit of all of the above, but the most common mistake has to be grafting larvae that are too old IMHO
 

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Did you start these in a queen right hive? If so, it could be the box with the grafts were not far enough away from the queen. I just re-read your post. I think cells should be started in a queen less hive, or in a queen right hive with a cloake board so that the queen can be completely closed off from the box of grafts. A queen right finisher works, but the queen box needs to be far enough away from the cell bar box so that the queen's pheromones are not moved up from bees traveling.
That does not explain small cells and dead queens.

In my finisher the cells are in shallow box just above excluder (less than 10 cm) and they make them in normal size.

It is however a very common belief that the cells must be far away from queen. After they have been started, the distance has nothing to do with how they build them.
 

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Was there a cold night?
The bees may have tightened up in a cluster allowing the cells to chill.
Rough handling for the 4 days after the cells are capped can also cause problems as the larva is pupating and is easily damaged at this point.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I used a method layer out in a book by Kelley in which he suggested using a strong colony with the Queen below an excluder. There were a lot of nurse bees and I shook another frame in as well. I still suspect not enough nurse bees for finishing because there was a very good start to the cells.
When a colony is understaffed with nurse bees do they do a poor job and raise malnourished bees across the entire grafting or do they make some duds and some good ones? I don't claim to know anything about this but I'm wondering if the cells are not provisioned with enough food will the pupae simply not have to sustain itself and die? I'm also wondering if the small size indicates the pupae has not gone through all the instars/sheds?
The method I'll try next uses a queenless starter aka swarm box. I've read this can be done as mentioned above by building it a few hours prior to grafting and putting it in a dark place or building a day before grafting. I know this time I'll have enough nurse bees.
The book I'm following for this next attempt States that a strong finisher will finish 45 cells so that's how many I'm going to try. I'm going to combine the starting bees with the finishing colony so they will have whatever bees that started the cells as well as the nurse bees from the finishing colony. Would it be OK to put the cells on top of a honey super?
I know this variation isn't good for commercial rearing but for me it seems easy to just take the starter colony box and plop it on top of a finisher.
I am also going to do 15 cells using the cell punch method. Maybe this will tell me if my grafting technique is out now whack. I did choose larvae that were sitting next to eggs when I grafted but I'm far from being proficient at picking them up and placing them in the cells. I have a magnification visor/light coming in the mail which will help. I'll also try some other grafting tools and discard any larvae I think may have touched the cell wall during pick up or deposit.
Thanks
 

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Right now I am using hives that are trying to swarm as a starter and finisher. Identify hives that are in pre swarm impulse, remove queen and queen cells and place bars. I'm getting around 90% of 45 grafts per time. You can leave them and let them finish or move them to a finisher. It works beautifully during this season and avoids the trouble of putting together a starter hive. I usually place a caged queen in the hive and after a week move the cells to an incubator and remove the candy. Using this process I prevent swarms, use their impulse to make fantastic cells and re queen the hive over a ten day period or so. The cells they raise go to splits and/or mating nucs to replace the previous queen.
 

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A queenright colony does the finishing work way better than queenless starter. Cells are moved to the finisher, above the excluder, one day after grafting.

Miller method (= cutting the lower part?) should work as well, I have never used it though.
So one does the graft, puts them with Queenless bees and then Queenright ones after only 24 hours? You don't wait for the cells to be capped before putting in the Queen right bees?
Can one use a cloak board and just close it off for the starter day and open it after that...the excluder would remain in place.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Once the cells are capped they no longer need nurse bees to feed them-only to keep them warm.
 

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So one does the graft, puts them with Queenless bees and then Queenright ones after only 24 hours? You don't wait for the cells to be capped before putting in the Queen right bees?
Can one use a cloak board and just close it off for the starter day and open it after that...the excluder would remain in place.
Exactly!

Excluder remains between queen and cells. It diminishes the amount of queen substance and therefore it is the instinct of raising supersedure queens(quiet queen change) which takes over.
 
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