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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I will be attempting grafting for the first time in a couple of weeks. I will be using the Randy Oliver method of "Queens for Pennies ".

I've done a lot of reading and watched several videos. For those who have grafted before, is there anything you wish you had done differently or any general tips?

I'm in central SC. Thanks!

Smokey
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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My biggest mistake has been trying to graft freshly hatched larvae. They are too small and there is not enough royal jelly in the cells to get them out and transfered safely. Make sure there is a pool of RJ in the cell and you can see the larvae with your naked eye. They look so much bigger under a 5X magnifying lens!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I'm glad you posted this; one of the videos said to get larvae that was newly hatched (comma shaped), the smallest possible that was not an egg.
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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They still need to be the small comma shaped larvae, just not the tiniest you can find. I think they refer to it as second instar. I have read graft 12 hour old larvae. How does one make that determination? Larval growth occurs at each molting so a freshly hatched larva is the same size as one 23 hours old. After the first molt, the larva is slightly larger and the amount of royal jelly is at it's greatest. Just my personal preference. I am sure there are queen producers capable of getting good grafts with the newly hatched larvae. I am not one of them.
 

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I have read graft 12 hour old larvae. How does one make that determination?
Well explained by Brother Adam in his book Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey. Place a warmed frame into the breeder colony. Twice a day you lift the frame and check for eggs. The first time you see eggs, now you can start the clock on when it's time to graft.

I use a slightly modified version of that. I graft on Wednesday, so Sunday I go thru the colony I intend to graft from, find a frame with fresh eggs that are still standing, more often than not I'll see the queen on that frame still layng. Write down which frame it is, then when I go to graft on Wednesday, pick out that frame and brush off the bees. It will have plenty of correct age larvae, and likely some still eggs.

I used to struggle to see the tiny correct age ones, but wife gave me a set of jewelers loupes for christmas a couple years back. Plenty of magnification with an led light made all the difference in the world. Not only can I see the larvae before I pick it up, I can see it in the jelly after placing in the cup, and those that dont work out I just do another one into that cup. My take rate went from under 50% to over 80% when I started using those.

The other thing that made a big difference for me, not all grafting tools are created equal. The chinese tool is inexpensive, so buy a handful and try a bunch of them. All will have slightly different flexibility in the tip. I have one that works far better than the other 6 I've had for a few years, and I keep going back to it, it's the only one I can get those really young larvae with correctly. When we were at Apimondia, on the last day some of the booths were selling off inventory at a very good price so they didn't have to pack it up and take home. I bought a bag of 50 grafting tools at one of the vendors from China, dickered it down to 10 dollars at 3:30pm on the last day.
 

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I just came in from grafting. Like Grozzie2 I keep going back to the chinese tool. Today I tried the new german stainless tool I just bought. After ruining about a dozen larvae trying to get them out I went back to my fine tipped paint brush. For some reason I was also struggling with that, so back to the chinese tool. After that the pace picked up greatly.

Quality control on the chinese tools is terrible. But, when you find the one that has been properly built and all the parts line up they work great.
 
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