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Discussion Starter #1
Maybe we can get some conversation going about issues people have faced or concerned about in grafting larvae.

I tried the so called chinese style tool a number of years ago but found the tongue tended to dig into the bottom of the cell rather than slide under the larvae. Was using wax foundation. Have read since that some people thin the tongue with very fine abrasive paper.

I fashioned something from a feather quill according to legend and it would pick up larvae no problem but I was wrecking them when trying to get them off and deposited in the bottom of the cup.

About a week ago I fashioned one out of stainless wire and it worked OK; a bit of the same problem of getting release of the larvae; made the tip smaller so more of the ends of the larvae exposed to contact the cup and easier to drag the tool out from in under and leave the larvae behind. Two day old larvae no problem at all but the very smallest, egg sized ones, are hit an miss so discarded. May try to reduce size of tip a bit more. In the meantime I have ordered a couple of the dinky tripple ought paint brushes to give that method a try; Amazon to the rescue!

I made up a bunch of hand dipped cups but found it difficult to attach them securely to the graft bar. They did seem to get immediate acceptance by the bees compared to the plastic ones you can buy. There are some different patterns of bases that you could play with if you wish to stay totally Do it Yourself.

In any case the first batch of 12 plastic cell cups I did showed 9 accepted. Quite pleased. I have a condition called "Intentional Tremor" in the right hand and and was concerned it would be a game killer but I think you will find that the heel of your hand can contact the comb surface and anchor you. The fingers do the fine control.

I use a combination of a 3 diopter headband in combination with my prescription glasses. That will take some experimenting as everyones vision is different.

Grafting sure has advantages over the non grafting alternatives. A person certainly can manage with the other ways, but there is so much more flexibility with grafting.
 

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5 ,8 ,10 frame, and long Lang
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I been meaning to give it a try.
I would also do the homemade cups, a rounded dowel dipped in wax seems the easiest.
Not sure the best way to release, seems they would stick.

And I would certainly need light and magnification.

GG
 

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On the eye part. Do they make a jeweler's 'eye' with a clip that would attach o to a baseball hat ?
I've not looked online yet but i would think this could help when transplanting?
Btw, taping my Reader glasses didn't work out so well , ok but not magnified a enough .
 

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I always used the jenter type systems, wish I could graft. I tried grafting out of the jenter as that is the proper size exactly by hrs., there is no way in Hexx that you can graft them at that size, so I stick with the jenter. I've seen the size that people graft and they are to large for my tastes.
 

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If you got 9 of 12 acceptance then that is pretty good IMO. I grafted Sunday afternoon. I pulled the cloake board last night, but I don't know what my acceptance is yet, I'll take a look this afternoon. This is my first attempt at a cloake board method. However my usual acceptance rate is around 50% so since I have 8 mating nucs I grafted 16. Worse than my acceptance is the number of larvae that I know I mess up. My transfer rate is about one in three. My biggest challenge is that I flip them over or I roll them against the cell wall. I tried a magnifying headband for the first time and although it helped me see to place the larvae in the queen cup, it really didn't help me get them out of the cells. I've tried plastic Chinese tools, bamboo Chinese tools, the JZ BZ tool, and some goofy awkward tool I found on Amazon. So far I've caused the least amount of carnage with the all plastic Chinese tool.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I read somewhere that being deposited other side down is not fatal UNLESS you damaged them in the process. Have not tried to prove or disprove that notion but the article seemed quite well supported.

It has been a few years but I found pushing them off the tongue with the plunger of the chinese tool seemed likely to crush the larvae against the cell bottom. Depositing is far the most difficult for me.

I may make another needle with smaller end yet. If there is plenty of each end of the larvae projecting and drooping off the tip of the needle type tool, the ends contact the cup bottom and anchor it as you pull the tip back. Yesterdays practice with the smaller needle seemed easier. If you go to slightly older larvae, but still 2 days or slightly less you still have a viable larvae and it is times easier. The one day larvae could ride on the back of a varroa mite with nothing hanging off the sides for a decent comparison.

Older eyes commonly loose the ability for short range focus. You need both focus and magnification for the needle type tool but some experienced people claim with the chinese tool you can just pick up the puddle and go through the motions and things happen automatically without you being able to clearly see the larvae. Probably entirely different technique and may control how precise you need to be with magnification. When you get up that close you lose binocular vision and your depth perception goes for a crap. That part of the game may take a bit of playing with too.
 

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I made up a bunch of hand dipped cups but found it difficult to attach them securely to the graft bar. They did seem to get immediate acceptance by the bees compared to the plastic ones you can buy.
I once saw a brilliant Youtube video of a guy who took a plain top bar - ran some molten wax along it's length, and then attached wax cell-cups he'd previously made onto that wax layer. (I'd be inclined to attach them using a soldering-iron I modified with a diode in the plug to halve it's wattage, and fitted with a flat (spade) copper tip)
Then, when the cells were ripe, he simply ran a paint scraper underneath the wax layer to release the cells. :)


Ok - I've just come in - very hot and sticky - from placing some grafts above a Cloake Board. In truth I must be the world's worst at this method of larvae presentation - but for the first time ever, I found it to be fairly effortless. Of course, whether or not the bees approve is quite another story. :) We'll know about that tomorrow ...

The part I've always found difficult is poking a tool right down to the bottom of a cell, and then trying to lift the larva up whilst the tool is at an almost vertical angle. So this time I didn't ...

What I did was to remove the cell walls (of a white comb) in the area of interest, leaving the larvae nestling in the depressions which form the mid-rib. Then I was able to rotate a brush at somewhere around 20-30 degrees from the horizontal, which lifts the larva up onto it effortlessly - and by reversing the direction of rotation, said larva can then be equally effortlessly deposited into the bottom of a cell cup.

I'll have a second go at this malarky tomorrow, after I've coaxed some nurse bees up above a second Cloake Board Hive I've been holding 'on ice'.
LJ
 

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I have the Chinese tool, paintbrush, and stainless tool. The only one that I am consistent with is the Chinese tool. The other 2 give me issues with getting them off.

Some days I am better with the other two but not often. I try to do a few with each on every round to get better. Then I trace my failures mostly to a particular tool.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Glad to see others confirm getting them off is an issue. Before starting I assumed picking them up was the trick!

One idea I entertained in yesterdays practice was to approach the larvae from the back of the curve and just slightly off to one side of center then use a slightly sideways motion as I slid the tool under. Seemed less likely to move the larvae away and against the other side of the cell. Probably lots of little things like that will come together with practice.

I told my wife my bees think I am gawd: when I open a hive I hear them say "oh gawd are you back again!" They wish I would find someplace else to entertain myself.
 

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I've found that Dry makes it harder to get them off unless they are already floating in a big white pool, not all are, which gets picked up with the larvae and transferred to the cell with no issues.
Those not floating in a big white pool, but with a fair amount of jelly, benefit from a small drop of water in the receiving cell to float them off onto. Careful as a big drop of water could drip right out when turned right side up.

Water not as good as royal jelly from your own apiary but a fair trade off in limiting damage placing them and the water keeps them from drying out when grafting in the field. Down here, grafts drying before finishing the bar is a problem, as is the drying out of the larvae on donor frame. To combat the drying of the larvae on the donor frame I've taken to misting it with a hand held bottle mister.

I never seem to have royal jelly handy when grafting so use the water drop. As an aside, I don't know anyone who uses purchased RJ from a place like Stakich to prime. Wonder if it would work and the risks involved, sure would be cost effective if the downside is negligible? Got the water drop tip from a Cornell release of grafting. Have you read it?
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I've found that Dry makes it harder to get them off unless they are already floating in a big white pool, not all are, which gets picked up with the larvae and transferred to the cell with no issues.
Those not floating in a big white pool, but with a fair amount of jelly, benefit from a small drop of water in the receiving cell to float them off onto. Careful as a big drop of water could drip right out when turned right side up.

Water not as good as royal jelly from your own apiary but a fair trade off in limiting damage placing them and the water keeps them from drying out when grafting in the field. Down here, grafts drying before finishing the bar is a problem, as is the drying out of the larvae on donor frame. To combat the drying of the larvae on the donor frame I've taken to misting it with a hand held bottle mister.

I never seem to have royal jelly handy when grafting so use the water drop. As an aside, I don't know anyone who uses purchased RJ from a place like Stakich to prime. Wonder if it would work and the risks involved, sure would be cost effective if the downside is negligible? Got the water drop tip from a Cornell release of grafting. Have you read it?

I just had a look over that article. I see from one of the pictures that my original tool was a bit on the large size relative to the larvae. Will give it a try with priming the cell a bit. Getting the larvae off seemed the sticking point. The priming suggestion seems like it will take some lumps out of that. That, along with the smaller tip and I think this thing is going to fly.
 

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I only use Chinese grafting tool for years now. In a quick hurry I have nicot available. But to be honest I raise queens graft-less 90% of the time. Bees are just to good at making cells to HAVE to graft. I combine comb honey production methods with queen rearing OTS and get very good queens.

Nicot pics:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=597287857096177&set=pb.100004449036160.-2207520000..&type=3
https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=597287853762844&set=pb.100004449036160.-2207520000..
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=607384999419796&set=pb.100004449036160.-2207520000..&type=3

Horrible brood pattern from Graft-less queen:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=597277320430564&set=pb.100004449036160.-2207520000..&type=3
 

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Frank, I have not started any grafts this year and due to a variety of reasons my acceptance rate last year was not that high. Pesky virgins running around in your starter will ruin your day. Anyhow, I use a thinned down Chinese grafting tool to remove larvae from old comb. No can do on new white wax. I use an LED 5x magnifying lamp to see the larvae which look huge at that magnification. I still manage to smush about one out of three. Picking up and depositing them is not bad if you only select lavae floating in RJ. I watched a demonstration where Kirsten Traynor used a German grafting tool and man was she fast with it!
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Yes you can get some weird situations with rogue virgins or the unbeknownst 2nd queen etc. I have been confused between supercedure and swarm conditions long after I should have known better.

If you are trying to stage queen rearing requiring coordinating conditions and one part doesnt happen on schedule it gets discouraging. That is one thing about the Snelgrove board is its predictability if you do it before swarming is definitely in their plans. Cloake board similar.

I would find it stressful to wait for swarm cells to cue queen rearing. Means more going through hives regularly and having bad weather cause the plan to go off the tracks.

Grafting seems to give the flexibility of taking larvae from your queen of choice without needing it to be in any certain condition aside from grafting age larvae. Where you only need a handful of cells I dont think it needs to be a huge cell starter colony to be better than most walk away splits.

If you are looking to create the highest potential queens then stacking the deck every which way you can would be in order. The picture Michael Palmer paints of queen rearing in colonies with an insane number of nurse bees would be an example to follow.

Utility grade queens will suit my needs. My colonies would not be considered intensively managed;) I be the limiting factor, more so than the queens potential.

I reduced the tip of one of my grafting needles to about 1mm or 40 thou. of an inch wide. That should let the ends of the larvae hang off a bit to enable me to wipe it off onto the bottom of the cup. Will try priming the cups too the next go. Rain forecast the next couple of days so the bees will have a break from me.
 

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I rounded off 6 - 2" x 5/16" hardwood dowels and put them in a block of wood. I soak the dowels in water for awhile then dip in wax about 4 times, they pull off pretty easy once you get the hang off it. The wax cups fit snugly in the yellow cell holders (Cupularve or Nicot). I use both a fine brush and a chinese grafting tool, some days I'm better with one than the other. I can usually just roll the larva off the brush. If a graft doesn't go well I just transfer the rj from the excepted larva into the other wax cups and graft again. On day 12 or 13 I place the hatching cages on the cells. When they emerge I make up a bunch of minis and toss in the virgin queen. Let them sit in the mini for 24 hours and put them out the following night.
 

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Where you only need a handful of cells I don't think it needs to be a huge cell starter colony to be better than most walk away splits.
Liu (1975) was able to raise a queen on a diet of sufficient pollen, honey and water by using 400 mixed age worker bees. Colonies with average queens laying 1200 to 1500 eggs per day would have several thousands of bees of the proper age (4-10 days of age). This means that great populations of bees in the queen rearing colony are not necessary. But keep the population manageable so the you can handle the colony with little effort
Steve Tabor, Breeding Super bees p23-24

It worth noting that when Liu used "proper age bees" instead of mixed age bees it only took 200 bees to create a queen that when she mated out had the same performance as the standard cell building control

In one bit Tabor talks about regularly starting 120 cells with 2 pounds of bees The Liu data suggests it takes only takes about 10-15% of the bees to start a cell vs finish it

some of what we see is 15+15 game of telephone to "make sure" there are enuff bees
 

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For me, the key to grafting with the Chinese tool is to take larvae from the oldest, darkest, comb. The old comb allows the tool to follow the shape of the cell and curve under the larvae. I only use wax foundation. Unless the comb is old and black, the tool will dig in. Save your old brood combs and 6 days before grafting put one in the center of the brood nest. Graft from that. Also, soak the tool in water for at least 10 minutes before grafting and don't buy just one Chinese tool, get a bunch because some will work better than others. I have grafted many hundreds of larvae with my favourite one.
 
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