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So I thought I'd talk about the way I raise cells.

For years I have used a method that Kirk Webster showed me. It's a great way to raise a batch (45-48) of very good, quality cells. The cells are large, well built, and still provisioned with jelly when they go into nucs a day or 2 before emerging.

Kirk's method is a take off on Brother Adam's cell building plan. I've done both and now prefer Adam's way. But, the beginning...

Choose a very strong production colony. One with 9-10 frames of brood and a prolific queen. A queen who is a laying machine and who fills every open space with brood. Best results are when on a flow so supers are in order.

On day 1, separate the broodnest with an excluder. Sealed brood and queen go in bottom brood box, while unsealed and extra frames of pollen and honey go above the excluder in top brood box. Supers go back on top. No queens allowed above excluder. If you have to shake all the bees out of the supers and brood box to be sure, then so be it. There should be 5-6 frames of sealed brood below and 4-5 unsealed above.

9 days later, the entire colony has to be checked for queen cells. The colony may start swarm cells below the excluder, or emergency cells above. All must be removed...no exceptions. Begin feeding 1:1 syrup at this time...no matter the flow conditions. Continue feeding until cells are capped 5 days after graft.

The next day is grafting day. In the morning, the cell builder has to be made ready for the graft. The colony is taken apart...supers removed and top brood box removed. Bottom of hive with queen is removed from stand, and turned around to face the other way. Note: My broodnest is 2 deeps and a medium, so the queen actually has a deep and a medium. The top deep was raised above the excluder.

A new bottom is placed on the stand facing in the original direction. One of the partially filled supers is placed on the bottom board and the top brood box is placed on that. The outside two frames (frames without brood) are removed. A space is made inthe middle and a good fresh pollen frame is placed in the space...the graft will go next to the pollen frame later in the day. The rest of the supers are placed on top. This new setup I'll call the Cell Builder...CB

Now, the core of the queen's broodnest is shaken into the cell builder. This core is comprised of unsealed brood and contains the nurse bees of the colony. Remember that you place the sealed brood below the excluder 10 days before grafting. That all emerged and the queen re-layed it, so now it's all open brood. When shaking these 5 or 6 frames of bees into the CB, take no queens! I shake them through an excluder shaker box, to be sure. After shaking, close both the queen's hive and the CB. Go find something else to do until later in the day.

What have you created? A hopelessly queenless colony with only sealed and emerging bees. This colony is stocked to overflowing with young bees. It has all the field bees for added nutritional resources. The freak! Fly around the yard. Crawl all over the hive and out onto the ground. Listen hard...you'll almost hear them cry. And that's what you want.

In the afternoon, add your graft next to the pollen frame, and fill the feeder again.

5 days later, the old queen and her colony can be re-united with the CB. Remove the CB from the stand. Don't bump and crash the CB as it has tender cells in it. Swing the queen's colony back up and onto the stand. Remove the cover and add an excluder. Place the CB on the excluder, and the supers on top. On day 10 after grafting, the cells are ready to use.

That's basically Kirk's method. But in reading Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey, I see Bro Adam did it just a bit differently. I've switched to his setup. On day 1, instead of separating the brood above and below an excluder, he brings in brood from other colonies. So, place an excluder on top of the broodnest of your strong colony and the box of brood (7 frames of brood and 2 feed frames on the outsides). Supers back on top...no queens!

See, Bro Adam believed that the best cells were raised under either swarming or supercedure. Supercedure is difficult to control and usually not many cells result. Swarming on the other hand is easy to set up. Just try adding 7 frames of brood to a strong colony. I call these boxes of brood Bee Bombs...see my article in Bee Culture.

So, you set up a colony to get to swarming strength, and take away the queen. You control when they start their cells. They have all the resources and more...exactly what is needed to create quality queen cells.

One plus with Bro Adams approach...you can re-use the cell builder in a couple weeks after taking the cells. You never separated the queen's broodnest or restricted her from laying. Rather that using up the young nurse bee resource inthe CB, you are adding to it.

This is the best cell building method I have come across.
 

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That seems very close to the cloake board method. With it you dont have to move the Q right box to another stand you just insert metal divider into Cloake board and have upper Q less cell builder then remove divider and you have Q right cell finisher.

Johnny
 

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Thanks for the posting Mike. I plan to do my first graft of the season this week using one of the nucs I got from you this spring as the CB and another as the source of the grafted cells.

Do you think it important to have the bees "polish" the cups before grafting?
 

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Michael, could you discuss potential problems and symptems of cell production screw ups. ie What happens if you get a side comb virgin? Do all the cells get destroyed or just some? If you didn't feed and your nectar flow dries up what would your cells look like? Thanks, just trying to learn from my mistakes?
 

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Thx for sharing, good write-up.

Why do you leave the CB for five days before re-uniting?
Did br Adam really do that? I gotta re-read his book on this. (Edit: yes he did, he did not separate starter and finisher, however cells where removed when sealed to holding colonies, 200 cells in each. The CB was then dismantled and bees spread to needing colonies, the original colony with queen returned to the spot, no re-uniting). (Edit: Br Adam is not very detailed in the paragraph "our own method", I guess he used lots of variations to the overall principle)

I re-unite after 24 h and let them finish in a queenright state, then move to incubator on day five when removing the excluder. Robber screen and excluder on entrance might be a good idea for open queenless starters. I used to have a support colony but ended up depleting it to the degree that it superseeded. Now I simply run two colonies in parallel and let them rest a week between grafts. Spreading out the rearing is good for minimize risks of bad mating weather.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Michael, could you discuss potential problems and symptems of cell production screw ups. ie What happens if you get a side comb virgin? Do all the cells get destroyed or just some? If you didn't feed and your nectar flow dries up what would your cells look like? Thanks, just trying to learn from my mistakes?
The biggest problen is with rogue queen cells and virging. If there is a cell in your cell builder when you set it up, then it will fail. If There's one in the cell builder on grafting day, then it will fail. If a wild virgin finds the queenless cell builder she will enter and destroy the cells.

I've had virgins enter my cell builders 3 times this year. Twice only one or two cells were destroyed, while the third time about half were. If you get to them in time only a few will be killed.

If you try to raise cells under dearth conditions, a few things will happen. The bees won't bother raising any of the cells, or only a very few. The cells raised will be short and the pupae will be small.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Why do you leave the CB for five days before re-uniting?

(Edit: Br Adam is not very detailed in the paragraph "our own method", I guess he used lots of variations to the overall principle)

I re-unite after 24 h and let them finish in a queenright state, then move to incubator on day five when removing the excluder. Robber screen and excluder on entrance might be a good idea for open queenless starters. I used to have a support colony but ended up depleting it to the degree that it superseeded. Now I simply run two colonies in parallel and let them rest a week between grafts. Spreading out the rearing is good for minimize risks of bad mating weather.
I agree that Bro Adam really doesn't go into enough detail. Heck, he only touches on wintering nucleus colonies.

I leave my cell builder queenless until the cells are sealed. I've arranged them so they have the maximum amount of nerse bees to feed the cells. If I unite them back with the queenright section, wouldn't a large number of the nurse bees go back to feeding worker larvae in the queenright section?

I used support colonies too, and harvested nurse bees by placing open brood above an excluder overnight. I find that by adding sealed brood 10 days before grafting that I'm doing the same thing...maybe with better results.
 

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I've had virgins enter my cell builders 3 times this year. Twice only one or two cells were destroyed, while the third time about half were. If you get to them in time only a few will be killed.
When you find only one of your cells has been destroyed (ripped open from side) and none of the grafted cells have hatched yet, can you assume there was either a wild virgin who entered or somehow hatched from elsewhere in the hive?

I did not consider the possibility of a "wild virgin" entering the hive from elsewhere but this must have been what happened... since none of my grafted cells had hatched and I could find no other hatched cells in the colony anywhere.
Michael thanks for sharing this.
 

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My last batch had about 4 or 5 sealed cells that had a perfect round circle cut in the bottom of the cell(day 10-11). Is this the nurse bees removing defective larvae? P.S. Thank you Michael Palmer for sharing your time and expertise it is greatly appreciated.:applause:
 

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Discussion Starter #14
When you find only one of your cells has been destroyed (ripped open from side) and none of the grafted cells have hatched yet, can you assume there was either a wild virgin who entered or somehow hatched from elsewhere in the hive?

I did not consider the possibility of a "wild virgin" entering the hive from elsewhere but this must have been what happened... since none of my grafted cells had hatched and I could find no other hatched cells in the colony anywhere.
Michael thanks for sharing this.
Yes, that's what it looks like. It could also be a queen from below the excluder who slipped through. But, if no cell has hatched and the queen is still below laying happily along....
 

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My last batch had about 4 or 5 sealed cells that had a perfect round circle cut in the bottom of the cell(day 10-11). Is this the nurse bees removing defective larvae? P.S. Thank you Michael Palmer for sharing your time and expertise it is greatly appreciated.:applause:
Day 10-11 after grafting? A perfectly round hole in the tip of the cell? Do you think they emerged?
 

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Apparently there was a queen cell that I missed. When I saw the cells opened from the bottom instead of from the side I immediately assumed it was a bad queen cell. I will be more careful next time I set up my cell finisher.:doh:
 

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Michael thanks again for this. Just got 54 out of 56 grafts to take, real nice cells. Put the queen box back on after 5 days like you said. Grafts come out Thursday, just hope for no more rogue virgins! I found a black virgin in one of my nucs, all the rest of the mating nucs have laying black butt queens. No eggs or larva from the black virgin, she must have flown in there from parts unknown. I resisted urge to pinch her gonna wait a few weeks and see if she starts laying.
 

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So I thought I'd talk about the way I raise cells. .....

Kirk's method is a take off on Brother Adam's cell building plan. I've done both and now prefer Adam's way. But, the beginning...

Choose a very strong production colony. One with 9-10 frames of brood and a prolific queen. A queen who is a laying machine and who fills every open space with brood. Best results are when on a flow so supers are in order.
Hi Michael -

I'm new at rearing queens, but am ready to try.
But I pause.
How late is too late to begin your method?
I will use 5-frame nuc, good supply of brood & feed frames, strong Carniolan queen.

Located in N. Willamette Valley Oregon, blackberrys fading now but usually August has OK forage, just not super.
September normally very nice with sometimes 80+ days.

Would overwintering be advisable or no, IYO?

Thanks,
Jack VanNess
 
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