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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
My usual method of queen rearing is to use the swarm box cell starter nuc method. I decided to try a cloake board and to that end I built one Saturday evening.

The colony I have chosen is a very strong colony. The colony currently has two deeps and four supers.

Here is my timing:

Yesterday
  • Set up cell builder with cloake board/QE above bottom box, cloak board slide is open
  • Bottom front entrance is open, bottom back entrance is closed.
  • a frame of capped brood, pollen, and two frames of open brood placed above the cloake board to entice nurse bees up.
  • A triangular escape board is under the top two supers to concentrate the bee volume.
Wednesday Morning
  • Insert slide into cloake board.
  • Close the bottom front entrance and open bottom rear entrance.
  • Move the cleared supers to a different hive.
Late Wednesday or Thursday
  • Grafting
  • queen cell check when I insert the grafted frame.
  • Open brood frames removed
Saturday, day 6
  • Check Acceptance
  • Cell check brood frames.
  • Remove cloake board slide and close cloake board entrance.
  • Open Lower front entrance, close lower rear entrance.
Friday day 13
  • Make up mating nucs
Saturday day 14
  • Place cells in nucs.
  • Don't drop any nucs this time you clumsy bonehead.


All in all this strikes me as being much easier than setting up a starter nuc and a finisher colony. Setting up the finisher alone seems equal effort to creating a cloake board cell builder. If it is so much easier, then why are we bothering with swarm boxes? Which makes me wonder, so what am I missing?
 

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Maybe there is an advantage for continuous operation. For doing a one off I think the Cloake board grabs the essential conditions with less messing around than getting all the conditions right in a cell starter finisher. I have used the Cloake board a few times and so far the starter finisher I have ready to put to use has been only a mental exercise of the procedure.

I am interested in hearing what responses there are to JConnolly's pondering.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Check out this U of Guelph video.
https://youtu.be/mS5YGK9OX5E
Starter finisher in one colony and I leave supers on instead of a feeder.
I watched that video over and over a bunch of times. It is basically everything I was doing to make up a cell finisher — confine the queen to the bottom, make sure there are no queen cells, put some open brood above the QE to draw up nurse bees, etc. All the other steps except for inserting the cloake board. Before that I'd make up a swarm box cell starter. From another hive I'd find and sequester the queen and shake all the bees from the broodnest into the swarm box so its packed with nurse bees, and if that wasn't enough I'd raid another hive for more nurse bees. Then shut them in and fill the water pan, graft the next day. I made some big queen cells that way. The cloake board looks like half the effort and looks like I can be a little bit flexible about how long after I graft and also about how long after I open the cloake board -vs- changing from a starter to a finisher.
 

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If it is so much easier, then why are we bothering with swarm boxes? Which makes me wonder, so what am I missing?
There are people who feel that you shouldn't finish more then about a bars worth of cells per hive..
Pacific Queens, (Kefuss' commercial apiary in Chile) only runs 20 cells per (5 over 10f dubble cloake)finisher, claiming they get bigger/better queens that way

Joe latshaw only does one bar of grafts per (5f tripple stack) finisher.

In those cases a separate starter makes sence, a swarm box will feed 6 or so finishers a bar of grafts every 4 days or so.

The advantage of the swarm box is its queen less, brood less, and crowded. It will start cells more reliability in poor conditions.

a lot of what is taught is hold over from commercial queen rearing and isn't re scaled for the little guy, doing a 5f swarm box capably of close to 100 cells is over kill for most, but its still taught as its a robust starter with a wide margin of error
 

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This is my 3rd season using a cloak board. I am only doing one bar of cells per week, and run a single cloak board colony continuously from early May till end of July. It gets the new graft on Wednesday, I remove the ripe cells on Saturday.

Tuesday - Prepare the hive, similar to what is in the UofG video. I move capped brood up, place frames with empty comb into the bottom with the queen, I leave open brood below. I then set the top on the cloak board which is beside the bottom, put in the slide so it's got a solid bottom, shake most of the brood nest into the top, then pick it up and put back on top. Top is now a queenless 10f with the vast majority of the bees. The box gets a half of a global patties 15% patty on the top bars before the lid goes back on, the patty is right beside the cell bar frame.
Wednesday - Graft a bar, then put it into the empty slot in the cell bar frame.
Thursday - Remove the slide.
Saturday - First week nothing, subsequent weeks, I take out a bar of ripe cells for going into mating nucs.

This is continuous schedule and running all summer. The colony is packed with bees all summer and produces a bar of cells every Saturday.

Took a photo last week on Thursday when removing the slide. The upper bar has a couple misses, the lower one has a few more. It's ok because I'm going to be shy of mating nucs when that bottom set is ripe, so I didn't try re-do the graft. If I really screw up and have a bad acceptance on Thursday, then I may try re-do that graft and run the set a day late for that week.

Cellbars.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
OK so that makes a lot more sense about the swarm box now. I won't be grafting more than 16 cups. I only have mating nucs for 8 cells. I suck at grafting with only around 50% acceptance so I graft 16 cells hoping for 8. My cell starters and finishers aren't taxed so they make large queen cells. I just received one of those lighted forehead magnifiers and if the magnified view helps me graft more successfully then I am about to run out of nucs. If I were to have more than 8 cells be accepted then I'd have to use five frame nucs for mating and if I had to stock more than a couple of those I'd be depleting my resources. Rather than do that I'll give away cells.

I'll graft again in August for September mated queens to overwinter in nucs, but out of this batch I need to replace four queens.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Update: there have been some life events, and I haven't grafted yet, which was a good thing as those life events took me out of town suddenly and I'd have had a mess. My father passed, I was able get there and be at his side his last couple of days.

Anyways, hopefully I'll be attempting the cloake board method of queen rearing this weekend, inserting the board on Saturday and grafting on Sunday.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
I grafted Sunday afternoon after the delays that life threw at me. I checked Tuesday. I had 7 of the 16 be accepted. :scratch: So still lingering at around half acceptance. Although the Cloake board method did not improve my acceptance (and neither did the head mounted magnifier) overall I think the Cloake board was an easier, less resource intensive method than setting up a cell starter nuc.

The girls started a couple of cells on one of the brood frames I moved up. I grafted from a different queen but the Cloake board is also a colony that I want daughter queens from. Rather than destroy those cells I am going to move the frame to a hive that has a mean queen I need to replace. I'll move the mean queen out to a nuc until the I have a successful succession, then mean-queen goes in the swarm bait vial. I've got a needle pin cage I'm going to try out on the frame and see if I can get two queens there.

This was something like my eight or ninth try at grafting. I don't know if it's lack of a steady hand or something else. Because the Cloake board is so easy I think I'll keep trying a few rounds more even if I'm not able to use them all, I could for sure use the practice to figure out why my acceptance is so low.
 

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I suck at grafting with only around 50% acceptance so I graft 16 cells hoping for 8.
LOL - you're singing my song ... :)

I've just put 24 grafts above one Cloake Board, and 32 above another. With luck and a following wind, around 20 q/cells (roughly one-third) might result, from which I hope to get the dozen or so mated queens I'm short of right now.
LJ
 
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