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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So walk through this scenario with me.

I check a three frame nuc that had been given a ripe queen cell sixteen days prior, and find it queenless.

So, I give the three frame nuc a frame of open brood. (I don't know how to graft)

Two days later, I have a few emergency queen cells started on the frame of open brood.

I take the frame of open brood, with emergency queen cells, and put it in a strong, queenright hive, above a queen excluder, to be finished.

How good a quality queen will I get ? Will the fact that the queen cells were started by a small and somewhat weak colony be a detriment to the final product?

Or will fact that the larva was finished by a strong, queenright hive make up for any previous deficits?
 

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That's a very good question ...

Those who support the '48hr' concept (that all the RJ the q/cell ever needs is deposited in the first 2 days) will presumably predict that they'll be inferior.

My own observations are that feeding appears to continue right up until the day the q/cell is capped (or at least that bees are in and out of the q/cell for some reason - presumably for feeding) and, as very little RJ is needed to initially maintain the growth of such a small larvae during the first 48 hrs or so - I'd say your queens will be ok.

I note you said "a few" emergency queen-cells - and therein perhaps lies the clue that all will be well, for bees will only start as many q/cells as they are capable of feeding.

It'll be interesting to see what results from this scenario ... so keep us posted.
LJ
 

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You did good, but I'd like to comment on this.

I don't know how to graft
Again, you did good, so I'm speaking not about what you did, but to the future here. I suggest you consider learning to graft. You actually don't need much in the way of equipment so the entry cost is very low. Get some JZBZ cups, a JZBZ cup holding bar, and find Kaman Reynold's YouTube channel and get the Chinese grafting tools he linked from Amazon. That's it for the must haves. You can rubber band or use loose zip ties to secure the cup bar to a standard frame. If you want to make your own cups you can with a dowel and melted wax (Fat Bee Man shows how on YouTube). You could even make a crude grafting tool with a paper clip and a hammer, so you could even get started grafting at zero cost if you wanted.

My first attempt was a disaster. I think I got maybe two accepted cells, and every cup I grafted took multiple tries, I probably killed a lot of larvae that day. The bees still share whispered rumors of a day of brutal mass baby carnage so many bee generations ago, the slaughter of the innocents. I'm entering my fifth summer grafting. Guess what? I still suck. My acceptance rate is <50%. But I've raised a bunch of great queens by just grafting double what I want. I finally got me a headband with a magnifier, maybe that will decrease the carnage.

So give it a try. :thumbsup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thankyou all for the replies. I am sure this is one of those things that can vary quite a bit, depending on the proportion of nurse bees vs foragers in the nuc, how good a nectar flow they are on, etc. But I really like the idea that number of emergency queen cells started may be an indicator of the feeding capability of the nuc. In other words, if I see only two queen cells started, the nuc is probably not capable of feeding queen cells well. If, on the other hand, I see six or more queen cells started, wouldn't that be an indicator of a nuc that is capable of feeding the queen cells reasonably well?

Of course, I would still want to move the started cells over to a queenright finisher colony, to make sure that the cells get the full benefit of maximum days of feeding before sealing.

RE grafting. I like the idea of knowing how to graft, and appreciate the encouragement to give it a try. I even have a couple chinese grafting tools in my kit!

However, there is one reason why I like the concept of emergency cells better. According to some of the research I have been reading, when the bees are allowed to make their own emergency cells, they select from certain genetic lines (half sisters) within the colony. I think that is really cool, and suspect that may enable to bees to foster more rapid genetic adaption. So, I am trying to produce my queen cells without grafting :)
 

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I think you could have just left the started Queen cells in the 3 frame nuc and they would have raised their Queen with no further hassles for you. Last year I had 30 nucleus colonies, 3 frames each that I had started in anticipation to put in queens, that never happened and 95% of them raised very nice queens.
 

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However, there is one reason why I like the concept of emergency cells better. According to some of the research I have been reading, when the bees are allowed to make their own emergency cells, they select from certain genetic lines (half sisters) within the colony.
that sister thing didn't panout well
https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0199124


I see the royal subfamilys as parasitic.. for what ever reason the bees stop them from becoming part of the work force, suggesting that thier off spring mite be poor workers. Is short you not geting any of the drone lines that are shaping the traits of the workers.
emergency cells are unnatural, a beekeeper induced condition that raily happens in wild/feral populations. Grafting(or human controal over the larva age) emulates swarm cells in
mode-young larva
action-random larva removes the "royal" efect to almost nill
quality-swarms cells are the best
 

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Msl, as far as swarm cells go there are some keepers who claim that the using of swarm cells selects queens with a swarming tendency which also goes for keepers who collect swarms. Now if you wish to raise queens from grafts and you put those grafted cells in a busting hive that is showing signs of swarming by removing the queen you can get excellent queen cells drawn out and I will often get a 100% take. Swarming is a major issue and takes a lot of labor to prevent so I would like to find some of the genetics that will moderate that swarm impulse.
 

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Johno I a believe you are miss interpreting my post, no were am I saying use swam cells
what was ment was
swarm cells are of the highest quality, proper grafting/cell building emulates those conditions creating quality queens, emergency cells do not.
 

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Johno, I question the entire swarmy genetics ideology. Has anyone proved this hypothesis, or is it one of those beekeeping myths that keep getting repeated until almost everyone believes it? I have seen a few papers that claim to provide proof, but nothing that satisfies my natural skepticism.

All my bees came from swarms as the only nuc I ever purchased died from varroa the first year. This year I only had three hives out of around 20 swarm. One was a swarm from last year that represented new material. On the other hand, a friend with over a dozen hives, all started from commercially produced queens, had all his hive swarm at least twice. My take is that a healthy hive is prone to swarm. A weak hive may or may not. Beekeeper intervention can prevent some swarming, but not all.

I just inspected three hives in Mechanicsville that were packages purchased in late March. One hive had already swarmed and had a newly mated queen in it. Another was in full blown swarm prep, the third, not a qc to be seen and the hive was overflowing with bees. All these were from presumably commercially grafted queens. I fail to see a benefit to them over any other.

What I can attest to from personal observation is that a swarm queen from a healthy hive is usually huge, having been well fed and cared for since day one. My E cell queens tend to run on the not so huge side.
 

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JW, whether there is any truth to the swarm queen ideology or not I would certainly like some of those swarm free queens, there are some keepers who claim that they keep their brood boxes with deep frames and have no swarm problems and will not use queens from swarm cells or swarms. Now if I can be swarm free I would also like to have queens that will put their honey directly into the honey jars if I leave the case of jars next to the hive.
 

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I keep hearing about "The Chinese Grafting Tool" and the "German Grafting Tool" as well as fine paintbrushes and toothpicks and smashed paperclips. I assume it is all well and good, and anything will work once you have the skill for that particular implement of destruction. But the question that these things raise are

"What is a 'Chinese' grafting tool?" . I have seen it and seen links for where to buy it. But is this a particular style of tool invented by the Chinese or some beekeeper of Chinese ethnicity? Or is it a tool invented by someone that just happens to be made cheaply in China? I guess the same question in parallel for the "German Grafting Tool" and I guess the "Italian Hive tool"...

And to perhaps stay on topic, is it worth learning and setting up grafting if you only want to make < 10 queen cells? Where is the point of investment where setting up cups and special frames and such makes sense?
 

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Johno, I question the entire swarmy genetics ideology. Has anyone proved this hypothesis, or is it one of those beekeeping myths that keep getting repeated until almost everyone believes it
l, heritability estimates were 0.26 for honey yield, 0.36 for defensive behavior, and 0.34 for swarming behavior. Multi-trait estimation resulted in similar or higher heritability estimates for all traits. A low, positive genetic correlation (0.19) was found between honey yield and defensive behavior, whereas the genetic correlation between honey yield and swarming behavior was moderate (0.41). A strong, positive genetic correlation was found between defensive and swarming behaviors (0.62). Predictability for multi-trait evaluations was higher for honey yield (0.46) and defensive behavior (0.30) but almost identical for swarming behavior (0.45) compared to corresponding single-trait predictability.
Andonov etal 2019 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6805448/pdf/12863_2019_Article_776.pdf


swarming and defensiveness are some some of the easyist traits to slect for do to the strong heritability
others arn't so easy such as VSH witch comes in at 0.18

it IS worth noting that the study was on Italian honey bees and they may be more responsive to selection of these traits then other breeds, perhaps one of the reason they have become the domiant choice for beekeepers

My understanding is the The Chinese Grafting Tool was developed in china for royal jelly production were bekeepers are grafting hundreds if not thousands of cells a week

originally started as a hand made bamboo tool (that you can still find) and is now the injection molded verstion we are faimular with
5b9470df3f4e7.jpg
 

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Andonov etal 2019 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6805448/pdf/12863_2019_Article_776.pdf


swarming and defensiveness are some some of the easyist traits to slect for do to the strong heritability
others arn't so easy such as VSH witch comes in at 0.18

it IS worth noting that the study was on Italian honey bees and they may be more responsive to selection of these traits then other breeds, perhaps one of the reason they have become the domiant choice for beekeepers

My understanding is the The Chinese Grafting Tool was developed in china for royal jelly production were bekeepers are grafting hundreds if not thousands of cells a week

originally started as a hand made bamboo tool (that you can still find) and is now the injection molded verstion we are faimular with
View attachment 56771
Cool, it looks like a click-pen spring, a piece of a chopstick and couple pieces of hollow plastic tubing. Oh, yeah and that blade.. a very small piece of shim stock. I love it! It's elegant in its simplicity.

I saw how they were testing for the hygienic behavior with the tomato paste can and the liquid nitrogen. That was cool, but my local 7-11 is all out of liquid Nitrogen. :) Someone must have been hoarding it during the pandemic. This was the Sustainable Honeybee Program. Of course other than Billy Davis' death, I have heard literally nothing about them as an organization lately. I think there was an alternative, more human intensive way than the liquid Nitrogen with a straight pin. Where you somehow marked some area of sealed brood then systematically pierced each one of them. I think it was limited in number to less than the liquid Nitrogen thing, but worked on the same principle.

I assume you can measure defensiveness somehow, and swarming might certainly be determined by how much space constraint makes them start building swarm cells. I assume that winter frugality thus being alive and not needing additional resources come spring might well be survivor-ship proven. Certainly the ankle biting thing would have to be determined with microscopy or other means of observation. So much of this makes sense in a lab, with just a few things being easy enough to do for the general back yarder.

I do imagine this as a huge undertaking with lots of colonies to compare. But, perhaps I am mistaken. Could it be done with say 5 or 10 small colonies at a time? As well you can choose the queens for their traits, but if they are open-mated you simply "hope" for good masculine genetic contributions?

I guess survivor stock would certainly be the most reasonable starting point. Then one can certainly decide where to go from there as long as there is a good way to determine the metrics.
 

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Could it be done with say 5 or 10 small colonies at a time
yes.. but you realy need to be at a higher number or get lucky..
you may happen to find that golden goose, and knowing you have her is important

So much of this makes sense in a lab, with just a few things being easy enough to do for the general back yarder.
the liquid n2 is for hygienic behavior and is much more heritabil then VSH
over seas the pin kill assay is popular for VSH and easy for a back yard type, I just 3d printed a template to try for drone selection
https://www.researchgate.net/public...earing_and_selection_of_Apis_mellifera_queens
page 18

The mite biting is easy, a $60 or so electric microscope has plenty of mag/res to do it, they also use them for "proper" (US) VSH where you open 100 cells and run the ratio of non reprodusting mites heres mine, its hooked up to a couputer but it has its own screen built in for feild work
usb scope.jpg

A quick look at NRH running theres
https://www.facebook.com/NewRiverHoneyBees/videos/299841804356707/
all that said there is a lot of evidence that if you just select for low mite counts it works.. working for randy olver, worked for Keffuss, worked for the USDA
VSH poline
The selection we used (i.e.,
finding colonies with low end-of-season mite
infestations) proved to be useful in lieu of the
technically difficult measurements (i.e., measuring rates of hygienic removal of mite-infested
brood or percentages of reproducing mites)
needed to directly select for high expression of
VSH. The technical methods are not well suited
for use by commercial bee breeders. Our production of Pol-line honey bee stock using
industry-appropriate methods may encourage
adoption and further selection of mite-resistant
bees with desirable beekeeping characteristics.
DANKA Et Al 2015

what is true is you get what you select for
make a bunch of queens form a mean hive and you likly will have more mean hives in your yard
make a bunch of spits from the 1st hive to swarm, you will have more hives that swarm early

as I said you want to check to make sure your not missing a "golden goose", but for the little guy its probably best to focus on making quality queens.
Queen quality matters more then genetics, and unlike genetics its 100% under your control !
 

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One clarification to what msl said about selection for VSH in the pol-line bees.
They started by crossing the VSH bees (as measured by the percentage of reproducing varroa mother mites - the Harbo testing) into the commercial line.
Then they selected from those offspring using low mite counts as the easier to perform selection.
Their population was several thousand colonies.
Finding the golden goose in the "feral" swarm or your backyard is not likely.
Start with the best genetics you can for your situation and focus on making quality, well fed queens.
 

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yes.. but you realy need to be at a higher number or get lucky..
you may happen to find that golden goose, and knowing you have her is important


the liquid n2 is for hygienic behavior and is much more heritabil then VSH
over seas the pin kill assay is popular for VSH and easy for a back yard type, I just 3d printed a template to try for drone selection
https://www.researchgate.net/public...earing_and_selection_of_Apis_mellifera_queens
page 18

The mite biting is easy, a $60 or so electric microscope has plenty of mag/res to do it, they also use them for "proper" (US) VSH where you open 100 cells and run the ratio of non reprodusting mites heres mine, its hooked up to a couputer but it has its own screen built in for feild work
View attachment 56783

A quick look at NRH running theres
https://www.facebook.com/NewRiverHoneyBees/videos/299841804356707/
all that said there is a lot of evidence that if you just select for low mite counts it works.. working for randy olver, worked for Keffuss, worked for the USDA
VSH poline

DANKA Et Al 2015

what is true is you get what you select for
make a bunch of queens form a mean hive and you likly will have more mean hives in your yard
make a bunch of spits from the 1st hive to swarm, you will have more hives that swarm early

as I said you want to check to make sure your not missing a "golden goose", but for the little guy its probably best to focus on making quality queens.
Queen quality matters more then genetics, and unlike genetics its 100% under your control !
I here Veruca Salt in the background ..I want a golden goose :) So perhaps for the back yard guy, perhaps buying queens from known well bred stock and focusing on making more queens from them would be a more likely scenario than actually breeding anything into his own stock. Of course, I guess one could certainly, disqualify queens from the gene pool as they show a lack or desirable traits.

But that brings it back to whether it is worth it or not for the backyard guy to graft. Or simply collect E-cell queen cells from splits?
 

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One clarification to what msl said about selection for VSH in the pol-line bees.
They started by crossing the VSH bees (as measured by the percentage of reproducing varroa mother mites - the Harbo testing) into the commercial line.
Then they selected from those offspring using low mite counts as the easier to perform selection.
Their population was several thousand colonies.
Finding the golden goose in the "feral" swarm or your backyard is not likely.
Start with the best genetics you can for your situation and focus on making quality, well fed queens.
Personally, I wouldn't expect to find much in a feral swarm here. I am of the opinion that the swarms around here are merely those leaving other keepers who didn't realize that spring starts in January :) But if the idea is to start with some good stock somehow and continually split to maintain a backup nuc per colony or whatever formula, perhaps with some extra just in case in hopes that some might be sold off the next season, I guess at that point the idea would be more to maintain positive traits rather than breed for them.
 

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Swarming is the process that honey bees have evolved on. Bees that swarm when conditions are ripe for it are true to type. Bees that swarm under bad conditions for success, like before drones are flying probably should not be chosen genetics. Timely swarming is a sign of vigor.


If you force an emergency reproduction it may limit the choices the workers have to cull out older larvae or ones who were underfed early on etc. They the have to work with what they have and the odds increase that some could be not up to full potential. If you choose young larvae that are already well fed on their first day you will remove all most any reason the bees would have to want to cull any of them.

Grafting is not at all impossible to learn and as JConnolly says in his post above you can do it with zero budget. I shunned it for about 8 years and just got around to doing it for the first time a few days ago. 75% acceptance____ maybe beginners luck!
 

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Sounds encouraging. Do you think even for starting out? As in first split? So say you build up a strong hive, then instead of doing a walkaway split, just create a cell builder and graft? Would that produce better queens than a split would?
 

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So perhaps for the back yard guy, perhaps buying queens from known well bred stock and focusing on making more queens from them would be a more likely scenario than actually breeding anything into his own stock
ding!
its worth it to add that almost no one on this forum is doing any "breeding" most of what we do is matrilineal stock selection

But that brings it back to whether it is worth it or not for the backyard guy to graft. Or simply collect E-cell queen cells from splits?
Queen quality maters more then ANYTHING else you can control (except maby mites)

FP quoting steve tabor's breeding super bees underlining is mine
Quoting from the book:

In the late 30's and early 40's the USDA Bee Culture Lab in Madison, Wisconsin started a program to determine which stocks available from queen breeders were best. Two-pound packages with queens were placed on combs on or about April 15. Brood production, population, and total honey production were monitored carefully. Some of these package colonies barely made winter stores, but a few did pretty well, producing 150 to 250 pounds above winter requirements. But one breeder consistently produced queens that developed colonies producing 250 to 450 pounds of honey over winter requirements.

Madison's Farrar, and other government beemen then spent time visiting and making observations of that particular queen breeder, and methodology developed in his queen-rearing operation. The conclusion was the stock was no better than available anywhere else. That's right! When we reared queens from that stock or from stock obtained from the poorly performing groups, we turned out very high-performance queens. So it wasn't the stock that was good -- it was the queen breeder. What stood out more than anything was his care and selection of each queen cell and queen every step of the way.

The basic information we got from that queen breeder was something we already knew -- to raise superior queens was mostly a matter of creating a superior environment. After all, there is no genetic difference between the workers and the larvae from which you graft your queens. Improve the environment. Improve the environment -- get that imprinted in your queen-rearing method every step of the way. Be sure there are always enough young bees and more than enough pollen and honey available. Always graft more cells than you will use or need so you can select only the best. Also, have more laying queens than you will use, and again -- select only the best.
grafting lets you make more queens from your best and having a surplus on hand alows you to be picky, no "lets wait to see" if a poor performing queen will turn things around, or to see if a hot hive will mellow out with the flow...
 
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