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Discussion Starter #1
Hi All,

Planning on raising some queens by grafting this year and using the off-season to try to wrap my brain around the process:

It seems common to place new grafts into a queenless "Starter" colony for 24 hours. After 24 hours in the Starter, the grafts are moved to a queen-right "Finisher" colony with a queen excluder to protect the new queen cells for final development before putting the cells into mating nucs just before the new queens emerge.

Why separate Starter and Finisher hives? Why not one queenless hive to both start and finish the queen cells?

TIA

--shinbone
 

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Curious about that too, Dedicated cell starter for 1-2 days then cell finisher until capped vs a cell starter and builder from graft to capped.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the links to the different methods. I am still researching and haven't decided exactly what method I will use, but the Clemens method is attractive because it seems pretty simple.

But, still, I don't understand the need for separate Start and Finisher hives. Is it so a hive isn't queenless for the entire time it is raising and incubating the new queen cells?
 

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It's because the people who use qr finishers believe that they do a better job with a large number of cells - and they are probably right. However queen right finishers are more prone to tearing down a whole batch of cells right before they are ready, so a lot of people move them into an incubator as soon as they are capped. If you want to keep it simple while you learn a queenless starter/finisher eliminates several possible pitfalls - and can produce very good results.

If you want to make it more complicated the possibilities are almost limitless.
 

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Maybe because a dinky little swarm box starter doesn't have the resources to finish well provisioned queen cells. You use the queenless response to start the cells, and then locate the cells above a strong colony that has the bees and the foragers/food resources to grow good cells. According to Morse, a worker larva requires something like 10,000 nurse bee visits between egg hatching and cell capping. How many visits are required for a queen cell? For 45 queen cells?
 

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It's true - a dinky little starter finisher can't build 45 or so well provisioned queen cells. Can you deploy 45 mating nucs? A dinky little setup can make about a dozen like this -

Or like these -

And it can do it over and over while you work on your skills without having to be rebuilt. Good luck however you go.
 

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>Why separate Starter and Finisher hives?

The criteria are slightly different and a commercial breeder can make better use of the resources doing them separately.

>Why not one queenless hive to both start and finish the queen cells?

No reason not to. It works fine.
 

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For a smaller producer like myself or for personal needs and/or sharing with friends, I recommend the Ben Harden Method which is a queenright builder and and finisher. You can get about ~18 good queens out of each batch, batches can overlap in the same hive, it doesn't require setting up a new hive, and it doesn't ruin a the hive's honey production for the year.

http://parkerfarms.biz/queenrearing.html#Main_Methods

I have tried queenless start to finish and found it to be unreliable.
 

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I think it comes down to how many you want to make... I.e. I've seen examples of queen breeding operations running 1-4 starters and 4-16 finishers. Well in excess of what I feel a single hive can start/finish by themselves.

A properly setup starter will be desperate to finish any larva you put in there... I haven't had any problems making cells using/starter/finishers.

*My finisher is any "production" level hive that I put a excluder and a honey box on top of.

I've found the queenright starter/finishes to be a little more picky, but I haven't given up on them. It's probably something that I'm not doing quite right.
 

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I have tried queenless start to finish and found it to be unreliable.
I've tried the Ben Harden method and found IT to be unreliable - probably because I did something wrong/had bad luck. The same thing that happened to you. All of those methods are used by someone who swears by them - and all of them are sworn at by someone who had bad luck. They will all work for their intended purpose.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
To re-phrase - it is the strength of a full size Finisher hive for providing ample amounts of royal jelly to the larva for a large number of queen cells that makes having separate Starter and Finsher hives beneficial . . . ?

If my understanding is correct, then separate Starter and Finisher hives is not as necessary for a small-timer like myself wanting to produce only 10 - 20 queens . . . ?

Also, if my understanding is correct . . . then why not make the Starter a big strong hive queenless hive, rather than a small queenless hive, so it can also work well as the Finisher? Is it the queen-right-ness, in addition to size/strength, that is important in having a good Finisher hive?
 

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>To re-phrase - it is the strength of a full size Finisher hive for providing ample amounts of royal jelly to the lava for a large number of queen cells that makes the separate Starter and Finsher hives attractive . . . ?

Most people doing both are doing either a queenless starter and queenright finisher, or a "swarm box" starter and a queenright or queenless finisher. Let's look at each separately.

A queenless starter with queenright finisher is often done in the same hive with a Cloake board or by putting a bottom board in the middle of the hive and then removing it. So the Cloake board (or the bottom board in the middle) makes the top queenless. In this method usually you put a couple of frames of brood next to the cells, and honey and pollen outside of those and then shake all the bees into that box (which is on top of the Cloake board). Then the rest of the brood, the queen and the rest of the boxes go below that (in other words you will lift the box by the Cloake board and put it on top of the rest of the hive). Now the top box is queenless and packed with bees. In a few days the Cloake board is removed (or the hive is taken apart to remove the bottom board) and the queen is below an excluder while the queen cells are above the excluder and the hive is now queenright.

The other common method is to make up a swarm box. This is usually a well ventilate five frame nuc. I run all mediums and I usually use an eight frame deep for this, but with deeps I would make up a nuc box out of one by twelves so it's 11 1/4" deep. You need the extra space to put in a sponge for water. It needs to be well ventilated. I put a screen bottom on the box and one by tow rails on the ends to lift it off the ground. The method usually goes like this: You start by shaking bees into the box. You shake until it's overflowing with bees. You put a frame of pollen a couple of frames of honey in and put the lid on and put it in a cool dark place while you graft. Go graft your queen cells. Now put the queen cells in the swarm box. The swarm box is confined (not free flying) and in 24 hours they will have cells well started. These you can put in your finisher. The advantage is that you have a box full of nurse bees who have nothing to nurse and by the time you add the queen cells they are desperate to use their royal jelly on something, so they feed the queen cells. This is not sustainable beyond a day or at most two as the bees will need to fly. So the starter is a temporary thing.

>If my understanding is correct, then separate Starter and Finisher hives is not as necessary for a small-timer like myself wanting to produce 10 - 20 queens . . . ?

Not necessary.

>Also, if my understanding is correct . . . then why not make the Starter a big strong hive queenless hive, rather than a small queenless hive, so it can also work well as the Finisher? Is it the queen-right-ness that is important in having a good Finisher hive?

I don't see that queen rightness has anything to do with anything other than making the finisher more sustainable for multiple batches of queens.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Michael - Thanks! That helps alot.

In the Swarm Box scenario - Is the Swarm Box closed (but with ventilation) so that the bees, just shaken into the Swarm Box, can't leave and go back to their original hive?
 

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>Is the Swarm Box closed (but with ventilation) so that the bees, just shaken into the Swarm Box, can't leave and go back to their original hive?

Yes.

Here's Jay Smith's early discussion:
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesqueenrearingsimplified.htm#TheSwarmBox
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesqueenrearingsimplified.htm#FillingTheSwarmBox
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesqueenrearingsimplified.htm#EmptyingTheSwarmBox

And his later discussion:
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesbetterqueens.htm#The Starter Hive

Picture of Smith's "starter hive":
http://www.bushfarms.com/images/BQPg46.jpg

Alley's discussion:
Setting up:
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesalleymethod.htm#Chapter2
Releasing the bees from the swarm box:
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesalleymethod.htm#ReleaseBeesFromSwarmingBox

Illustration of Alley's swarm box:
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesalleymethod.htm#SwarmingBox
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Michael - Again, thanks for you help. The links are great.

I am currently working my way through Connor's Bee Sex Essentials.

I have sitting on my nightstand to read next: Smith's Better Queens, and Laidlaw's Contemporary Queen Rearing.

I have also been watching videos on you tube to see people's techniques, which led to the question in the original post.
 
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