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Discussion Starter #1
With all the technology today are there any videos that show how to pick up larva in grafting? I've watched many a YOU TUBE video of folks using the tools and have read twice as much but this past Monday when I made my first attempt it was pretty much stab and look to see if I got it. Using a chinese tool and once the blade is into the cell I really can't see much of what I'm doing. Have read some where folks tear down a side wall of the cell to make more space. Maybe that's what I should be doing? And then there's the direction of attack, from the back of the cresent, from either end, or from the front.

Thanks in advance for any info.

Pete0
Bena, VA
 

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Pete,

I'm not an expert but have been grafting for several years and think the lighting, magnification and choice of grafting tool are critical. My first attempt was more about mangling larva than grafting. I spent a small fortune on a fiber optics light to allow illumination focused to the cell bottoms and use 3X reading glasses. I started with one of those cheap $10 hooks and found that getting under the larva without sliding it and crushing it was next to impossible (steel was too thick). After switching to the Swiss surgical steel model, from BetterBee, things improved overnight. I have not used the Chinese style tool but know they are very popular.
 

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Put a little bend in that Chinese tool by rolling the tongue up just a tad. Then slide the tongue down the side of the cell wall, coming in from the backside of the larva (convex side, or back side of the C). If you bend the tip just right it should follow the cell contour and not dig into the cell bottom. You want to get a little dab of the royal jelly along with the larva so make sure the tongue stays down on the cell bottom until you are under the larva. Practice, practice, practice; larva are cheap and numerous!!! BTW, you'll have to keep adjusting the bend on the tool tongue as it wants to return to the straight condition.
 

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It's really a simple process, pick up a worm with a stick and lay it back down so it's the same side up as it was in the cell you picked it up out of. However, we are talking about a worm that is so small as to be almost non-existant! And, it's in the little tube of a cell that is practically impossible to get into to grab that non-existant worm out of, much less being able to place it back into one of them little dimples of a cell either!

I have had pretty good success by wearing some strong reading glasses and using an LED (cool and brite) light that was on a flexible stem, but now I've purchased one of those LED head-strap lights so it'll shine right down into the cell as I'm looking without having the shadow of my head in the way. I use a stainless steel tool that has a flat foot for picking up the larva instead of a hook, it seems to work better for me. Also, priming the cell with royal jelly first helps to slide the larva off the tip of the tool.

But for me, there's really no beating the graftless systems, I use the NICOT system myself, it's piece of cake for me with old eyes and shaking hands with stiff fingers. I've tried the grafting and didn't do to bad with it, but graftless grafting is pretty kewl for me.
 

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But for me, there's really no beating the graftless systems, I use the NICOT system myself, it's piece of cake for me with old eyes and shaking hands with stiff fingers. I've tried the grafting and didn't do to bad with it, but graftless grafting is pretty kewl for me.
I've never tried 'convenional' grafting, but your words are music to my ears, since it was concerns about exactly the issues you have raised that made me want to try out the Nicot System directly. Aside from the schedule which seems to be more rigid with the Nicot system than it is with conventional grafting (those Nicot eggs got laid soon after you caged the queen, and they need to be grafted 4-5 days later, period!), I found the system very easy to use and immediately accepted by the bees. I also had some problems with the Nicot System keeping the cups unclogged with nectar placed there during the preconditioning phase, but I think that is an easy lesson I learned for next time (while the rigid schedule issue is more fundamental).


-fafrd
 

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I grafted for the first time today, I did pritty well I think with the stainless steel tool from better bee, my only consern is there did not seen to be a lot of royal jelley and I did not have any to prim them. I hope I did it right!!
 

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Personally I love the chinese grafting tools, they are cheap, but you have to buy 3 or 4 to get one that will bend just right. If there is insufficient jelly in the bottom then the larvae isn't a good one. The secret is to just keep doing it. At first I was very worried about getting the right aged larvae. But now I don't even confine the queen. I just find a frame that has eggs and larvae. The larvae that has jelly and is the smallest will be the one to use.

Or if you want find the queen, see what frame she is on, confirm it has fresh eggs, then remove the queen from that frame and it should be perfect on the 3rd day. Just keep doing it and you will get the hang of it after a while.
For me making queens is the most enjoyable part of beekeeping.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks to all for the replies. I will check today to see if my second attempt has produced any QC's. I picked up a jewelers head set with some LED lights on it from Harbor Frieght Tools that helped out a bit. Spent some additional time looking for the smallest larva on the frame. I think on my first attempt I messed myself up in that I selected a frame with eggs but didn't do my grafting until the 4th day. Probably the smallest larva I was selecting was already too old. Will look to order a few more of the grafting tools but think I was more successful this second time with the little bit of practice I had.

Still think there ought to be a video!


Pete0
Bena, VA
 

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The chines grafting tool was what I used before I started making my own. I have a problem with losing the tools, so I keep a spool of wire or paper clips around. I just pound the tip of the wire with a hammer bend it a few times, test it in some deep cells, and viola I have a grafting tool. Grafting is all about practice, practice and more practice. I also found the cell builder seems to be the most important component of queen rearing. I tell people to make the cell builder so strong that it seems the bees won't even fit into the box. It is also important to make sure they don't have any resources to build their own "rogue" cells. I had a cell builder that just would not make any cells the first graft, and was determinned to make cells from it's own stock. I removed all the rogue cells and grafted again, out of 26 grafts only 7 took initially, then only one was capped while the other 6 were tore down. I found about 16 rogue cells in this hive. I destroyed all the rogue cells and swapped out some of the frames with frames with emerging brood. I also made up two more cell builders because I was done putting all my eggs into one basket. I grafted about 80 cells into three cell builders this past Sunday. It's funny because the 5 previous grafts with other cell builders produced at least 80% takes. Those cell builders were made up with frames from different hives, while the cell builder with only one take was made by taking the queen less portion of a two deep stacked nuc. Go figure... It seems to show an innate ability of the bees to know who they are more closely related to, and their preference to create queens from their sisters.
 

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I have found if you will get you some Black Plasticell and put into your frames and let them draw it out and use this for your breeder queen to lay in for your grafts, DO NOT LET THE LARVA THAT IS LEFT after you have grafted SPIN IT COCOON.

Once the breeder has laid in the comb and the larva is wright age for grafting under 24 hrs take your hive tool and gently scrape off the new soft combs down to the plasticell base. You don't have to scrape down the whole frame, now you are ready to graft with any tool you choose with great ease. When you have finished grafting pour you some water onto the area you have scraped down and use a brush and rub over the area to dislodge any ungrafted larva then turn upside-down then repeat so no larva remain in the area.When finished place back in the breeder queens hive they will rebuild and she will relay for the next graft.

When time comes to graft and you don't need to graft just scrap down rinse out larva and replace for them to rebuild and lay in.

My breeder queens are on half length deep combs. and this works great and much easier grafting because no cell walls and your lighting is much better

Try it you will like it.
 

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Last Saturday I had the opportunity to take a fantastic queen rearing class with Dr. Fell at Virginia Tech. Part of the class included some time in the bee house learning to graft.

Dr. Fell showed us various implements, but the one he likes best is one he makes himself from a wooden applicator stick. He had pulled a frame with various aged larva and we practiced going from the larger to the smallest. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the frame, it was getting pretty dry from being under the lights and the larva were sticking to the bottom of the cell. :pinch:

Having never grafted before and now trying my hand, I think breaking down those side walls is a darn good idea. I'm only going for a dozen or so starts, not hundreds like commercial breeders.
 
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