First queen rearing attempt- using Cloake board

Discussion in 'Raising Queens' started by d.magnitude, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    I'm just a few days into my first round of attempted queen-rearing. I thought I would start a thread to document the speedbumps I encounter along the way, and let you know what ends up working for me (if anything).

    I set up a Cloake board on my starter/finisher colony 3 days before grafting. I run mostly all-mediums, so the Cloake board went between the 2nd and 3rd box. I figured that would further crowd that 3rd box when it's in "starter" mode with the slide in.

    As per recommendations, upon installing the Cloake board, I moved most of the young larvae/eggs that I could find up above to bait nurse bees up. On the day before grafting, I inserted the slide and attempted to remove all the young brood (so they would have nothing with which to start queens with until my grafts were introduced). It turned out that there were 4-5 medium frames that still had young larvae/eggs on them! A large number of them must have been just laid prior to my moving them up. I had to fill the void w/ foundation, leaving space for the cell bar frame as well.

    In hindsight, I would have done the initial setup of the Cloake board and baited the above area w/ young brood 5 or so days before graft. That way, by the time I inserted the slide, all the brood should be beyond the age of becoming a viable queen and I would not have to remove so many frames.

    By the way, I have attempted the act of grafting with friends in years past using a stainless steel tool and had zero luck. This time around, I used a Chinese grafting tool, and once I could locate the right larva to move, it was a breeze.

    -Dan
     
  2. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    I'm thrilled. Today is Day 4 (Day 1 being graft day for me), and I just peeked into the hive. It looks like 17 of my 24 grafts have taken. I'm pretty happy with a 70% take on my first go-around. Either way, it's more queens than I can set up mating nucs for*, so it's enough. I know there are still some more hurdles on the way to a good laying queen, but it's nice to have something work out every once in a while.

    -Dan

    *perhaps I can find someone who could use some cells or virgins by next week?
     

  3. Zulu

    Zulu Member

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    Great news, what stock are you grafting from?
     
  4. G3farms

    G3farms New Member

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    70% is pretty good for your first time out :thumbsup:
     
  5. Zookeep

    Zookeep Active Member

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    thats great to hear, I dont think Ill ever try grafting, when I was young I had the eyes of a hawk now I have the eye of a bat:lol:
     
  6. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    70% on your first attempt is exceptional.

    you made no comment in regards to feeding or boosting. I have no experience with the cloake method beyond seeing this done on a commercial scale but most do the set up way earlier than 3 days prior to graft and often feed and boost (hatching brood) the hive.

    a snip..
    and once I could locate the right larva to move

    tecumseh:
    one of the more subtle aspects you do need to learn... fairly quickly it will be lost on you as to how this could have ever been an issue.

    good luck and do inform us of the success and failures encountered. I myself like to hear the first but it is the latter that make folks pay attention to the small details (each of which can determine whether the process is a blazing success or collapses into total failure).
     
  7. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    Thanks for the support everybody. I'm already pretty pleased with myself though; don't make me get a big head about it. Besides, I basically just counted my chickens before they're hatched, so I'm asking for it now.

    Zulu, I grafted from one on my hives that is stocked w/ a Russian/Carni mutt from a local breeder. You may know from other posts that all of my hives needed treatment for mites this spring- this hive just needed it the least. It is at least a winter survivor, which is still saying something. I really just wanted to get a round or two under my belt to see if I could do it, and get some nucs populated and on their feet. Next is to locate some external good stock to put in the mix.

    Tec, I must admit that I didn't do much prep in the weeks prior to graft. We do have a flow going on, and I live in a very pollen-rich area. When I set up the Cloake board (admittedly not quite early enough), I did bait the top "starter" box with extra open brood to get the nurse bees up there. I also started feeding 1:1 and pollen patties at that time.

    If I intend to continue producing batches of queens using this method, I'd probably just continue feeding and rotate brood above and below the Cloake board as needed.

    -Dan

    ps- For those interested, Sue Cobey wrote a nice concise article about the Cloake method in ABJ a while back. Here's a link: http://www.honeybee.breeding.com/HBIS/pdf/Cobey - Cloake Board Method-QR.pdf
     
  8. brendantm130

    brendantm130 New Member

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    I'm thinking of trying this myself, so I'm interested to hear your thoughts
     
  9. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    good luck and do pass on you success and failures along with some dialogue as to why somethings worked and others did not. as a newer beekeeper you comments likely have more importance than my own to others that might wish to attempt the same thing.

    'queen rearing will invariable make you a better beekeeper'... tecumseh
     
  10. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    I have to say, I thought that my ability to graft would be the hang-up in the whole process. That ended up being a non-issue; I think cell builder set-up is the important factor, and required a lot more
    attention.

    Some other nit-picky observations:
    I used the chinese grafting tool. I had read to have distilled H2O on hand to dip and clean the tool between grafts. I did that, but don't know if it was necessary. The tongue of the tool actually warped a bit while I was working with it from getting wet, but it was still functional.

    Also, I did not prime the cells before grafting. The chinese tool obviously was lifting a dollop of royal jelly with the larva, and it came off the tool easily with the "pusher". I would still try it out w/ RJ to see if it's even easier.

    I ended up doing the grafting in the front seat of my truck. Less than ideal, I know, but I thought it would be better than transporting a frame back to my house, moving in and out of the house, and then driving to my other yard to put them in the cell builder. I just made sure I had a thermos of hot water on hand, and kept the frame and cell bars covered w/ a warm damp towel. I worked in the shade and used a headlamp for light as well as a magnifying visor.

    Ok, now it's as if you guys were all there with me. Still some kinks to work out, but I'm pleased w/ how this round went. Mostly, I wish I set up the Cloake board earlier, and did not have to move out so much young brood before introducing the cell bar frame.

    -Dan
     
  11. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    various snips followed by >my comment..

    snip one..
    I think cell builder set-up is the important factor
    >getting the appropriate number and proper age of bees in the box is likely the key here... or at least that is my thinking.

    snip two..
    I had read to have distilled H2O on hand to dip and clean the tool between grafts. I did that, but don't know if it was necessary
    > a lot of commercial grafter using more traditional grafting tool wet the end of the tool in their mouth... doesn't sound very sanitary but there success rate likely speaks to the importance of this detail.

    snip three..
    Also, I did not prime the cells before grafting.
    >on a rare occasion I still do but primarily I dry graft. feeding the queen mother hive just a bit 4 or 5 days ahead of grafting to give you a substantial pool of larvae food at the bottom of the cell makes the task of transferring the larvae easier and adds to my own success rate.
     
  12. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    We do have a flow starting here, so maybe that helped w/ the amount of RJ at the bottom of the cells to ease w/ grafting.

    I can appreciate stimulative feeding while preparing the breeder hive, and the cell builder, before and throughout the process. It complicates things (for me at least) when there's a flow on at the time and I've got supers on a hive. I obviously don't want to feed syrup when there are honey supers present, and it seems counter-intuitive to take honey supers off (that are being filled) to put on a feeder of 1:1 syrup.

    That being said, I did just that with my starter/finisher. At the time of installing the Cloake board, I moved the honey super that was in the process of being filled to another hive, and then fed 1:1 and pollen patties.

    -Dan

    ps- thanks for the tip, tec. Next time I squish a larva while grafting, I'll just lick it off the tool. I think I read somewhere recently that bee brood is a delicacy in some cultures :wink:
     
  13. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    Update- I peeked in the cell builder colony today (one day before pulling the cells out for nucs) The cells were still there! Actually, the bees had drawn a substantial amount of comb between the cell bars and around the queen cells. I believe Iddee noted having this issue before. A couple of the cells looked like they were totally encased in comb to the point that I wonder if the queen would be able to find her way out of there.

    I was sure to put several frames of foundation in the cell finisher, so they would have some place to put that wax. I guess they just preferred to put it all around the cells. I will still cut out and use these of course, but I will likely place a "back-up" cell in each mating nuc.

    Unfortunately, I was only able to make up 5 mating nucs today. One of my hives was completely broodless (mentioned in another post), so I came up a little short of what I was hoping for. I set them up in 5 frame nucs containing 2 frames of brood, a shake of bees, 2 drawn frames, and a foundation frame. I'm feeding them of course.
     
  14. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    a snip..
    Actually, the bees had drawn a substantial amount of comb between the cell bars and around the queen cells. I believe Iddee noted having this issue before. A couple of the cells looked like they were totally encased in comb to the point that I wonder if the queen would be able to find her way out of there.

    tecumseh:
    this does happen but evidently not so much if you use a more traditional starter/finisher method. I suspect (don't know but sounds reasonable) that this really means you have a flow going and a lot of young wax producing worker bees in the box. I typically simply lay the frame down flat on a lid and use a pocket knife to cut out the excess wax. care is needed here since it is fairly easy to break up the not quite ready queen cells.

    ps.. the worker bees know exactly where the cells are and will work the very end of the cell prior to the queen hatching (they chew the very tip end).... so no this will not prevent the queen in those cells from hatching.
     
  15. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    The only difference I see in my Cloake set up at present, and what I understand as a "traditional" finisher is that I currently have the hive entrance up at the level of the Cloake board (into the "finishing" box). Perhaps that is adding to the urge to draw more comb at that location.

    Perhaps next time, at the point of removing the slide and converting to "finisher mode", I'll close the top Cloake entrance and leave the bottom board entrance open. Then it should be identical to a regular finisher, and maybe I'll avoid the excessive comb issue. Try and try again, that's what this is all about.
     
  16. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    Ok, I went out to move the cells into mating nucs today, and I actually remembered to take a few pictures. This first one is of the started cells 3 days after the graft, taken on 4/10/12. I thought I saw 17 started at that time.
    IMG_0391.jpg


    I wish I had taken a shot of the cell bar frame just before I removed the cells. That nice-looking one on the left of the top cell bar was completely encased in comb (and dripping with nectar). I cut it out and used it anyway, along with a backup cell. You can see it pressed into a frame here:
    IMG_0396.jpg IMG_0398.jpg


    And here's a shot of my tiny mating yard. Those are each just 5-frame nucs (four medium-sized nucs, and one deep), with an empty nuc super above each containing an inverted jar of 1:1
    IMG_0400.jpg


    I ended up finding just 16 finished cells when I took them out of the finisher. I tried to candle them, but could only see the vaguest indication of a queen inside. I ended up just judging by the general uniformity of each cell and only discarded one that was a little misshapen looking. I put 2 in each nuc, 2 in a hive I have that may be queenless (just to see), and gave the remaining few to someone in my bee club. These queens are not done yet though, so I'll let you know how it goes.

    ps- I did try to insert a couple into the plastic queen-cell protectors by JZBZ. All of the cells were to big to really fit, but if you pressed it down in (and weren't afraid to squish a little of the outer wax), you could get them to "seat" properly. I'll be sure to check on those couple to see if they emerged properly.
     
  17. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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  18. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    IMG_0399.jpg
    Don't worry, I've got an inner cover below the empty nuc super with screened holes.

    I was actually thinking of trying to overwinter some of these nucs with the screened inner cover on top, and then stacking another nuc (with screened bottom) on top of that. I think there would be enough space between the screens to basically make a double-screen board.

    -Dan
     
  19. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    I am not certain I follow your plan here Dan? I am confused (and that is why I am a beekeeper!)but it seems that space between screens is kind of the definition of a double screen.

    on the other hand... double screens with alternative sided trigger opening and layers of bees in boxes between would seem like a worthwhile and doable idea.
     
  20. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    My priority #1 is to let a few of these grow up into full size colonies and overwinter as such.

    Priority #2 is to make several more of these nuc-sized splits throughout the season, and make another batch (or two) of queens. I'd like to have as many nucs as possible to try to get them through the winter and hit the ground running next spring.

    I don't want to lead this thread off on too much of a tangent, but...

    If I flip the "inner covers" screen side down (so there is a 1/2" lip above), and put another nuc w/ screened bottom on top (the screen bottom is attached inside so that there is a 1/2" lip underneath), I would have aprox. 1" between screens. I thought that if I'm stacking these to over-winter, weaker ones above might benefit from warmth rising up. Of course the same thing might happen if they were stacked w/ solid bottoms, but hey- I'm playing around here.

    Perhaps it's worth starting another thread about over-wintering nucs, but I'm still just working on getting my queens made and mated.

    -Dan