The Best Time to Graft Queens

My friend Dr. Larry Connor always says the best time to graft queen cells is when the black locust is blooming.

DrLarryConnor1

Dr. Lawrence J. Connor  — photo credit: Bee People and WICWAS Press

I thought I would miss that unique signal now that I have moved to the western edge of those ecoregions that support pseudo acacia  (commonly known as black locust).  But as luck would have it I found a single grove of black locust here in Wise County, Texas, about 40 miles northwest of Dallas Fort Worth metroplex.  Immediately I called our local Master Beekeeper candidate (Donnie John) to show him and he was as excited as I was!  There is nothing like standing in a grove of blooming black locust.  The look is dreamy, the aroma is heavenly, and the bees are loving it!  Keep an eye out for this blossom as the honey gets top ratings in most blind taste tests.

pseudo acacia in bloom.jpg

 

Nuc Making with G. M. Dooliitle (plus 5)

May 2017 192

In my presentations and in several articles I have described how to make nucs using the Doolittle method.  This involves moving brood without bees above an excluder and waiting hours or days for the nurse bees to come up and cover those frames, before removing them into nucleus colonies. This is often done with the addition of queens or queen cells.  The major improvement, however I suggest in my articles is to leave that brood above the excluder for 5 days, allowing all eggs and larva to mature past the point where the bees could easily select one of them to make their own queen.  This forces the bees to take the queen or queen cell that the beekeeper has introduced.  Nuc making after Spring and after the main nectar flow is over will achieve greater success if you use the Doolittle – plus 5 method.   (Thanks to the great Jay Smith who knew more about queens than any of us and shared his knowledge in books such as “Better Queens” ……  and thanks to James Nielson who discussed the Doolittle method at last night’s meeting of Bridgeport Texas beekeepers.)

Note: I wrote about this method in both Bee World and the American Bee Journal.  How I Use the JZ BZ Queen Cage

Easy Queen Rearing

Many beekeepers believe queen rearing is a very technical and difficult process. Actually it is easier than you think.  There are a lot of good ways to do it.  Harvesting swarm cells in the springtime is one way, but to be in control of the process and get queens when you want them, the beek has to intervene & get the bees to do it on command. Moving the queen out of a strong colony by forming a nuc and keeping her in it is one way to get the bees to go into emergency queen rearing mode.

A modified approach is Mel Disselkoen’s On-The-Spot (OTS) queen rearing methodMel Disselkoen

that essentially is removing the lower part of cells where eggs have just been laid.  Every 2nd or 3rd cell can be left intact and the bees will be able to quickly build the queen cells downward, as opposed to having to float the larva out to the edge of cell and then start the downward queen cell building.  Check out the OTS method at OTS Queen Rearing

Grafting is easier now as result of the cool work done in 2014 by Maryann Frazier

Maryann Frazier

and team in 2014 at Penn State University.  Sometimes it is called cell scraping.  The team there figured out that beekeepers can get direct access to newly hatched larva for grafting by scraping the wax off of black plastic foundation.  This really works, but I would like to offer some tips on the procedure.

black plastic foundation freshly drawn - eggs newly laid
The process is a bit temperature sensitive.  Later in the season when it is warmer the wax can melt into the cell base and obstruct access to the larva.  If it hot you can sit in your car or truck with the air conditioning on and still graft.  (My buddy Steve Rapasky taught me this trick.  He is the author of Swarm Essentials.)

Rite-cell black foundation from Mann Lake is my favorite because the plastic cell bases are a little deeper than that of other manufacturers.

Newly drawn comb on clean foundation works best.  When I am ready to make queens I find the queen and put her on the target frame and put a rectangle of #5 hardware cloth over her.  This allows the workers in and out but keeps her confined to the target area for egg laying.  This frame is kept in the center of the brood nest where she has been laying.  3 1/2 days later I come back and remove the frame.  Taking the frame to a safe place I scrape the wax off cells leaving the larva (of exactly the right age) which can be scooped up quickly and deposited in queen cups (conditioned in advance in a hive).

Keep a damp cloth over the cups and work quickly to keep the larva from drying out.  The cell frame is then placed in the cell builder hive for the initial build.  One day later the frame is either: 1) moved to a cell finisher colony or 2) the hive is converted to a cell finisher by removing the solid panel from the Cloake Board.  Bees tend to tear down capped queen cells over time if they are not protected or moved to an incubator. An inexpensive chicken egg incubator works well.

Frazier, Nino and Grozinger outline many of the details of the cell scrape graft method in “Grafting” , on pages 38 & 39 of Bee Culture Magazine, February 2015 edition.

For more encouragement in making your own queens be sure to read this Scientific Beekeeping article:  Queens For Pennies by Randy Oliver .

Randy Oliver

Grafting is fun and confidence builds with practice.  My friend Dr. Larry Connor told me during a 2008 queen rearing course: “Just go out and find a hive and practice grafting everyday, even if you don’t plan to use them!”

Sam Ramsey and Varroa

Samuel Ramsey

I have heard Samuel Ramsey speak at several bee conferences and his work may prove to be the key to fixing the varroa problem.  He spoke last night at Susquehanna Beekeepers Association meeting and while this video is not the actual presentation the following is a quick overview of his topic.  His full presentation is particularly interesting because Sam’s tip off that something was not right came through his Grandmother!

Samuel Ramsey and Varroa youtube

Thanks to my friend Todd Cichonowicz at Deer Creek Apiaries for the info.

Sign up to sponsor a beehive at Deer Creek’s cool website:

Deer Creek Apiaries sponsor a hive

Get Ready to Make Nucs!

With Spring just around the corner now is the time to make up some extra nuc boxes for splits and swarms. You can never have enough nuc boxes when the bees start to multiply!

9 deep nucs from splits and QCs 9may14

Nucs can be made of most any material including plastic sign boards.  With elections over check with some of your local candidates and get their larger signs to re-purpose.  Tell them the contribution will help save the bees. Much better than going into the trash.

My friend Frank Lindsay from New Zealand does not claim to be the inventor but he does a nice job explaining how to use plastic sign boards to make nucs.  Convert mm to inches and let’s get busy.   See details on pages 6 – 8 of the Wellington beekeepers newsletter Jan 2016.  Plan for Plastic Sign Board Nucs