The weather continues to be unseasonably cool, with this week being pretty typical of what we’ve recently been experiencing.
Nevertheless, I’m assuming it will pick up when we get to June so have finally started queen rearing. In previous years I’ve had mated queens in the first week of May, so we’re nearly a month late. I set up a strong colony (with poor temper – these are destined for requeening as a priority) as a queenright cell raiser using the Ben Harden system, grafted on Saturday and checked them 24 hours later.
Seven or eight of the 10 grafts appear to have taken, with a 3-4mm collar of fresh wax around the lip of the plastic cell cup. In the image above the two covered with bees and #4 and #6 have this collar. If you look inside the cell you can see a larva floating in a bed of Royal Jelly. In contrast, #3 and #5 have only a very short wax collar and the cells are empty – for whatever reason these larvae have been rejected. I’m a little concerned that #4 and #6 aren’t getting a lot of attention from bees … time will tell if these have worked.
These cells should be capped on Thursday. Until then, despite the remaining OSR in the surrounding fields, I’ll feed the colony with thin syrup. As I write this it’s raining again …
Update … looks like 7 have taken when I checked in between rain showers this evening (11oC and blustery) to top up the thin syrup.
Had a first go at grafting today, and started to appreciate the need to practice and also to get some different glasses (my eyes are very different prescriptions and both are short sighted – one eyed grafting is an additional handicap).
I started with a chinese grafting tool, not sure of the technique though and gave up after making holes in the cells. Ended up using a paintbrush, but not at all easy.
I’ll see if I’ve had any luck tomorrow.
Cutting the cell walls down makes things easier, as does grafting from an older frame (difficult to see white larvae on beautiful white wax). Of all the things I’ve tried I find the ultra-fine paintbrush is easiest and quickest. Mine has bristles (sable?) only about 5-6mm long, so stiff enough to slide under the larva through the bed of Royal Jelly. Once lifted into the grafting cup I then rotate the brush – held in contact with the base of the cup – to gently dislodge the larva.
If it hasn’t worked well enough it’s easy to repeat – it does get easier! If it hasn’t worked at all it might be your cell raiser … is there a nectar flow?
Good luck 8)