Queenless Cell Starter / Finisher at HAS 2012

The 2012 Heartland Apiculture Society queen rearing short course in St. Louis was a success. We provided presentations, a grafting workshop, and apiary demonstrations over three days. Here are a few pics of the cell builder we set up in the apiary, a ‘queenless cell starter / finisher’. A cell builder is a colony manipulated to raise queen cells from grafts.

Here Greg Hunt and Krispn Given (Purdue University) are opening the cell builder to check our grafts. We set it up two days before by removing the queen, reducing the hive down to a single deep, leaving little brood, and shaking large amounts of nurse bees from other hives into the box. The next day we placed our grafts into the queenless and crowded hive, and here we are about to check them for acceptance the following day. Notice there are LOTS of bees in the hive. That’s what you need to get many cells started and finished.
Here Krispn Given is holding the frame with the cell cups. Notice how many bees are covering the cell bar frame. Here again, many many bees are needed to start and finish the cells. This is a double thick frame holding 6 cell bars. This gave everyone in the class a chance to try grafting several cups and see if they would be started. Started cells are indicated by royal jelly in the cell and some construction of wax around the top of the cup. In unaccepted cells, the larvae are removed and less wax is build around the rim of the cups.
Here is the cell builder with the cell bar (grafted cells) removed from the center. Notice again how the builder is packed with bees. There is a division board feeder on the right to provide the builder with copious feed to build the cells. They nearly emptied it in 24hrs. The frame beside where the cell bars was has a good amount of pollen so its nearby the queen cells being fed.  When setting up the cell builder, any brood remaining in the colony (although very little is desired) should also be next to the cell bars to keep nurse bees near where the grafted cells are placed the following day.

Once the cells are capped at day 5 after grafting they could be moved to an incubator, or left to incubate in the colony until day 10 when they are ready to be placed into mating nucs. This colony can be used again to start and finish more cells once the first set is capped. To keep the colony going, since its queenless, one or two frames of capped brood, with some open brood, can be introduced each week at the position beside the queen cells. More nurse bees (bees on brood frames) from other colonies can be shaken into the box if the population drops noticeably. This setup can be used for a month or even longer, as long as it is producing good cells.

On a side note, here I am with President Obama whom happened to be at a downtown ice cream parlor.
And you can’t go to St. Louis without checking out the arch.