Will a foul incubator work or not?
Will a foul incubator work or not?
No a foul incubator isn't good, and even a fowl incubator is likely more unstable than we want.
Seriously though I've learned a lot over the last few weeks, and what's needed is a PID controller, which does not normally come in a fowl incubator.
Just to explain about PID controllers, Not being technical myself or even speaking the same language, I had PID controllers explained to me by several people but couldn't follow them.
But now I finally get it, so here's an explanation in simple language. A normal thermostat will run the heatsource until the temperature is reached, then turn off. It waits for the temperature to get down to a slightly lower temperature, then it turns it back on again.
But this, in an incubator, is the problem. If the heatsource is a lightbulb or a heatlamp, the thermostat (or temperature controller), waits for the incubator to heat to the temperature, then turns the bulb off. But the bulb will be hot, and in something as small as an incubator will continue to heat it up, till the lamp cools down. So you get an overshoot which is too hot, constant temperature swings.
A PID controller has software that makes it work a bit different. In the warm up phase, as the target temperature is approached, the PID controller starts turning off and on in pulses, making the heat source run cooler. The nearer the incubator gets to the needed temperature, the shorter are the pulses. So that by the time it gets to the temperature, the heat lamp is not burning hot and there is hardly any temperature overshoot.
It then maintains the temperature by quick pulses and lots of them, so temperature does not really go down before turning the heat lamp on, there is no temperature swings, or at least, minimal. just have to bear in mind that constant power swings are not really good for a lightbulb, that's why I am using a reptile heat lamp. My PID controller has an accuracy of 0.1 of a degree. The hive we have been measuring swings more than that.
Hope that's understandable.
Last year, I ran the incubator with a normal, non PID, controller. The controller would say the temperature was about right, but in fact there were constant swings of several degrees. Because of this I barely used the incubator, only in emergencies. Now, with the PID controller, everything is stable, the larvae are not being exposed to swings.
So my advice to anyone making an incubator would be use a PID controller. My thanks to the good folks who have advised and helped me with this and to John who built me a custom PID controller, putting cells in the incubator now soon as they are capped and hatching healthy high quality, healthy queens.
Yes an egg / Poultry / bird incubator will work. I have incubated queen cells on a shelf in a bathroom with a lamp near it. People can complicate this to the ends of the earth if they want to. find a warm spot and stick the cells there.
Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.
Daniel I think we need to compare apples to apples. Did you take the queen cells at the time of capping, and leave them near your bathroom lamp until they hatched, and they were fine? And what sort of mating percent did you get from them?
I want queens that are not just alive, but are vigorous and will mate well, lay plenty eggs, and live long.
Oldtimer - I actually have a friend who is a small (but quality) queen producer (several hundred a year) who uses a poultry incubator. So mileage may vary.
The heat fluctuations that you are describing with a conventional thermostat can be mitigated with thermal mass, a fan that continues to run after the heat source goes off, and a heat source that is no larger than it needs to be, and to some extent more/better insulation (in that more insulation allows the use of a smaller heat source). After all there were incubators before electronic controllers were widely available.
But no doubt good technology makes it easier.
Many years ago I purchased a fowl egg incubator, with a solid state temperature controller (thermostat), not PID. It allowed the set temperature to swing between two to four degrees - more than I liked for incubating quail eggs (though it probably would have performed fine). So, I examined the circuitry and discovered that it had a single NTC thermistor (as the sensor) of nominal resistance ~ 50 ohms, so I obtained four 200 ohm NTC thermistors with very similar response characteristics to the original thermistor and replaced the original thermistor with the four 200 ohm thermistors, wired in parallel. The thermostat then gave me much greater control of the temperature in the incubator. The four thermistors, wired in parallel, still gave the thermostat circuit the same resistance input it needed to perform its function, but now, the sensor (thermistor array) had a greatly accelerated response time (perhaps even described as pulsing the heating element). After the modification, the incubator, with constant-on circulating fans, would hold a set temperature, and vary less than one degree.
48 years - 50 hives - TF
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Oh thanks, that's very interesting.
To be honest, I don't know what degree of accuracy is required, I don't think a proper study has been undertaken. I can say that in my first queen breeding job the boss had an incubator powered by a very basic thermostat, there were constant swings of several degrees, but we only put the cells in it for a few hours on the day of hatching.
A proper study would involve looking at the results (mating %, productivity, lifespan), of queens that had been raised in cells since capping, in incubators with varying temperature fluctuations. But to do such a study would be such a mission I doubt it will be undertaken.
However what I can say is that my incubator is not "complicated to the ends of the earth". Now that I know how to do it, I could build another just as simply as any other incubator, and not much difference in price. So, why not.
David the friend who uses the poultry incubator, how long are the cells left in it? Just the last couple of days, or do they go in soon as they are capped?
Does he know what are the temperature fluctuations? Serious question, I'd like to know for my own information.
It has never come up before, but I'll ask him.
OK, I can't understand a darn thing about the electrics, but what do we know about the variation of temperature within the hive relative to the quality of queens produced? Do we know if a variation of a few degrees happens on a regular, or a rare basis within the hive, and the consequences thereof?
Oldtimer, I'm not dissing you by asking this - I have the greatest respect and used your no graft method this summer and was happier with the queen cells that were produced than the ones I made with a cell punch.
Oh no dissing at all. I know sometimes I have to phrase honest questions very carefully cos it's always a worry on the net it can come across wrong, your question is excellent discussion.
Best answer I can, is that the guy who set up my electronics also made me something for monitoring the brood nest in a hive so over a period of weeks we got a pretty good idea of temperature and humidity in a real brood nest, so we knew what to replicate in the incubator. First humidity, doesn't ever get much lower than 50%, but other than that it wanders all over the place. So I've decided humidity is not critical, which probably explains why people get away with putting a dish of water in their incubator and never really knowing what the humidity is.
Temperature, whatever was going on outside, the bees never let it go lower than 34.3 C, it was mostly around 34.6. However it would wander upwards from there and go just over 35. Outside temps are cool at the moment so the bees would not have had to go into a cool down cycle, they were probably in warm up mode most of the time. If they do go into cool down mode, the reading I've done is they start cooling if brood temperature gets to 36C.
So the temperature was wandering around a bit, so clearly, that is fine. However the changes were much slower than would happen in an average incubator.
OK I'll accept I may have been a bit over fussy about this, I did a lot of research. But the thing is, now, I can built a high grade absolutely optimised incubator, for no more work, and not much more money, than any old incubator that could have bigger temperature swings than a hive.
So to some it may not matter. To me though, I can sleep easy knowing my cells are in the best possible environment. I started this thread and a similar one on my local forum, because at that time my incubator was pretty crappy, and I did not know how to improve it. Thanks to the great people who chipped in, now I have an excellent incubator, that's all I wanted.
Here is a link to a study in 1926 of internal hive brood area temperature vs outside temperature:
The hourly chart (page 186) show outside temperatures over a 24 hr period varied from 68° F to 108° F, while the temperature in the brood area varied from 92.8° F to 94.1° F. The test hive was in the shade. The experiment was at Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.
And the excerpt starts on page 181, so you don't have to wade thru hundreds of pages to see the chart.
USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft
Nice research Rader.
It's also one of the great things about bees, we can use research from almost a century ago.
Hey Radar, good find. One point though, those temps you point to are for the central brood area, the outer brood area ranged from 86.7 - 93F. When bees make swarm cells many are at the bottom of the brood area. I wonder if it matters to the bees? If temperature variation does matter to the bees, could that be a factor in the poor reputation early queens get each year in the package industry. Interesting subject, for the world's most studied insect there are still plenty of unknowns.
What I have noticed with naturally raised cells, the ones from centre brood nest appear better. The ones from edge of brood nest often do not look as good, I never use them. A normally swarming hive will build the cells on the combs, and along the bottom bar of the second box, which is centre brood nest. I don't think the bees mind sometimes building cells in less desirable locations, the slower developing and weaker ones get taken care of in the struggle between virgins that naturally occurs.
I've seen weak hives that have to build queen cells do it in poor locations, they can take a long time to hatch and I've even seen queen cells die when the cluster moves away from them. It is a myth that bees always know best and get everything right, 100% of the time.
I take your point. I appreciate it when someone shares what they have seen. I find that I learn more quickly when I ask questions. I will start paying more attention. Of course, I will have to wait 9 months first! We had frost about 150 miles north last night.
Does anyone keep emerged queens in incubators for banking? What were your experiences?
I would not bank a virgin queen in any manner. unless it was just for a couple of days at most. The queens that emerge in my incubator are in cages. each cage has just a dab of honey on it and the queen is able to eat it. This keeps her going for the first 24 hours if needed. I do nto really want to see a virgin stay in the incubator longer than that.
1, the queen is not necessary fully developed when she emerges and her ability to move around contributes to her final development. a lto fo that final development has to do with her egg laying ability.
2. I usually will have a mating nuc full of bees waiting for a queen. The only reason for the delay in giving them one is that I usually only place virgins in nuc once a day. If I then return to find another virgin has emerged she will stay in the incubator until the next days introductions. IF I where to have enough virgins emerge to make it worth another trip to the nucs. I will make a second one in the same day.
3. You want the virgin to get mated in the first 7 to 14 days. Not doing so can lead to an inferior or even completely infertile queen.
4. Banking mated queens is a better idea. even then I would want to let the queen mate. lay at least for a few days to both allow her time for full development as well as evaluate her. then bank her.
Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.
You have an incubator Daniel? Thought you advocated leaving cells in the bathroom near a lamp.